What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection in your skin.
Cellulitis is a common skin infection that can spread quickly and be very serious
The infected area hurts and is red, warm, and swollen
Cellulitis is most common on your legs but can happen anywhere
If the infection reaches your bloodstream, it can be life threatening
What causes cellulitis?
Cellulitis is caused by germs (bacteria) that get into your skin. Bacteria are most likely to enter your skin where you have a cut, insect bite, scrape, burn, puncture wound, or patches of dry skin.
Cellulitis is often caused by Staphylococcus bacteria (staph infection). The type of staphylococcus known as MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics. A MRSA infection can be hard to treat.
People have a higher risk of getting cellulitis if they:
Have a weakened immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more that makes it hard for them to fight off infection
Already have a swollen arm or leg
Use IV drugs
Have had cellulitis before
What are the symptoms of cellulitis?
Skin redness, swelling, warmth, and pain
Sometimes blisters with yellow fluid
Cellulitis usually starts as a small, red patch that's slightly sore. The infected area can get larger quickly. In a couple of days, it could spread from a spot the size of a quarter on your calf to cover your entire lower leg.
If the infection gets into the blood stream, you can have high fever, low blood pressure, and shut down of some of your organs (sepsis Sepsis Sepsis is when germs (bacteria) get into your bloodstream and trigger a serious body-wide reaction. When sepsis is severe, one or more of your organs may shut down. For example, your kidneys... read more ).
How can doctors tell if I have cellulitis?
Doctors diagnose cellulitis based on how your skin looks. There are no tests to tell for sure. However, doctors may do tests such as an ultrasound Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a safe imaging test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the insides of your body. Ultrasonography doesn't use radiation (x-rays). Ultrasonography is also called... read more to make sure your leg isn't red and swollen because of a blood clot Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Thrombosis is when a blood clot (called a thrombus) blocks a blood vessel. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms inside a large vein. Usually the vein is deep in your leg, but... read more .
See a doctor immediately if an area on your skin is red, swollen, and painful.
How do doctors treat cellulitis?
Antibiotics to kill the bacteria
Usually you take the antibiotics by mouth but sometimes, when there is serious infection, by vein (IV) in the hospital
If you have cellulitis in your leg, doctors will ask you to elevate it
How can I prevent cellulitis?
Keep skin wounds clean, cover them with a bandage, and apply an antibiotic cream for protection
Treat fungal foot infections (such as athlete’s foot) and other skin conditions to help heal any breaks in the skin
If you have diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more or poor circulation, examine your feet every day, use a moisturizer, and avoid injury by wearing proper shoes