Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects the skin and the tissues beneath it. Unlike other skin conditions, cellulitis affects the deeper layers of the skin such as the dermis and the subcutaneous tissues.
Causes and Risk Factors
Cellulitis is usually caused by the bacteria streptococcus and staphylococcus. There are cases though of cellulitis caused by other bacteria such as Pneumococcus, influenza, and Clostridium. These bacteria can get into the skin through a break or crack on the skin.
There are certain factors that can increase one's risk of developing cellulitis. These include having an open wound, a weak immune system, existing skin disorders such as eczema and chicken pox, obesity, and the use of illegal drugs administered intravenously.
Symptoms of Cellulitis
When a person is infected with cellulitis, he/she usually develops pain and tenderness on the affected site, redness or inflammation on the skin, warmth on the affected area, fever, glossy appearance of the skin, and a skin sore or rash.
In severely infected skin, one may suffer from chills, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, sweating, red streaks, drowsiness, and blistering.
Diagnosing and Treating Cellulitis
In most cases, cellulitis is diagnosed through physical assessment alone. However, in order to confirm the diagnosis, many doctors order a blood test or culture of the wound.
Antibiotic therapy is one of the standard forms of treatment for cellulitis. The length of treatment with antibiotics depends on the severity of one's condition although it's usually between 10 and 21 days. In some cases, pain relievers are prescribed to manage the discomfort.
One will start to feel better within 7 and 10 days of antibiotic therapy. It may take a while for those with more serious cases of cellulitis and for those whose immune system is compromised.
Cellulitis can be a recurring problem especially for those with lymphedema and venous insufficiency. Its recurrence can be prevented though through proper skin care. Preventing breaks in the skin from occurring as well as using compression garments can help. Compression garments can help promote healing and reduce the swelling.
Image: Neeta Lind via Flickr