What is Cellulitis?

Cellulitis or Erysipelas as it’s also called is a bacterial infection of the skin and the deep layers of  tissue below the skin and the muscles that includes the dermis and subcutaneous tissue.

Cellulitis occurs in equal numbers among men and women and tends to appear mostly in middle-aged and elderly people.  Cellulitis most frequently appears on the lower leg but individuals who are morbidly obese can develop Cellulitis in the skin of their abdomen.  Some people develop Cellulitis on the skin around the eyelids and on the skin of their cheeks.

Cellulitis is most often caused by the bacteria streptococcus but can also be caused by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph aureus), Haemophilus influenzae, Pneumococcus, and Clostridium.  Individuals with diabetes, HIV, psoriasis, and eczema (inflammatory skin conditions) are more prone to developing Cellulitis.  Surgical drainage is usually required if an abscess develops.  It’s important to note that Cellulitis is not contagious.  In severe cases of Cellulitis surgery may be required to remove dead tissue.

What are the Symptoms of Cellulitis?

The skin may become warm and tender and the individual may develop a fever with chills and sweats along with swollen lymph nodes.  The area affected might be red due to inflammation and develop a rash or red blisters. The skin may appear tight and glossy in the swollen area where there might be formation of sores and abscesses in the center that can cause pain.

Cellulitis Causes

Cellulitis is a condition caused when bacteria enters the body through a cut or crack in the skin, such as is the case with streptococcus and staphylococcus. There have been higher numbers of cases in which people have been infected by methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is a more resilient strain of bacteria.

Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, but, as the lower legs commonly have more cracks in the skin and are prone to experience cuts more often, they run a higher risk of infection. Puncture wounds, an ulcer, dermatitis, and athlete’s foot are all examples of conditions that may make an individual susceptible to infection and cellulitis.

Additionally, insect and spider bites can spread the bacteria that prompt the start of cellulitis. Dry or swollen skin can develop into the infections that produce the condition, as well.

How is Cellulitis Treated?

Cellulitis is treated with antibiotics that are derivatives of penicillin.  If the Cellulitis is believed to be caused by an autoimmune disorder treatment may involve the use of a corticosteroid.

Symptoms should fade away after a few days but it is essential that the patient go through the whole antibiotic cycle recommended by the doctor (which can go from ten to fifteen days.)

If symptoms don’t disappear, it might be necessary to try different antibiotics to find the most effective one.

Unless symptoms such as high fever, rash or pain become worse over time, hospitalization is generally not required.

Cellulitis Prevention

There are a few things we can do to help prevent an occurrence of cellulitis. In most cases, proper personal hygiene and healthy skin care practices go a long way toward avoiding the bacterial infections that lead to cellulitis. For instance, keeping skin clean and moistened with lotion can avoid most of the dryness and cracks that tend to occur in the skin.

Feet are particularly susceptible to injury, so it’s advised that individuals wear well-fitting shoes or slippers that are in good condition. Loosely fitted cotton socks should be worn as well. Walking barefoot outdoors is highly discouraged.

In the case of an injury, individuals are encouraged to wash the wound immediately with soap and warm water. If the injury doesn’t show signs of healing within a few days, a doctor should be consulted. Some injuries, such as animal bites, deep puncture wounds, frostbite, and injuries that have come in contact with ocean water, are more susceptible to cellulitis than others. In the case that a person experiences these injuries, medical help should be sought.