Cellulitis: Dont Ignore The Warning Signs
If left untreated, cellulitis can become a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. It is most common for patients to experience sudden redness, swelling, and pain. If left untreated, cellulitis can spread to your lymph nodes, bloodstream, and deeper tissues, potentially fatal consequences. When you need urgent care, you must consider a number of factors, including whether your symptoms have gotten worse and how severe the infection is. If you have increased redness in the 48 hours after you arrived, this is a strong red flag.
Facial Cellulitis Common Causes
Facial cellultis is caused when bug bites transmit the bacteria. Rarely, the infection is also transmitted by anaerobic bacteria. Other traumas that can lead to this infection include surgery, swimming in fresh or salt water with broken skin, etc. In infants, cellulitis is caused by spread of group B streptococci bacteria.
What Is The Fastest Way To Get Rid Of Cellulitis
The fastest way to get rid of cellulitis is to take your full course of antibiotics. Some home treatments may help speed up the healing process.
Home treatments include:
- Warm compress. Apply a warm compress to your affected area to help reduce swelling and other symptoms.
- Elevation. Elevating your affected area helps lower the blood pressure in the areas blood vessels and improve blood flow.
- Compression. Compression wraps or stockings help reduce swelling and improve blood flow. Dont wrap your affected area too tightly. This can cut off circulation. Remove the compression wrap or stocking at least twice every day for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, reduce pain and inflammation. Not everyone can take NSAIDs, so its a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before use.
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Urgent Advice: Ask For An Urgent Gp Appointment If:
- your face or the area around your eye is affected
- your symptoms are rapidly getting worse
- you have a weakened immune system for example, because of chemotherapy or diabetes
- a young child or elderly person has possible cellulitis
Early treatment with antibiotics can stop the infection from becoming more serious.
What Is The Most Common Cause Of Cellulitis
There are many different causes of cellulitis, but the most common is a bacterial infection. This can occur when the skin is broken, allowing bacteria to enter and cause an infection. Cellulitis can also occur if the lymphatic system is not functioning properly, as this can lead to a build-up of toxins and bacteria in the tissue.
It is a noncontagious inflammation of the connective tissue on the skin. Cellulitis can be treated with antibiotics and medications for 7 to 10 days. When antibiotics are used, it usually takes 7 to 10 days for a cellulitis infection to go away. If the condition becomes more severe, treatment may need to be extended. Cellulitis can occur in people who have fungal infections of the feet for an extended period of time. Bacteria can enter the skin through cracks caused by fungal infection.
A fever, generalized aches and pains, redness, and swelling are all symptoms of cellulitis, so get medical help if you have any of these. An antibiotic will almost certainly be required in a child who has a diagnosed case of cellulitis. If an elderly person is diagnosed with cellulitis, they may need to undergo additional treatment such as wound care and antibiotics.
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Tips To Protect Your Feet And Legs If You Have Diabetes
If you have diabetes, examine your feet daily for redness, areas of warmth, signs of pressure or rubbing from shoes, blisters, or injuries of any type. Apply moisturizer to your feet to prevent cracking, but avoid putting moisturizer in the areas between your toes. In addition, keep your toenails and fingernails trimmed to prevent injury from scratching.
Cellulitis Vs Venous Stasis
Venous stasis, or venous stasis dermatitis, is a condition commonly misdiagnosed as cellulitis.
According to the National Eczema Association, venous stasis causes swelling and discoloration, and it can develop into skin ulcers. It is the result of poor circulation in the lower limbs and typically affects the lower legs and ankles.
Unlike cellulitis, this condition can affect both sides of the body and is not the result of bacterial infection. However, your risk of a skin infection will increase if you develop sores or ulcers as a result of venous stasis.
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Special Precautions For People With Diabetes
People with diabetes, in particular, should take meticulous care of their feet and be aggressive with treating even minor skin issues, says Dr. Adalja. Athletes foot can cause skin to be more prone to bacterial infection, so this should be treated promptly. Also, they should receive routine podiatric care.
What Does Cellulitis Look Like
The infection causes your skin to turn red, swollen, tender, and warm. Your skin may look glossy or stretched.
If your infection becomes severe, you may develop blisters, pus-filled bumps, or open sores. Your lymph nodes may feel swollen. Severe cellulitis can quicken your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and make it difficult for you to concentrate. And severe cellulitis can be very painful.
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When To Get Medical Advice
See your GP or go to GP out of hours service as soon as possible if an area of your skin suddenly turns red, painful and hot.
Cellulitis infection can spread in the body into the bloodstream causing sepsis. Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition triggered by an infection or injury.
Early treatment can help reduce the risk of the infection becoming severe.
Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest emergency department immediately if:
- your face or the area around your eye is affected
- your symptoms are getting rapidly worse
- you experience other symptoms as well as the changes in your skin, such as a fever or vomiting
- you have a weak immune system for example, because of HIV or chemotherapy or severe lymphoedema, a condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues
- a young child or elderly person has possible cellulitis
Can Cellulitis Be Prevented
Cellulitis cannot always be prevented, but the risk of developing cellulitis can be reduced by:
- avoiding injury to the skin
- maintaining good hygiene
- managing skin conditions like tinea and eczema.
