What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria. Cellulitis usually appears on the legs and feet, arms and hands, or face.
What increases my risk for cellulitis?
• An injury that breaks the skin,
such as a bite, scratch, or cut
• Sores or injuries exposed to hot tub water or water in ponds, streams, or oceans
• Shared belongings, such as towels or exercise equipment
• Drugs that are injected
• A weak immune system or diabetes
• Lymphedema, chronic venous insufficiency, peripheral vascular disease, or deep vein thrombosis
What are the signs and symptoms of cellulitis?
• A red, warm, swollen area on your skin
• Pain when the area is touched
• Bumps or blisters (abscess) that may drain pus
• Bumpy, raised skin that feels like an orange peel
How is cellulitis diagnosed?
provider may know you have cellulitis by looking at and feeling your skin. Tell
him or her how long you have had symptoms, and if anything helps decrease your
symptoms. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a cellulitis
infection. He or she may not know which kind of bacteria caused your
cellulitis. You may need any of the following tests:
• Blood tests may show which kind of bacteria is causing your infection. Blood tests may also show if the infection is in your blood
• A sample of tissue or fluid from your infected skin may show what is causing your infection. The sample may also show if your infection is caused by another kind of skin disorder
• An x-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI may show if the infection has spread. You may be given contrast liquid to help the infection show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body
How is cellulitis treated?
Treatment may decrease symptoms, stop the infection from spreading, and cure the infection. Treatment depends on how severe your cellulitis is. Cellulitis may go away on its own. You may instead need antibiotics to help treat the bacterial infection. Your healthcare provider may draw a circle around the edges of your cellulitis. If your cellulitis spreads, your healthcare provider will see it outside of the circle.
How can I manage my symptoms?
How can I prevent cellulitis?
• Do not share personal items, such as towels, clothing, and razors
• Clean exercise equipment with germ-killing cleaner before and after you use it
• Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Use lotion to prevent dry, cracked skin
• Wear pressure stockings as directed. You may be told to wear the stockings if you have peripheral edema. Peripheral edema is swelling in your legs. The stockings improve blood flow and decrease swelling
• Treat athlete's foot. This can help prevent the spread of a bacterial skin infection
Call 120 if:
You have sudden trouble breathing or chest pain
When should I seek
• You feel a crackling under your skin when you touch it
• You have purple dots or bumps on your skin, or you see bleeding under your skin
• You have new swelling and pain in your legs
• The red, warm, swollen area gets larger
• You see red streaks coming from the infected area
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
• You have a fever
• Your fever or pain does not go away or gets worse
• The area does not get smaller after 2 days of antibiotics
• You have questions or concerns about your condition or care
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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