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Cellulitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice & help

About cellulitis

Cellulitis is a condition characterised by the infection of the skin and underlying soft tissues by bacteria. Cellulitis may range from mild to severe to even life-threatening potential in some individuals. Such bacterial skin infections may lead to an inflammatory reaction resulting in redness, swelling and pain on the affected site.

Cellulitis: Incidence, age and sex

Cellulitis is a commonly encountered infection, especially in older individuals. However, it may also affect children wherein the skin around the anal region is involved. There seems to be no racial, ethnic or gender predilection.

Signs and symptoms of cellulitis: Diagnosis

An individual with cellulitis may present with a history of skin trauma or disruption of skin continuity by some other modes. Even minor cracks in the skin may predispose individuals to cellulitis. Individuals with a history of recent surgery or intravenous catheters are potential candidates for occurrence of cellulitis. It may affect the skin of any part of body including face, limbs or anal region. The affected skin may appear red, swollen, and warm. The individual may also complain of intense pain in the affected area. Other generalised features like high temperature, chills, fatigue and muscle pain may also be present.

A detailed history including past history combined with a physical examination is usually enough to detect the condition. Complete blood count and blood culture may help in establishing the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of cellulitis

Cellulitis is caused by bacteria, most commonly gram-positive bacteria like Streptococcus and Staphylococcus. Any break in the skin may lead to the entry of the bacteria into the skin and underlying soft tissues, resulting in cellulitis. Such conditions mayinclude any skin laceration, surgery, intravenous catheters, burns or any insect bites. Moreover, individuals with diabetes or peripheral vascular disease are at increased risk of cellulitis. Persistent use of steroid medication may also make an individual highly susceptible to cellulitis.

Cellulitis can be prevented by maintaining adequate hygiene and antiseptic measures especially by high risk individuals. Any skin wound should not be neglected but immediately managed by antiseptic measures. Avoid longstanding use of steroid medications.

Cellulitis: Complications

Cellulitis is a serious problem, which if neglected, may spread rapidly through the circulatory route and result in life-threatening complications like abscess formation, gangrene or spread of bacterial infection to the blood (septicaemia). Sometimes, it may also spread to the underlying bones, leading to osteomyelitis.

Cellulitis: Treatment

Cellulitis is a rapidly-spreading infection which needs immediate medical attention to avoid any complications. Painkillers are usually prescribed for symptomatic relief. Antibiotic medications are the mainstay of treatment in cellulitis. The course duration of antibiotics depends upon the severity of the infection. Individuals with serious infection may also require a hospital stay and intravenous antibiotic medication. Incision and drainage may be required in cases of abscess formation. Individuals with cellulitis should be careful since it has a high rate of recurrence.