People who are susceptible to cellulitis such as those with diabetes or with poor circulation should take care to protect themselves with appropriate footwear, gloves and long pants when gardening or bushwalking. Look after your skin by moisturising regularly and checking your feet for signs of injury.
A common cause of infection to the skin is via the fingernails. Handwashing is very important, as well as regularly trimming and cleaning your nails.
If your skin is cut:
- rinse the wound with clean water
- use tweezers to pick out any dirt or debris
- cover the wound with a non-stick dressing
- see a doctor or nurse if the wound is deep
Make sure you wash your hands before cleaning or dressing any wounds.
People with swelling of the arm or leg due to a condition such as lymphoedema sometimes develop cellulitis that keeps coming back. In these cases, the first step is to work with your doctor to find the cause of the swelling and prevent the cellulitis happening. In people who have cellulitis 2 or more times in a year, taking antibiotics for long periods can help.
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When To Contact A Doctor
Contact your doctor if you:
- dont feel better within 3 days after starting antibiotics
- notice your symptoms get worse
- develop a fever
You may need to be treated with IV antibiotics in a hospital if you have:
- a high temperature
- an infection that doesnt improve with oral antibiotics
- a weakened immune system due to other diseases
Cellulitis Treatment: Natural Remedies & Prevention Tips
Considered to be the most common types of illness caused by staph bacteria, cellulitis is a painful, sometimes blistering skin infection that affects hundreds of thousands of adults every year in the United States, leading many to search for cellulitis treatment that actually works.
While cellulitis symptoms can usually be managed well with cellulitis treatment such as drainage of skin blisters or sometimes antibiotics medication especially when caught early, complications due to cellulitis infection are also possible, much like a staph infection. Potentially serious complications caused by cellulitis can include developing large, painful abscesses below the skin, damage to the lymphatic vessels, permanent swelling of the affected tissue, permanently destroyed skin tissue, and the spreading of bacteria through the blood .
Wondering if cellulitis is contagious? Yes, the types of staph bacteria that cause cellulitis can be transmitted from person to person or even from animals to people in some cases. Skin-to-skin contact with someone who carries staph bacteria along with sharing personal items are the two most common ways that bacteria are passed between patients. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, several factors increase the risk for spreading staph bacteria that cause cellulitis. These factors are referred to as the 5 Cs:
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How Long Does It Take For Cellulitis To Heal
Cellulitis is a common and sometimes serious bacterial skin infection. It often develops on areas of the body with edema , the site of an injury, the site of a surgery, or around an active skin rash. With proper treatment and care, small patches of cellulitis can heal in around five or seven days. However, the healing process is largely influenced by the severity of your cellulitis as well as your current health condition. For example, severe cases of cellulitis can last for multiple weeks despite treatment. And the risk increases for those with weakened immune systems, a history of cellulitis/skin infections, diabetes, or obese individuals. The biggest takeaway is to seek treatment for your skin infection as soon as possible the earlier the diagnosis, the sooner treatment can begin and the faster your recovery period will be. For life-threatening, limb-threatening, or time-sensitive symptoms, contact 911 immediately.
Why Do I Keep Getting Cellulitis
Many people who get cellulitis again usually have skin conditions that dont go away without treatment, such as athletes foot or impetigo. Poorly controlled diabetes may also contribute to repeat instances of cellulitis.
Approximately 33% of all people who have cellulitis get it again.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Cellulitis is a common skin condition that mostly affects children and people with wounds, chronic skin conditions or a weakened immune system. If you notice symptoms of cellulitis, talk to your healthcare provider right away. Theyll prescribe you an antibiotic to quickly clear up the bacterial infection and recommend home treatments to make you more comfortable.
To prevent cellulitis, be sure to practice proper hygiene. Clean any wounds with water and antibacterial soap and cover them with a clean bandage to reduce your risk of infection.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/18/2022.
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Cellulitis Complications And How To Prevent Them
Untreated cellulitis can lead to some serious medical conditions, including:
- Infective endocarditis
Another major complication is the infection spreading to your bloodstream, at which point the infection becomes life-threatening.
You can raise your chances of heading off complications by doing the following:
- See a doctor if you have signs or symptoms of cellulitis.
- Take your prescribed antibiotics as directed, and dont stop the medication early.
- Notify your doctor if your symptoms dont improve within three days of starting an antibiotic.
- Get plenty of rest to help your body heal faster. If the cellulitis is in your leg, elevate it to reduce swelling.
What Are The Signs Of Cellulitis
Cellulitis generally only affects one side of the body. The area of skin affected by cellulitis becomes red, painful, hot and swollen. Blisters may form and the affected area may grow larger. This can happen quite quickly, over hours to a few days.
