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Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and soft tissue of the skin. Cellulitis is usually a bacterial infection. Staphylococci and streptococci are the two most common bacteria and these are usually present on the skin or mucus membranes of the nose or mouth of otherwise normal, healthy people. The infection develops when there is a break in the skin, such as a wound or injury, which may be minor. This allows bacteria to enter the skin and grow, causing infection and swelling.

Risk factors:

Certain conditions increase the risk of developing cellulitis. These include:

  • Recent injury to the skin (a wound, abrasion, cut, shaving, or injection drug use) Prior radiation therapy
  • The presence of a fungal or viral skin infection, such as athlete's foot or chickenpox
  • Accumulation of fluid (edema) due to poor circulation, heart failure, liver disease, or past surgery to remove lymph nodes
  • Being overweight
  • Chronic skin conditions, such as eczema
Clinical features:

The most common symptom of cellulitis is pain or tenderness. Other cellulitis symptoms can include swelling, warmth, and redness in a distinct area of skin. These symptoms commonly worsen and the redness may expand over the course of hours or days. The onset of cellulitis may be gradual or sudden. The skin is usually smooth and shiny, rather than raised or bumpy. However, occasionally in cases of cellulitis, blisters or small pimples may form in the skin. The most common areas of the body for cellulitis to develop include the legs and the arms; it can also develop around the eye, on the abdominal wall, in the mouth, and around the anus.

Cellulitis Treatment:

1. Antibiotics — Cellulitis treatment includes antibiotics as well as treatment of any underlying condition that led to the skin infection.Most people with cellulitis are treated with an antibiotic that is taken by mouth for one to two weeks. The "best" antibiotic depends upon your situation.

If the infection is severe, you may need to be hospitalized and treated with antibiotics given into a vein (IV).

It is important to take the antibiotic exactly as recommended and to finish the entire course of treatment. Skipping doses or ending treatment early could potentially allow the bacteria to become resistant and require longer treatment.

2. Elevate the area — Elevating the arm or leg above the level of the heart can help to reduce swelling and speed healing.

3. Keep the area clean and dry — It is important to keep the infected area clean and dry. You can shower or bathe normally, and pat the area dry with a clean towel. You can use a bandage or gauze to protect the skin, if needed. Do not use any antibiotic ointments or creams.


The swelling, warmth, and redness should begin to improve within one to three days after starting antibiotics, although these symptoms can persist for two weeks. If the reddened area becomes larger, more swollen or tender, call your healthcare provider. He or she may want to reexamine you to determine if further testing or an alternate antibiotic are needed.In most cases, you will recover completely from an episode of cellulitis without any complications.

Many cases of cellulitis are mild and heal completely with antibiotic treatment. However, some cases of cellulitis can be severe and lead to systemic infection. Thus it is important to seek medical care promptly if the infection is associated with fever, rapid worsening, other signs of progression of if you have other medical problems, such as diabetes.

Transmission to others:

Most forms of cellulitis are NOT highly contagious to other family members. However, when you have cellulitis, it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water and to avoid sharing towels.

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