Cellulitis is a potentially serious bacterial infection of the skin, which includes the subcutaneous tissue, fat, and the soft tissue layer. It first appears as an area which is hot to touch and is red and swollen. Cellulitis can occur anywhere in the body, but usually, it affects the skin of the lower legs and can be painful. It can spread to the deeper layers of the skin, lymph nodes, and blood rapidly and can be fatal.
Cellulitis can occur anywhere in the body, so it is divided into different types depending on the body part affected.
Cellulitis of the Extremities - This affects the arms, legs, and feet. It is the most common type of cellulitis.
Facial Cellulitis - It can occur anywhere in the face, lips, and tongue.
Orbital and Periorbital Cellulitis - Skin infection of the eyelids or the structures surrounding the eye.
Breast Cellulitis - Women with breast cancer and a history of lumpectomy are more susceptible to develop breast cellulitis.
Perianal Cellulitis - This is usually seen in children. Here the skin around the anal orifice gets infected.
Bacteria are present on the surface of the skin and normally do not cause any infection. But in the following cases, bacteria (Streptococcus and Staphylococcus) enters the skin and causes infection:
The usual signs and symptoms include:
The doctor will usually diagnose the condition through clinical presentation and physical examination. Sometimes, the doctor might ask for the following tests:
Your doctor might prescribe oral antibiotics for 10 to 21 days. The length of antibiotic regimen will depend on the severity of the infection. You will usually see improvement after taking oral antibiotics for 7 to 10 days, but complete the antibiotic course even after all the signs and symptoms go away.
Along with antibiotics, your doctor might also prescribe painkillers to relieve the pain and discomfort caused by the infection.
If you have a high fever or high blood pressure or immunologically compromised or if oral antibiotics are not effective, then the doctor might advise hospitalization. In such cases, antibiotics are given intravenously.
In some rare cases, when the infection is severe, surgery might be needed. Here, the doctor may drain the collected pus and cut away dead tissue to promote healing.
Following are some of the preventive measures:
The complications include:
Repeated and recurrent episodes of cellulitis can damage the lymphatic system and cause swelling of the limb.
Can cause a deep-layer infection called necrotizing fasciitis.
Gangrene (tissue death).
Untreated cellulitis might be fatal, so if you see the following symptoms, get immediate medical attention:
If you are suffering from cellulitis which is not getting better with antibiotics, you can consult a dermatologist online. You can click pictures of the affected area and share it with the doctor along with the symptoms, or you can talk to an experienced doctor through real-time video consultation.Last reviewed at: 12.Mar.2019