By Michelle Duclos, ATC
What is Cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection. It typically affects the skin on the lower legs but can occur in the face, arms, and other areas. Cellulitis occurs when there is a crack or break in the skin that allows bacteria to enter. Unlike other skin conditions, this condition affects the skin’s deeper layers (the dermis and subcutaneous tissue). Since the deeper layers are the ones affected, cellulitis is not contagious.
Signs and Symptoms
Cellulitis signs and symptoms often begin as a small area that is tender, red, and swollen, which spreads to the surrounding skin. There are many common signs and symptoms. If you experience any of the following more serious symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Common Symptoms of Cellulitis:
- Pain and tenderness.
- Redness or inflammation of the skin.
- A rash that grows quickly.
- Tight, glossy, swollen skin.
- Warm to the touch.
More serious Symptoms:
- Muscle aches.
- Warm skin.
- Red streaks.
Causes & Risk Factors
Cellulitis occurs when bacteria enter the skin through a crack or cut in the skin. The common types of bacteria that can cause cellulitis are Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. Cellulitis often starts as a cut, bug bite, or surgical wound.
Risk Factors of Cellulitis
- Weakened immune system (HIV/AIDS, people receiving chemotherapy or immune suppressants).
- Skin condition.
- Chronic swelling (lymphedema).
- History of cellulitis.
To help prevent this condition, follow these precautions if you have a skin wound:
- Wash your wound daily with soap and water.
- Apply a protective cream or ointment (vaseline, polysporin, etc.).
- Cover your would with a bandage and change bandages at least once a day.
- Watch for signs of infection such as redness, pain, and drainage.
People with diabetes and those with poor circulation should take extra precautions when dealing with skin wounds such as:
- Inspect your feet daily, looking for any signs of injury.
- Moisturize skin regularly to prevent cracking or peeling. Do not apply moisturizer to an open sore.
- Trim fingernails and toenails carefully to prevent injury to the surrounding skin.
- Protect your hands and feet by wearing proper footwear and gloves.
- Quickly treat superficial skin infections (Ex. athlete’s foot).
If your condition recurs or you notice signs of infection, seek medical treatment.
Treatment of Cellulitis
When receiving treatment for cellulitis, a culture for bacteria is often performed to ensure the correct treatment is administered. Treatment often includes oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics. In more severe cases that include an abscess, surgical drainage is typically required. Once treatment is sought, symptoms typically resolve in 3-10 days after beginning antibiotics.
JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000.
If you or a loved one is suffering from cellulitis, please call JOI-2000 or click the banner below to schedule an appointment.