What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a deep bacterial infection of the skin. The infection usually involves the face, or the arms and legs. It may happen in normal skin, but it usually occurs after some type of trauma causes an opening in your skin. This opening can lead to an infection.
What is the cause of cellulitis?
Cellulitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of a wound or area of skin that is no longer intact.
Other causes may include human or animal bites, or injuries that occur in water.
What are the symptoms of cellulitis?
The following are the most common symptoms of cellulitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Swelling of the skin
- Warm skin
- Red streaks from the original site of the cellulitis
Some cases of cellulitis are considered an emergency. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- A very large area of red, inflamed skin
- If the area affected is causing numbness, tingling, or other changes in a hand, arm, leg, or foot
- If the skin appears black
- If the area that is red and swollen is around your eye(s) or behind the ear(s)
The symptoms of cellulitis may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
How is cellulitis diagnosed?
Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history and physical examination. Blood and skin samples may be taken to confirm the diagnosis and the type of bacteria that is present.
Treatment for cellulitis
Specific treatment for cellulitis will be determined by your doctor based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Extent of the disease
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Your opinion or preference
Immediate treatment can help prevent the spread of cellulitis. Treatment may include:
- Cool, wet dressings on the infection site
- Surgical intervention
- If there is an extremity (arm or leg) that is affected, your doctor may have you elevate the extremity and decrease the amount of activity
Based on the physical examination, your doctor may treat in the hospital depending on the severity of the cellulitis.