Facts About Cellulitis
Cellulitis is a skin infection that spreads. The symptoms of
cellulitis are skin that is tender, involves swelling and
redness of the skin. Untreated cellulitis can become septic - a
life threatening condition.
Do not confuse Cellulitis with cellulite - the orange peel
appearance of skin. Two different things one dangerous
and the other not.
An individual with cellulitis may have a fever, and
experience chills and sweats. They may have swollen lymph nodes
near where the infection site is.
This infection involves the deeper layers of the
skin (dermis & subcutaneous). The bacteria involved in
cellulitis infections are usually staphylococcus (Staph), but
strep can also contribute to cellulitis.
Individuals can have cellulitis where they have experienced
trauma to the skin, where they have ulcers or where there are
surgical wounds. Occasionally cellulitis will appear where
there has been no apparent break in the skin.
Individuals who are at a higher risk of contracting
cellulitis are those with diabetes and those who have impaired
immune systems (HIV/AIDS or those on drugs to suppress their
One form of a strep caused cellulitis is: erysipelas. There
are other types of bacteria that can cause cellulitis
especially in children under age 6, susceptible to Hemophilus
influenza. They often get this type of cellulitis on the face,
arms and upper chest region.
Individuals who receive dog or cat bites can also get
cellulitis caused by the Pasturella multocida bacteria. Injury
inflicted by a saltwater shellfish such as fish spine or crab
pinch is due to the bacteria known as Erysipelothrix
Those who live and work on farms, especially around pigs or
poultry are also prone to injuries that can be infected by the
Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae bacteria that can turn into
There can be both bacterial and fungal causes of
The most common organisms at fault for this skin infection
are group A streptococci and Staphylococcus aureus. Infants
with cellulitis may receive the diagnosis of sepsis, which is
caused by group B streptococci.
Fungal cellulitis is rare but can be caused by gram-negative
rods or fungi in immunocompromised individuals. Aeromonas
hydrophila is a gram-negative rod and can cause cellulitis in
wounds of individuals who have been in fresh water.
Tissue death can result from a particularly malignant
form of cellulitis that is caused by pneumococcus. At high risk
are patients with diabetes, varicella, those who are post-op
for mastectomy or those who have had vein stripping, those
suffering from systemic illnesses or are immunodeficient.
Those individuals who use chronic steroids are at an
increased risk for cellulitis.
Cellulitis comes in two various forms (mild, and
complicated). A doctor in outpatient clinic or office can treat
mild cellulitis. The treatment is usually oral antibiotics.
Doctors usually ask the patient to come back in 24 to 48 hours
Complicated cellulitis is when there is extensive
involvement at the site of infection, or the patient suffers
from a systemic illness and also when there are signs of
It is possible for cellulitis to develop into a
life-threatening emergency so patients are instructed on what
are normal conditions and what conditions need immediate
medical attention. Serious conditions may require surgical
debridement. Broad-spectrum antibiotic coverage is usually
recommended in addition to fluid and vasopressor support and
nursing staff monitoring.
Cellulitis is just one more compelling reason to wash your
hands. Any scratch or cut can become infected so always wash
thoroughly and apply an antibiotic ointment to the area.