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Cellulitis

Cellulitisisaninfectionoftheskinandsubcutaneoustissues(justundertheskin)causedby
bacteria,usuallystaphylococcus aureusandgroupAbeta-haemolyticstreptococcus.Thesebacteria
enterbrokenornormalskinandcanspreadeasilytothetissueundertheskin.Thiscauses
infectionandyouwillneedantibioticstotreattheinfection.
Cellulitiscanaffectalmostanypartofthebody.Mostcommonly,itoccursinareasthathavebeen
damagedorinflamed.Anyone,atanyage,candevelopcellulitis.However,youareatincreased
riskifyousmokeorhavediabetesorpoorcirculation.
Priortothedevelopmentofantibiotics,cellulitiswasuniversallyfatal.Withtheintroductionof
penicillin,mostpeoplerecoverfullywithinaweek.
Symptoms of cellulitis
Therangeofsymptomscanbemildtosevere,andcaninclude:
rednessoftheskin
warmth
swelling
tendernessorpaininanareaofskin
discharge,suchasleakingyellowclearfluidorpus.
Spread of infection
Theinfectioncanspreadtotherestofthebody.Thelymphnodesmayswellandbenoticedasa
tenderlumpinthegroinandarmpit.Youmayalsohavefevers,sweatsandvomiting.
Causes of cellulitis
Cellulitisusuallyoccursinskinareasthathavebeendamagedorinflamedforotherreasons,
including:
trauma,suchasaninsectbite,burn,abrasionorcut
asurgicalwound
skinproblems,suchaseczema,psoriasis,scabiesoracne
aforeignobjectintheskin,suchasmetalorglass.
Often,itisnotpossibletofindacauseforcellulitis.
Diagnosis of cellulitis
Testsmayinclude:
swabaswabistakenfromtheskinandsenttothelaboratoryfortesting.Itcantakea
fewdaystogetaresultandyourdoctorwillbeadvisedoftheresults
other testssuchasbloodtestsandx-rays.
Treatment for cellulitis
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Antibioticsareneededtotreattheinfection.Oralantibioticsareusuallyadequate,butinthe
severelyillperson,intravenousantibioticswillbenecessarytoachieverapidcontrolandprevent
furtherspreadoftheinfection.Thistreatmentisgiveninhospitalor,sometimes,athomebya
localdoctorornurse.
Whentheinfectionimproves,youcanbeswitchedfromintravenoustooralantibioticsthatcanbe
takenbymouthforafurtherweekto10days.Mostpeoplerespondtotheantibioticsintwoto
threedaysandbegintoshowimprovement.Inrarecases,thecellulitismayprogresstoaserious
illnessbyspreadingtodeepertissues.Inadditiontobroadspectrumantibiotics,surgeryisoften
requiredandsometimes,admissiontoanintensivecareunit.
Self-care at home
Suggestionsinclude:
Getplentyofrest.Thisgivesyourbodyachancetofighttheinfection.
Raisetheareaofthebodyinvolvedashighaspossible.Thiswilleasethepain,help
drainageandreduceswelling.
Takepain-relievingmedicationssuchasparacetamol.Pleasecheckthelabelforhowmuch
totakeandhowoften.Thepaineasesoncetheinfectionstartsgettingbetter.
Besuretotakethefullcourseofantibiotics.
Youmaybeadvisedtomakeafollow-upappointmentwithyourdoctortomakesurethe
cellulitisisimproving.Dontforgettodothis.
Reduce the risk of transmission
Cellulitisisspreadbyskin-to-skincontactorbytouchinginfectedsurfaces.Suggestionsonhowto
reducetheriskoftransmissioninyourhouseholdinclude:
Washyourhandsoften.
Batheorshowerdaily.
Coverthewoundwithagauzedressingratherthanabandaid.
Washyourbedlinen,towelsandclothingseparatelyfromthosebelongingtootherfamily
memberswhiletheinfectionishealing.
Where to get help
Yourdoctor
Things to remember
Cellulitisisabacterialinfectionoftheskinthattendstooccurinareasthataredamagedor
inflamed.
Treatmentincludesantibiotics.
Reducetheriskoftransmissionbywashingyourhands,coveringthewoundwithagauze
dressing,andwashingyourbedlinen,towelsandclothesseparatelyfromthosebelonging
tootherfamilymembers.

This page has been produced in consultation with, and approved by:

EpworthDermatology

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