Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and the soft tissues beneath it. It happens when bacteria enter a break in the skin and spread, causing the skin to become red, swollen, warm, and tender. If not treated, it can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream and become life-threatening. It often affects the skin on the lower legs, but it can occur anywhere on the body or face. Common symptoms include redness, swelling, warm to the touch, tenderness or pain, and sometimes fever. Cellulitis is usually treated with antibiotics.


Causes of Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that can develop when bacteria enters your body through a break in the skin, such as a cut, insect bite, or surgical wound. The most common bacteria that cause cellulitis are Streptococcus (strep) and Staphylococcus (staph).

Various factors can contribute to your risk of cellulitis, such as:

1. Injury: Any cut, fracture, burn or scrape gives bacteria an entry point to get into the skin.

2. Immune system disorders: Conditions like diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or other diseases that weaken the immune system can make you more susceptible to infections, including cellulitis.

3. Skin conditions: Conditions such as eczema, athlete’s foot, or shingles can cause breaks in the skin that allow bacteria to get in.

4. Lymphedema: This is a condition characterized by swelling of an arm or leg, often because a blockage in the lymphatic system prevents lymph fluid from draining adequately.

5. Previous cellulitis: Once you’ve had cellulitis, you’re likely to get it again.

6. Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of getting cellulitis.

7. Intravenous drug use: Individuals who use IV drugs can introduce bacteria into their bodies, which can lead to cellulitis.

In most cases, cellulitis occurs in the skin on the lower legs, but it can occur anywhere on the body. It’s important to seek medical attention if you notice symptoms of cellulitis, including redness, swelling, and warmth in the affected area, tenderness or pain, and fever.

Risk Factors of Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common but potentially serious skin infection caused by bacteria. It can occur on any part of the body, but it most often affects the skin on the lower legs.

Risk factors for cellulitis include:

1. Injury: Any cuts, fractures, burns, or scrapes on the skin can allow bacteria to enter the body and lead to an infection.

2. Weakened immune system: Conditions or medications that weaken the immune system, such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or chemotherapy, can increase the risk of cellulitis.

3. Skin conditions: Conditions that cause breaks in the skin, such as eczema or athlete’s foot, can increase the risk of cellulitis.

4. Obesity: People who are overweight or obese may have skin issues like cracks or rashes that increase the risk of cellulitis.

5. Previous episodes of cellulitis: If you’ve had cellulitis before, your chances of getting it again are higher.

6. Lymphedema: This condition, which causes swelling in the arms or legs, can increase the risk because it often results in cracks in the overlying skin, letting bacteria enter.

7. Venous insufficiency: Persistent swelling of the legs that impair circulation can lead to cellulitis.

8. Intravenous drug use: Using unclean needles can introduce bacteria into the body and increase the risk of cellulitis.

Remember, anyone can get cellulitis, but these factors can increase the risk. If you notice symptoms of cellulitis such as redness, pain, and swelling in an area of skin – particularly if it’s associated with fever – it is important to seek medical attention promptly.

Signs and Symptoms of Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that can spread quickly if not treated promptly. It often affects the skin on the lower legs, but can occur on any part of the body. The signs and symptoms of cellulitis can include:

1. Redness: This is often the first noticeable symptom. The skin will appear red and this redness will often expand as the infection spreads.

2. Swelling: As with many infections, swelling is a common symptom of cellulitis.

3. Tenderness & Pain: The affected area can feel tender to the touch, and may result in pain, ranging from mild to severe.

4. Warmth: The infected area may feel warm or hot compared to surrounding skin.

5. Fever: Some people with cellulitis may also develop fever, suggesting a system-wide response to infection.

6. Chills: Along with fever, some individuals might experience chills, or feeling of cold or shivering

7. Blisters: In some cases, blisters may appear on the affected skin.

8. Red Spots: Red spots may also be seen on the skin, often they are slightly raised.

9. Skin Dimpling: In more severe cases, the skin may dimple due to swelling.

10. Fatigue: This is more associated with the body’s overall response to the infection.

If one observes these symptoms, it’s important to contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Cellulitis may spread rapidly and could potentially turn into a life-threatening condition if left untreated. Also remember, symptoms can be milder or more severe depending on the individual and the strain of bacteria.

Diagnosis Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common and often serious bacterial skin infection. It appears as a swollen, red area on the skin that feels hot and tender to touch. The redness and swelling can spread quickly.

This condition occurs when bacteria, often streptococcus and staphylococcus, enter through a crack or break in your skin. The incidence of a more serious staphylococcus infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is also increasing.

