Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria which can be potentially serious and life-threatening if prompt treatment is not sought. Cellulitis is indicated by swollen red skin that feels warm and is painful. A bacterium enters the body through a break in the skin – a cut, sore or bite. The bacterial infection if not controlled can spread deep into the tissues to your lymph nodes or bloodstream. Certain people are more prone to cellulites such as elderly people, diabetics or people with a weak immune system.
Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body but the commonly affected areas are face and extremities of the body.
Following are symptoms of cellulitis
- Swelling of the skin.
- Warm sensation.
- Pain and tenderness.
- Taut and glossy appearance of skin.
- Infected area tends to expand.
- Symptoms may be accompanied with fever and muscle aches.
- Skin above the infected area can have red spots or streaks appearing.
- Sometimes blisters can occur.
Cellulitis is caused due to bacteria which can be more than one type. The most common cellulitis causing bacteria are streptococcus and staphylococcus. Any cut or sore and even healing skin can be an entry point to cellulitis causing bacteria. Certain types of insect bites can spread cellulitis causing bacteria.
Immunodeficiency: A weak immune system can be a result of poor nutrition, illnesses or medication. It gets difficult for the body to protect itself from various infections if the immune system is not strong enough to fight disease causing bacteria or virus. While certain illnesses such as HIV can make your immune system weak, certain medications too can suppress the immune system. Corticosteroid medications or medications given during organ transplants as an anti-rejection measure suppress the immune system.
Age: Blood circulation generally deteriorates with advancement of age. The circulation system is not as effective in reaching all areas of the body making those areas with bad circulation of blood prone to infections in case of injury.
Diabetes: Diabetics not only have a weakened immune system but also are at a risk of decreased flow of blood to their lower extremities which can make them prone to foot ulcers. Ulcers at the feet can serve as an entry point to bacteria of cellulitis. Diseases which affect blood circulation such as varicose veins also are a risk factor for bacterial infection like cellulitis.
Any injury to your skin like a cut, surgical wound or fungal infections can serve as an entry point for the bacteria of cellulitis.
Lymphedema which causes swelling in arms or legs make the skin prone to infections.
Antibiotics are used to treat cellulitis depending on the extent of spread of the infection hospitalization can also be recommended. If infection is mild oral antibiotic pills are prescribed and close follow-up is done. If infection is widespread, hospitalization is recommended along with intravenous antibiotics (through the veins into direct bloodstream).
If you are prescribed antibiotics, it is important to take the medicine as and when directed by the doctor. The complete course of medication needs to be taken as stopping it midway can cause relapse. Treatment for cellulitis should be done immediately as the bacteria spreads rapidly through the body and can be life-threatening.
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