Medical Dermatology

Cellulitis: The Unwanted Bacterial Infection Of The Skin

Cellulitis is a serious and common skin condition that results from a bacterial infection of the skin. Symptoms include redness, pain, tenderness, warmth, and swelling. Although it typically occurs on the lower legs, it can quickly spread to other parts of the body. Cellulitis is caused by a bacterial infection, and rarely spreads from person to person through skin contact.

Cellulitis typically affects only the skin’s surface, but can spread to other tissues as well. It can enter the blood stream and lymph nodes and become life-threatening. Early intervention is key for successful treatment of cellulitis.

Risk Factors

Cellulitis is contracted when bacteria makes it through an opening in the skin. Behaviors which involve breaking the skin like IV drug use are an important risk factor. Of course, there are several other issues affecting susceptibility to cellulitis.

Medical conditions that cause breaks in the skin's surface put people at greater risk of developing cellulitis. Because of this, common conditions such as athlete's foot and eczema are risk factors.

Lymphedema, or chronic swelling in the extremities, can also lead to cellulitis. Swollen skin can split and allow streptococci and staphylococci to enter the body. Because of its relationship to lymphedema, obesity can also be counted as a risk factor. Finally, people with a history of cellulitis often develop the infection more than once. For this reason, past episodes are also seen as a risk factor for the disease.

Treating Cellulitis

Cellulitis is most often treated with orally-administered antibiotics. It is important that patients stay in touch with the prescribing physician about what progress they are making. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a type of staph infection that does not respond to some antibiotics. MRSA can be life-threatening, so it is important to inform your doctor that the infection is not responding to antibiotics as soon as possible.

If nothing has changed within three days, the medication may not be effective. High fever, in addition to the skin's appearance, can indicate the body’s non-responsiveness to the medication. It is important to communicate effectively with Dr. Tony Nakhla so the treatment for cellulitis can be adapted as needed.