While cellulitis can occur anywhere on your body, the most common location is the lower leg. Bacteria is most likely to enter disrupted areas of skin, like where you’ve had recent surgery, cuts, puncture wounds, an ulcer, athlete’s foot or dermatitis.

Risk factors for cellulitis include injury, weakened immune system, skin conditions that cause breaks in the skin, obesity, and circulation disorders.

If left untreated, the bacterial infection can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream and rapidly become life-threatening. It is not usually spread from person to person.

Treatment of Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common and sometimes painful bacterial skin infection. It may first appear as a red, swollen area that feels hot and tender to the touch. The redness and swelling can spread quickly.

Treatment for cellulitis typically includes the following:

1. Antibiotics: The first line of treatment for cellulitis is typically antibiotics, which are usually taken orally. The exact type of antibiotic prescribed may depend on the specific circumstances of the infection. For instance, if you have a mild case, you may be put on medication for a week to 14 days. Severe cases might require intravenous (IV) antibiotics administered in a hospital.

2. Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), could help ease the pain.

3. Rest and elevation: It can also help to rest the affected area and to keep it elevated to reduce swelling and speed recovery.

4. Treatment of any underlying conditions: For example, if you have diabetes or another condition that increases your risk of cellulitis, managing that condition can help reduce your risk of repeated episodes.

5. Wound care: If the cellulitis is caused by a wound, it may be necessary to keep the wound clean and covered until it’s healed.

It is important to take the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor even if your symptoms improve before you have finished the medication. Stopping the medication early may lead to a reappearance of the infection or the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

If the cellulitis doesn’t improve after a few days of oral antibiotics, you may need to be admitted to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics.

Remember to always seek medical advice if you think you have cellulitis as without treatment, it can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream and become life-threatening.

Medications commonly used for Cellulitis

Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and soft tissue beneath it. Here are some common medications used to treat cellulitis:

1. Antibiotics: These are usually the first line of treatment for cellulitis and are crucial to kill the bacteria causing the infection. Different choices of antibiotics can be used including:
Penicillin-based antibiotics like Amoxicillin or Dicloxacillin.
Cephalosporins like Cephalexin (Keflex).
For patients allergic to penicillin, alternatives such as Erythromycin or Vancomycin might be used.
In some cases, tetracyclines or macrolides like doxycycline or clarithromycin can be used.

2. Pain relievers: Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help alleviate pain associated with cellulitis.

3. Other treatments: If the cellulitis is severe and causing high fever, hospitalization might be needed. Intravenous antibiotics can be given in the hospital.

Remember, cellulitis can get worse quickly without treatment, so it’s important to see a healthcare professional if one suspects they have cellulitis. These medications need to be prescribed by a healthcare professional based on the patient’s specific symptoms and health information. It’s also important to follow the healthcare provider’s directions for dosage and length of treatment.

Note that in most cases, cellulitis can take one to two weeks to completely clear up with appropriate medication and treatment.

Remember: Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any medication.

Prevention of Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a skin infection, generally caused by bacteria which tend to enter via an opening in the skin, such as cuts or bites. Here are some steps that can help prevent this infection:

1. Skin Care: Keep your skin clean by washing with a mild soap regularly. It’s also important to keep your skin moisturized, as dry skin can often develop cracks through which bacteria can enter.

2. Protect Your Skin: Wear appropriate protective gear when engaging in activities that could result in skin injury or breaking the skin. If you do get a cut or scrape, cleanse it thoroughly and use an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and bandage.

3. Prompt Treatment of Skin Wounds: Treat all minor cuts, blisters, burns, or bites immediately by cleaning the area with mild soap and water and covering it with a bandage.

4. Hand Hygiene: Wash your hands regularly with soap and hot water. This can keep bacteria off hands thereby preventing the chance of them entering through open or unhealed wounds.

5. General Health Maintenance: Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, managing stress, and exercising regularly.

6. Treat Athlete’s Foot: This can prevent cellulitis of the lower leg as it’s an entry point for bacteria.

For individuals who’ve had cellulitis before, their doctors might recommend preventative antibiotics during certain periods to prevent recurrence.

Keep in mind, while these steps can reduce the risk of cellulitis, they can’t eliminate it entirely. Always consult your healthcare provider if you have concerns about cellulitis, especially if you observe signs of infection such as redness, swelling, tenderness, warmth, pain in the area, or fever.

FAQ’s about Cellulitis

1. What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that can spread quickly. It affects the skin’s surface and the tissues beneath it. If it’s left untreated, it can become life-threatening.

