What Are Causes of Cellulitis?
A number of factors can increase the chance that bacteria may invade the skin and cause infection. These risk factors include the following:
- Puncture wound or injuries that break the skin
- Infections related to a surgical wound
- Any breaks in the skin that allow bacteria to invade the skin (examples are chronic skin conditions such as eczema)
- Foreign objects in the skin
- Bacteria that typically cause cellulitis include group A Streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus (also known as staph or staph infection). Some S. aureus infections are resistant to some antibiotics (for example, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA) or are prone to causing abscesses or collections of pus in the skin.
- Infection of bone underneath the skin (An example is a long-standing open wound that is deep enough to expose the bone to bacteria. Sometimes this occurs in people with diabetes who have lost sensation or have poor blood flow in their feet.)
- Swelling in the leg or arm from varicose veins or after surgery on veins or lymph nodes (lymphedema) is a common risk factor for streptococcal cellulitis.
- Dog or cat bites or licking can cause severe cellulitis due to Pasteurella or Capnocytophagia, especially in diabetics or people with poor immune function or absence of the spleen (asplenia) or splenectomy, surgical removal of the spleen.
- People with liver disease or iron overload are at risk for cellulitis from exposure to mud, soil, or water (freshwater or seawater). Vibrio vulnificus, Pseudomonas, and Aeromonas are common bacteria in such situations. Tell the doctor if you have liver disease or if there has been exposure to soil, freshwater, or saltwater.
- Erysipelas is a superficial streptococcal infection of the face that appears similar to cellulitis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2017
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