Cellulitis is an infection of the layers under the skin (i.e. the dermis and adjacent structures). There are many types of cellulitis as well as many different pathogens that can cause such an infection. These pathogens (or bacteria) enter the skin through small cracks on the skin, causing the sudden appearance of redness, swelling and warmth of the skin, appearing much like an infected cut or scrape. Cellulitis, however, is sometimes accompanied by fever, chills and/or fatigue. If an infection is left untreated for too long, cellulitis can result in abscesses or bacteremia. However, in most cases, cellulitis can easily be treated with antibiotic therapy.
While cellulitis and other skin infections can affect any part of the body, the most common locations are the lower legs, arms or hands, and face. Initially, the infection appears as a minimally inflamed pink or red area on the skin. However, if cellulitis or a more serious infection is present, the affected area will become significantly more inflamed and larger within a couple of days. Occasionally, red streaks may radiate outward from the cellulitis. Blisters or pus-filled bumps may also be present. Cellulitis may be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, and fatigue.
Good hygiene can help prevent many infections of the skin. Wash regularly and be sure to wash your hands frequently. Monitor cuts and scrapes closely and looks for signs of infection. Additionally, watch areas of dry skin that can become rough and cracked.
If you notice a persistent and growing infection, make an appointment to see your doctor immediately, or visit our Urgent Care Center. In the meantime, elevate the area to decrease swelling and apply pressure with a clean, cool, moist towel.
Bacterial skin infections like cellulitis and MRSA are often easily treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early. However, in some cases, a bacterial culture may be required to relieve pressure and properly diagnose the infection. In severe cases, or when an individual also has other chronic illnesses, we may require a brief hospital stay to administer antibiotics intravenously and closely monitor your progress.
For more information, see http://www.skinsight.com/adult/cellulitis.htm