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Cellulitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

What is Cellulitis?

  • Cellulitis is a common and sometimes painful bacterial skin infection. It may first appear as a red, swollen area that feels hot and tender to the touch. The redness and swelling can spread quickly.
  • It most often affects the skin of the lower legs, although the infection can occur anywhere on a person’s body or face.
  • Cellulitis usually happens on the surface of the skin, but it may also affect the tissues underneath. The infection can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream.

Causes:

Cellulitis occurs when certain types of bacteria enter the skin through a cut or crack. Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria can cause this infection.

The infection can start in skin injuries such as:

  • cuts
  • bug bites
  • surgical wounds

Symptoms:

Cellulitis symptoms include:

  • pain and tenderness in the affected area
  • redness or inflammation of your skin
  • a skin sore or rash that grows quickly
  • tight, glossy, swollen skin
  • a feeling of warmth in the affected area
  • an abscess with pus
  • fever

More serious cellulitis symptoms include:

Symptoms like these could mean that cellulitis is spreading:

Contact your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.

Treatment:

  • Cellulitis treatment involves taking antibiotics by mouth for 5 to 14 days. Your doctor may also prescribe pain relievers.
  • Rest until your symptoms improve. Raise the affected limb higher than your heart to reduce swelling.
  • Cellulitis should go away within 7 to 10 days after you start taking antibiotics. You might need longer treatment if your infection is severe due to a chronic condition or a weakened immune system.
  • Even if your symptoms improve within a few days, take all the antibiotics your doctor prescribed. This will make sure all of the bacteria are gone

Contact your doctor if:

  • You don’t feel better within 3 days after starting antibiotics
  • Your symptoms get worse
  • You develop a fever

You may need to be treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics in a hospital if you have:

  • A high temperature
  • Low blood pressure
  • An infection that doesn’t improve with antibiotics
  • A weakened immune system due to other disease.

‘Ask Gogodoc About’ is an educational series providing information on various symptoms, pains, and disorders. (*intended for educational purposes only. If you are experiencing symptoms, please reach out to book an online GP consultation with a Gogodoc GP.) Talk to a doctor online at a time that suits you from home with a phone or video appointment. You can easily book an appointment with GP.

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