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Cellulitis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Cellulitis is a deep bacterial infection of the skin. Cellulitis appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender, and it may spread rapidly. It generally indicates an acute spreading infection of the dermis and subcutaneous tissues resulting in pain, erythema, edema, and warmth. It is an acute inflammation of the connective tissue of the skin, caused by infection with staphylococcus, streptococcus or other bacteria. Inflammation is a process in which the body reacts to the bacteria. Streptococci spread rapidly in the skin because they produce enzymes that hinder the ability of the tissue to confine the infection. The word cellulitis literally means inflammation of the cells. Cellulitis can be caused by normal skin flora or by exogenous bacteria , and often occurs where the skin has previously been broken: cracks in the skin, cuts, burns , insect bites , surgical wounds, or sites of intravenous catheter insertion. This results in infection and inflammation. Inflammation may cause swelling, redness, pain, or warmth. If an infection develops, it may affect just the top layers of skin. But if it goes deeper and becomes cellulitis, all three layers of skin can become red, swollen, and tender.

This kind of cellulitis is treated with antibiotics and close follow-up. The incubation period for cellulitis varies, depending on the type of bacteria causing it. Cellulitis may be superficial affecting only the surface of your skin but cellulitis may also affect the tissues underlying your skin and can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream. The infection usually involves the face, or the arms and legs. It may happen in normal skin, but it usually occurs after some type of trauma causes an opening in your child's skin. Due to the predictability of the involved organisms, empiric treatment with antibiotics aimed at staphylococcal and streptococcal organisms is appropriate in adults. Other types of bacteria can cause infection after certain types of injuries, such as animal bites, puncture wounds through wet shoes, and wounds exposed to freshwater lakes, aquariums, or swimming pools. Symptoms and signs are usually localised to the affected area but patients can become generally unwell with fevers, chills and shakes. If untreated, it can progress to a more serious infection that affects vision. In severe cases, it can spread quickly, within hours or days. Cellulitis is usually not contagious.

Causes of Cellulitis

The comman causes of Cellulitis include the following:

  • Cellulitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of a wound or area of skin that is no longer intact.
  • Group A ß - hemolytic streptococcus.
  • The two most common types of bacteria that cause cellulitis are streptococcus and staphylococcus.
  • Use of immunosuppressive or corticosteroid medications.
  • Pneumococcus may cause a particularly malignant form of cellulitis, typically in an immunocompromised host, and frequently is associated with tissue necrosis, suppuration, and blood stream invasion.
  • Infection of bone underneath the skin (An example is a long-standing open wound that is deep enough to expose the bone to bacteria.
  • Any breaks in the skin that allow bacteria to invade the skin (examples are chronic skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis
  • Other causes may include human or animal bites, or injuries that occur in water.

Symptoms of Cellulitis

Some sign and symptoms related to Cellulitis are as follows:

  • Localized skin redness or inflammation that increases in size as the infection spreads.
  • Feeling weak.
  • The first symptoms are redness, pain, and tenderness over an area of skin.
  • Blisters.
  • Tight, glossy, "stretched" appearance of the skin.
  • Drainage or leaking of yellow clear fluid or pus from the skin.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Confusion or sleepiness.
  • Bruising.
  • Red streaks from the original site of the cellulitis.
  • If the condition spreads to the body via the blood, then fevers and chills can result.

Treatment of Cellulitis

Here is list of the methods for treating Cellulitis:

  • Cellulitis treatment may require hospitalization if it is severe enough to warrant intravenous antibiotics and close observation.
  • Surgical intervention.
  • Elevate the area of the body involved. This will help decrease swelling and relieve discomfort.
  • At home, warm compresses, such as a warm, moist washcloth, and elevating the infected area can help.
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin). This will decrease the pain as well as help keep the fever down.
  • Sometimes oral probenecid is added to maintain antibiotic levels in the blood.
  • If the infection is more widespread, or if you're having a slow recovery on oral antibiotics, antibiotics may be used intravenously (IV) or by injection.