You may also feel unwell and feverish with a high temperature and shivers. This may start a few hours or a day before the skin changes become visible.Image credit: DermNet NZ
|When to seek medical help|
See a doctor if the affected area is bigger than a 10 cent piece.
Ask for an urgent GP appointment if:
Early treatment with antibiotics can stop the infection becoming more serious.
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Cellulitis Symptoms & Treatment
So, how can you tell if your skin infection is cellulitis? Most cellulitis infections are easy to visually diagnose your doctor may suggest additional testing to rule out other conditions if the diagnosis is questionable. Cellulitis skin infections are typically painful, red, swollen, and warm to the touch. While cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, it usually appears on the lower legs, face, or arms. It can also occur around cracked or broken skin thats exposed to bacteria.
Most cases of cellulitis can be treated with an oral antibiotic prescription provided by your doctor. The timeline for your antibiotic will vary depending on the severity of your case and current health. That said, within three days of starting the antibiotic, you should be able to determine whether your infection is responding to treatment. Read on to learn more about the typical healing process of cellulitis with treatment.
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
Your physician will usually be able to easily diagnose cellulitis by examining the affected area. Sometimes your doctor may want to get additional information by ordering blood tests and/or performing a bacterial culture in order to identify the specific bacterium that is causing the cellulitis as well as to test its susceptibility to different antibiotics to help guide treatment decisions.A bacterial culture involves the following:
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What Causes Cellulitis Of The Leg
Cellulitis is an infection usually caused by staphylococci or streptococci bacteria that live on the skin or inner surface of the nose or mouth of healthy people. Cellulitis may develop if there is a wound or other break in the skin, that can be minor and unnoticed. This break in the skin permits the bacteria to enter the skin, causing infection and swelling.
Risk factors for developing cellulitis include:
- Recent skin injury
- Prior radiation therapy to the area
- A fungal or viral skin infection, such as athlete’s foot or chickenpox
Is Cellulitis In The Leg Serious
Cellulitis can lead to serious complications. These conditions can result in extensive tissue damage and the death of tissue . It can also spread to other parts of the body if it is passed along the blood, bones, lymph system, heart, or nervous system. These infections can lead to amputation, shock, or even death as a result.
The deeper layers of your skin and beneath the fat layer are typically affected by bacterial infection. Bacteria can multiply and invade your body when you crack or cut your skin, resulting in cellulitis. It can range from mild to severe, so getting the treatment done as soon as possible is critical. For uncomplicated, uncomplicated cellulitis, you will not need to undergo any additional testing. When there is a severe cellulitis, the surrounding tissue may die. The treatment of conditions that make you more vulnerable to cellulitis is beneficial. The doctor may also want to consult with a dermatologist or an infectious disease specialist.
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How To Prevent Cellulitis
There are several ways to reduce your risk of cellulitis:
- Stick to a healthy skin routine. Use moisturizer to prevent and treat itchy, dry or cracked skin that could be vulnerable to bacteria.
- Trim your nails. Fingernails are a popular hangout for bacteria. Keep them short to avoid scratches that could introduce bacteria into your skin.
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands frequently to kill bacteria and prevent cellulitis infections, especially before treating a wound.
- Treat your wounds. Clean your cuts, blisters, scrapes or any open wounds with soap and water as soon as possible. Use over-the-counter antibiotic ointment as directed by your health care provider and apply a dry bandage to create a barrier against harmful bacteria.
- Leave treated wounds alone. Wounds may feel itchy as your skin heals, but its important not to pick, scratch or touch the affected area to avoid introducing new bacteria and developing a more serious infection.
- Monitor healing. As your wound heals, look for signs of infection, such as pain, swelling, redness, odor, warmth, or a green or yellow discharge.
- Skip the dip. Avoid hot tubs, swimming pools, lakes and other bodies of water if you have an open wound.
Causes And Risk Factors For Cellulitis
Cellulitis is usually caused by a variety of bacteria, most predominantly staphylococcus and streptococcal species that live on the skin. These bacteria invade below the skin through abrasions and cuts, and infect the tissues beneath the skin, causing an inflammatory response, says Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a board-certified infectious disease physician in Pittsburgh and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
While staph and strep can live harmlessly on your intact skin, any type of open sore on your body including a burn, a surgical wound, or even a pimple can allow the bacteria in and put you at risk of developing cellulitis, says Shainhouse.
Of course, many people sustain many minor skin wounds over the course of their lives and never develop cellulitis. But certain conditions place people at increased risk for cellulitis. Such conditions include:
- Advanced age, which is associated with a weaker immune system
- A disease that weakens the immune system, such as an autoimmune disease, diabetes, cancer, and HIV or AIDS
- Use of a medication that suppresses the immune system
- Injection of illicit drugs
- Impaired lymphatic drainage
- Obesity or being overweight
Theres also the risk of cellulitis if you have a skin condition like eczema or athletes foot that can cause dryness and itchiness and breaks in the skin, providing an entry point for bacteria.
Having had cellulitis once also puts you at higher risk of developing it again.
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