- What Is It
What Is Cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and soft tissues. It usually affects the deeper layers of the skin or the fat under the skin.
What Is the Treatment for Cellulitis?
Treatment for cellulitis includes antibiotics and addressing any underlying condition that led to the infection.
Home care to help get rid of cellulitis faster includes:
- Wound care
- Keep the affected area clean and dry
- Only use antibiotic ointments or creams if prescribed by your doctor
- Fever and chills should go away within one to two days after starting antibiotics
- Swelling, warmth, and redness usually start to improve within one to three days after starting antibiotics, though it may continue for up to two weeks
- If an extremity is affected:
- Elevate the leg or arm above the heart to help reduce swelling and facilitate healing
- Treat any underlying medical condition
- If bacteria entered the body because of another skin condition, for example, athlete’s foot, that condition also needs to be treated
Medical treatment for cellulitis includes:
- The selection of antibiotics depends on the bacterial cause of the cellulitis
- In severe cases, hospitalization may be needed and intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be given
What Causes Cellulitis?
Cellulitis is usually caused by staphylococci (“staph”) or streptococci (“strep”) bacteria that commonly live on the skin or inner surface of the nose or mouth of healthy people.
Cellulitis may develop when there is a wound or other break in the skin, even one that is minor and goes unnoticed, which permits the bacteria to enter the skin, causing infection and swelling.
Risk factors for developing cellulitis include:
- Recent skin injury (cuts, wounds, scrapes, bites, tattoos, piercings, ulcers, or injection drug use)
- A fungal or viral skin infection, such as athlete's foot or chickenpox
- Chronic skin conditions, such as eczema
- Prior radiation therapy to the area
- Chickenpox and shingles
- Fluid accumulation (edema) due to poor circulation, heart failure, liver disease, chronic lymphedema, or past surgery to remove veins or lymph nodes
How Is Cellulitis Diagnosed?
- Cellulitis is usually diagnosed with a physical examination of the affected skin.
- Blood tests and other lab tests are usually not needed in mild cases, but bacterial cultures may be taken to figure out the germ that caused the infection and to help determine treatment.
What Are Complications of Cellulitis?
Complications from cellulitis are uncommon and may include:
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