2. What causes cellulitis?
Cellulitis is typically caused by bacteria, usually streptococcus or staphylococcus, which enters through a cut or crack in your skin.

3. What are the symptoms of cellulitis?
Common symptoms include redness, swelling, heat, pain or tenderness, and skin that may appear as a swollen and red area of skin that feels hot and tender. More serious symptoms may include a high fever, chills, shaking, or a feeling of illness.

4. How is cellulitis diagnosed?
Cellulitis is usually diagnosed based on its characteristic symptoms and physical examination by a doctor. Depending on the severity, a blood test or a skin culture might be done.

5. How is cellulitis treated?
Cellulitis is typically treated with oral antibiotics. Severe or recurrent cases might require IV antibiotics.

6. Can cellulitis be prevented?
To prevent cellulitis, you should keep your skin clean and moisturized, promptly treat any cuts or cracks on your skin, and manage any conditions that can lead to skin breakdown, such as eczema or athlete’s foot.

7. Is cellulitis contagious?
No, cellulitis is not contagious; it does not spread from person to person.

8. What are the potential complications of untreated cellulitis?
If left untreated, cellulitis can spread to your lymph nodes and blood stream, becoming life-threatening. It can also cause sepsis, an extreme bodily response to infection.

Remember, always consult your healthcare provider if you have more detailed questions or are experiencing any symptoms related to cellulitis.

Useful links

Cellulitis is a common and sometimes serious bacterial skin infection, which may appear as a swollen, red area that feels hot and tender to the touch. It often affects the skin on the lower legs, but it can occur anywhere on the body.

Here are some insightful journal articles about cellulitis, together with their links:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27434444/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34902109/

Please do note that most of these journals are from reputable medical sources and some content may be behind a paywall, though abstracts can often be read for free.

Complications of Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that can develop in the deep layers of the skin and even spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream, if not treated promptly. Here are some complications that can occur with cellulitis:

1. Recurrence of Infection: A common complication is that cellulitis can recur in those who have had it before, especially those who have conditions like lymphedema or chronic venous insufficiency.

2. Abscess Formation: If the cellulitis infection becomes worse, an abscess (a localized area filled with pus) can form which might require surgical drainage.

3. Blood Poisoning or Septicemia: If the bacterium causing the infection enters the bloodstream, it might lead to sepsis which is a life-threatening condition.

4. Tissue Damage and Necrosis: The infection can cause serious damage to the skin’s tissue, leading to permanent swelling of the affected area. In severe cases, it might lead to necrotizing fasciitis, a rare but serious bacterial infection that results in the death of parts of the body’s soft tissue, also known as ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria.

5. Lymphedema: Constant cellulitis infections can damage the lymphatic drainage system causing chronic swelling of the affected limb.

6. Meningitis: If facial cellulitis (orbit cellulitis) is left untreated, it can infect the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord and lead to meningitis, a very serious condition.

To avoid these complications, it’s important to treat cellulitis promptly and effectively. If you suspect that you have cellulitis, consult your healthcare professional as soon as possible. They will typically prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. In severe cases, hospitalization might be necessary.

Home remedies of Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common skin infection caused by bacteria, usually Streptococcus or Staphylococcus. If you suspect you have cellulitis, it is recommended to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. However, there are some home remedies to manage or help prevent cellulitis:

1. Moisturize Regularly: Keeping the skin moisturized may prevent cracking or flaking, minimizing the risk of bacteria entering the skin.


2. Good Hygiene: Wash your hands regularly and keep your skin clean, especially if you have a cut, scratch, or other skin injuries.

3. Take Care of Skin Injuries: Make sure to clean any wounds or bruises you may have and use a protective bandage to prevent bacteria from infiltrating the skin.

4. Healthy Lifestyle: A balanced diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep can boost your immune system, helping to fend off infections.

5. Elevate the Infected Area: If possible, try to raise the infected area. It can reduce swelling and encourage blood circulation, which helps the healing process.

6. Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water supports your overall health and immunity.

7. Use Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: For pain associated with cellulitis, over-the-counter pain relievers may be helpful.

Please consult your doctor if you think you have cellulitis, and before starting any new health regimen. Serious cases of cellulitis require medical treatment such as antibiotics. Home remedies are not a substitute for medical advice, but they can aid the healing process and help prevent future infections. If the situation worsens, seek immediate help, as it can potentially lead to serious complications.

Categorized in:

Skin Care,

Last Update: January 8, 2024