Cellulitis is a common skin infection caused by bacteria.
Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria are the most common causes of cellulitis.
Normal skin has many types of bacteria living on it. When there is a break in the skin, these bacteria can cause a skin infection. Skin in the infected area will become red, hot, irritated, swollen, and painful.
Risk factors for cellulitis include:
Symptoms of cellulitis include:
Signs of infection:
Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may reveal:
Your health care provider may mark the edges of the redness with a pen, to see if the redness goes past the marked border over the next several days.
Tests that may be ordered include:
You will likely be prescribed antibiotics to be taken by mouth. You may be given pain medicine as well.
At home, raise the infected area higher than your heart to reduce swelling. Rest until your symptoms improve.
You may need to stay in a hospital if:
Cellulitis usually goes away after taking antibiotics for 7 to 10 days. Longer treatment may be needed if cellulitis is more severe. This may occur if you have a chronic diseases or your immune system is not working properly.
People with fungal infections of the feet may have cellulitis that keeps coming back. Cracks in the skin from the fungal infection allows the bacteria to get into the skin.
Call your health care provider if:
Seek medical attention right away if the cellulitis is on your face.
Protect your skin by:
Whenever you have a break in the skin:
Skin infection - bacterial
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Mosby; 2009; chap 9.
Kaplan AP. Urticaria and angioedema. In: Adkinson NF Jr., Bochner BS, Busse WW, et al., eds. In: Middleton’s Allergy Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 61.
Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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