July 10, 2020
Did you know that your skin is covered in bacteria? Fortunately, it’s typically harmless, and sometimes even beneficial to your health. However, when certain bacteria penetrate the skin, they can cause cellulitis: a common, but painful infection.
Cellulitis most commonly affects the lower legs. The infected area becomes red, swollen, and can be warmer than surrounding skin when touched. Without treatment, it becomes a serious condition that can spread to the lymph nodes or cause blood infections.
Two bacteria, streptococcus and staphylococcus, are the most common causes of cellulitis. Any break in the skin—burns, cuts, punctures, athlete’s foot, or ulcers—can give these bacteria an opportunity to enter the body and begin an infection.
It’s important to distinguish cellulitis from other skin conditions early since it can spread and become serious quickly. Red, swollen rashes, especially when paired with a fever, are telltale signs of cellulitis and warrant a trip to the doctor. If the affected area is changing rapidly, it’s important to seek emergency care. The area of skin impacted by cellulitis may also have blisters or sores.
Because cellulitis is common, a doctor will be able to diagnose it with a visual examination. If they have reason to think the cellulitis has spread, a blood test may also be ordered. Cellulitis is not usually spread person-to-person.
Doctors often prescribe an antibiotic to combat cellulitis, and those suffering from an infection will need to carefully follow the dosage instructions for the entire period the medication is prescribed. In typical cases, symptoms subside in three days. The doctor may also recommend placing a cool, damp cloth on the affected area and taking over-the-counter pain medication.
Cellulitis can recur, so those who suffer from it will want to ensure they monitor any change in symptoms. There are also a number of common sense ways to help prevent cellulitis, such as washing any wounds or breaks in the skin with soap and water and covering wounds with bandages and protective ointments. Those with diabetes or who are obese are particularly susceptible to cellulitis, and should take care to frequently inspect and moisturize their skin—and pay special attention to any superficial infections.
A normal case of cellulitis can usually be treated easily. However, it’s important to take early action since cellulitis can rapidly develop and spread, leading to hospitalization, intravenous antibiotics, or other more serious treatments. Any symptoms that match those of cellulitis should be shared with a physician as soon as possible so the appropriate course of treatment can be determined.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.