What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a deep bacterial infection of the skin, usually involves the face or the arms and legs. It may happen in healthy skin, but it more often occurs after some trauma causing an opening in the skin, which leads to an infection.

What is the cause of cellulitis?

Cellulitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection of a wound or area of skin that is no longer intact. The most common bacterial causes of cellulitis involve the following:

•    Streptococcus pneumonia

•    Group A ß - hemolytic streptococcus

•    Staphylococcus aureus

Other causes may include human or animal bites, or injuries in water.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

Each may experience symptoms differently. The following are the common symptoms of cellulitis:

•    Swelling of the skin

•    Warm skin

•    Tenderness

•    Bruising

•    Pain

•    Blisters

•    Headache

•    Fever

•    Chills

•    Weakness

•    Red streaks from the original site of the cellulitis

Some cases of cellulitis are considered an emergency. Always consult a doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

•    A large area of red, inflamed skin

•    If the skin appears black

•    If the area affected is causing tingling, numbness, or other changes in a hand, arm, leg, or foot

•    Fever

•    If the area that is red and swollen is around the eye(s) or behind the ear(s)

•    If you suffer from diabetes or have a weakened immune system and developed cellulitis

The symptoms of cellulitis may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult a physician for a diagnosis.

How is cellulitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history and physical examination. Blood and skin samples may be taken to confirm the diagnosis and the type of bacteria that is present.

What is the treatment for cellulitis?

Specific treatment for cellulitis will be determined by your physician based on:

•    Extent of the condition

•    Age, overall health, and medical history

•    Expectations for the course of the condition

•    Tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

•    Patient’s opinion or preference

Immediate treatment can help stop the spread of cellulitis. Treatment may include:

•    Warm, wet dressings on the infection site

•    Oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics

•    Surgical intervention

•    In case of an extremity (arm or leg) that is affected, a patient may have to elevate the extremity and reduce activity

•    Rest

Based on the physical examination and depending on the severity of the cellulitis, a physician may treat you in the hospital, where antibiotics and fluids may be given through an intravenous (IV) catheter.

If you think you have cellulitis, call ColumbiaDoctors Dermatology to make an appointment: (212) 305-5293

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