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Alternative Names Return to topSkin infection - bacterial
Definition Return to top
Cellulitis is a common skin infection caused by bacteria.
Causes Return to top
Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria are the most common causes of cellulitis.
The skin normally has many types of bacteria living on it. When there is a break in the skin, however, bacteria can enter the body and cause infection and inflammation. The skin tissues in the infected area become red, hot, irritated, and painful.
Risk factors for cellulitis include:
Symptoms Return to top
Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:
Exams and Tests Return to top
During a physical examination, the doctor may find:
Your health care provider may mark the edges of the redness with a pen, to see if the redness goes past the marked border over the next several days.
Tests that may be used:
Treatment Return to top
Cellulitis treatment may require a hospital stay if:
Most of the time, treatment with oral antibiotics and close follow-up is enough. Treatment is focused on controlling the infection and preventing complications.
You may receive antibiotics to control the infection, and analgesics to control pain.
Raise the infected area higher than your heart to reduce swelling. Rest until your symptoms improve.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
It is possible to be cured with 7 - 10 days of treatment. Cellulitis may be more severe in people with chronic diseases and those who are more prone to infection because their immune system is not working properly (immunosuppressed).
People with fungal infections of the feet may have cellulitis that keeps coming back. The cracks in the skin offer an opening for bacteria to get inside.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if:
Seek medical attention immediately if the cellulitis is on your face.
Prevention Return to top
Protect your skin by:
Whenever you have a break in the skin:
References Return to top
Stevens DL, Bisno AL, Chambers BF, Everett ED, Dellinger P, Goldstein EJ, et al. Infectious Diseases Society of America. Practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of skin and soft-tissue infections. Clin Infect Dis. 2005;41:1373-1406.
Abrahamian FM, Talan DA, Moran GJ. Management of skin and soft-tissue infections in the emergency department. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2008;22:89-116.Update Date: 4/17/2009 Updated by: Michael Lehrer, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.