Bacterial infection of the underlying layers of skin is termed as Cellulitis. Staphylococcus group of bacteria is often the culprit. However, other bacteria such as Group A streptococcus, Pasturella multocida and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae may also cause cellulitis. The bacteria can target any region of the body but face, arms and legs are easily prone to this disease. Regions of skin that are cut open due to an injury, wound or a surgery are at high risk of infection. Edema of the legs or arms also increases the risk for this skin disease.
Cellulitis is more commonly observed in children than in adults as immune system of children cannot fight efficiently against this infection. Diseases such as diabetes, chronic hepatitis, weak immunue system, problems in blood circulation and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis increase the risk for this infection. Cellulitis affecting deeper layers of skin is not contagious like superficial skin diseases such as impetigo.
Cellulitis symptoms vary among children and adults. Signs of cellulitis often start with a small area and spread gradually to the surrounding tissues.
Cellulitis symptoms observed in infants and children : Disease often affects face, arms, legs or the region around anus. Redness and swelling of the area is observed without distinct borders. Fungal infections, diabetes, problems with blood circulation and lymphatic system and weak immune system often increase the risk for recurring cellulitis.
Cellulitis symptoms observed in adults : In adults, areas of skin with burns, injury or a cut are easily prone to cellulitis. It generally attacks legs but other areas such as face and ears can also get infected. Commonly observed symptoms include:
- Redness and Swelling of the affected area.
- Tenderness and warmth of the region.
- Red streaks on the skin.
- Loss of hair at the affected area.
- Stiffness of joints due to swelling of tissue around the joints.
- Drainage of pus or yellow colored clear fluids from affected area. Large blisters may also be observed.
- Swelling of lymph nodes present in the affected area.
If the infection starts spreading then the patient complains of chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes and formation of blood clots in legs. In more severe cases mental changes may occur resulting in confusion and sleepiness. In majority of the cases, infection restricts to a particular region but very rarely it spreads rapidly causing severe complications.
If eye gets affected then symptoms such as troubled vision, pain around and in the eye and reduced eye movement are observed. Cellulitis affecting eye should be treated immediately to prevent permanent damage of the eye and meningitis (infection of brain).
Immediate medical attention should be provided to cellulitis symptoms such as increased pain and numbness of the region, rapid swelling or enlarging and hardening of the area and high fever.
Treatment of Cellulitis
Cellulitis can be treated by diagnosing the infection at an early stage. Delay in treatment can result in severe complications due to spread of the infection throughout the body.
To guide the treatment process physician will do blood test, x-rays and testing of fluids collected from affected area as diseases such as shingles and contact dermatitis also show similar symptoms. Blood tests are performed to diagnose the presence of bacteria in blood. X-rays are done to know if the infection has spread too deep to affect bones. Treatment strategy is planned after pointing out the right cause for skin inflammation.
- Antibiotics: Cellulitis symptoms that develop due to bacteria are relieved using antibiotics such as penicillin orally. In people who are allergic to penicillin alternative antibiotics are used. If symptoms are severe then antibiotics are given intravenously so that they directly enter in to bloodstream and start acting.
- Corticosteroids: Cellulitis due to an autoimmune disorder is often treated with corticosteroids.
- Surgery: If the symptoms do not subside with antibiotics then surgery is performed to remove the infected tissue.
- Herbal remedies: There are no scientifically proven herbal remedies for cellulitis. Herbs such as Echinacea and pycnogenol helps in the strengthening the immune system and promote the healing process.
Keeping the affected area at an elevated position will fasten the recovery process. Medications should be continued for at least 14 days or as prescribed by the physician. Using nutritional supplements and balanced diet helps to strengthen the immune system and fasten the healing process.
Prevention of Cellulitis
Cellulitis can be prevented by following simple precautions.
- Maintaining good hygiene of skin to prevent cracking and dryness.
- Treating skin infections such as athlete’s foot and edema immediately without delay.
- Taking antibiotics regularly to prevent recurring infection basing on physician’s advice.
- Regular checking of arms and legs especially by people with diabetes.
- Taking care to prevent injuries mainly by people with circulatory problems.