Cellulitis is a potent skin infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Though many other types of bacteria can cause this skin infection, but Staphylococcus is usually responsible for it. Cellulitis is not just a superficial skin infection but also infects tissues and layers beneath the skin: dermis and epidermis. Skin on the lower legs is most commonly affected, though it can occur anywhere on the body. This is a common problem that affects people of all ages and genders. It needs timely treatment or else it can cause serious infection by spreading throughout the body.
What Causes Cellulitis?
The cause of Cellulitis is bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. These bacteria are normally present on the skin and cause no harm. But when there is any breakage in the skin, they find a route to get inside. This breakage in skin can be caused by a cut, an ulcer, bite or graze. Skin in the infected area can become red, hot and irritated.
Some possible symptoms of Cellulitis can be as follows:
- Skin redness and tenderness
As the redness on the infected area enlarges, infected person may start developing fever and the lymph nodes at the site of infection start swelling. At times fatigue and muscle aches are also associated with this infection. Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, but lower leg is most likely to be affected, followed by arms and then neck.
Risk Factors Associated With Cellulitis
- Weak immune system: If a person has suffered or is suffering from any illness that has weakened the immune system like diabetes, it can lead to circulatory problems which cause skin ulcers. Poor control of blood vessels allows bacteria to progress rapidly. Besides, people suffering from any other skin diseases like chicken pox which cause blisters can also be vulnerable. Breaking of blisters becomes a possible route of bacteria to enter the skin.
- Obesity: Obese people are more likely to get affected from Cellulitis. Also there can be repeated occurrence of Cellulitis in such people.
- Reoccurrence: If someone previously had Cellulitis then he or she is more prone to have this skin infection again.
Physicians generally diagnose this infection by physical examination, which may include:
- Redness, swollen lymph nodes and tenderness.
- Probable outflow of fluid if the infection is severe.
At times, other diseases like Lyme disease can be misdiagnosed as Cellulitis. For such conditions some more confirmatory tests for the presence of Staphylococcus are conducted.
- Blood culture test: This is used to culture the bacteria present in the blood. It then confirms the presence of Cellulitis causing bacteria.
The treatment for cellulite is focused on reduction of infection, pain relief, quick recovery and prevention of repetitive occurrence. Medications are used as per the severity of the disease. They can be intravenous or oral antibiotics.
The type of treatment depends upon the level of severity. They are mainly classified as follows:
1. Medical Treatments
Home care medical treatments: These treatments are followed when this skin an infection is not very severe and can be treated at home. The physician will prescribe some oral and topical antibiotics for one week and will tell you to respond back after 48 hours. If any symptoms like rise in body temperature, vomiting or increased inflammation appear, you should immediately inform the medical adviser.
Medical treatment at hospitals: These treatments are considered when Cellulitis is severe. Some conditions that define severity of Cellulitis are severe secondary symptoms like vomiting and high fever. This infection requires more intense treatment if:
- The infection is rapidly deteriorating.
- It starts occurring around sensitive body parts like eyes.
- The person is very old.
- Or, the person is frequently affected by this infection.
If a person is admitted to the hospital he is most likely to be treated by intravenous antibiotics. The antibiotics that are given at a severe stage are highly selective. In particular, the person is treated with broad spectrum antibiotics. This is a type of antibiotic that kills a wide range of bacteria. The doctor will also prescribe topical and oral antibiotics to the infected person. Even if the patient starts recovering he or she shouldn’t stop medicine intake.
2. Home Treatments: Person is generally advised to drink plenty of water and keep the inflated part elevated so as to reduce inflammation. If the secondary symptoms include mild stomach ache then the prescribed medicines can be generally used to cure it. For swelling and pain some normal pain killers can be taken. Before seeking any home care remedy, an immediate visit to a medical practitioner is advised.
In order to prevent Cellulitis you need to take note of few measures. In case of any injury occurs, or if you are obese or diabetic these preventive measures become more important to be followed.
- Don’t leave your injury or wounds open and without care. Wash it gently with clean water, apply antiseptic ointment and bandage it properly. Keep checking it further in case it gets worse. In such a case, get it checked immediately.
- People who have weak immune system, have poor blood circulation and are diabetic need to take extra precautions if they get wounded. This is because such people are more likely to get affected by Cellulitis.
- People with lymphodema (swelling in arms and legs) are at high risk of developing Cellulitis. As swelling makes people more vulnerable to Cellulitis.