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? 

    Your healthcare 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-rayultrasoundCT, 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?

          Elevate the area above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop the area on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably
          Clean the area daily until the wound scabs over. Gently wash the area with soap and water. Pat dry. Use dressings as directed
          Place cool or warm, wet cloths on the area as directed. Use clean cloths and clean water. Leave it on the area until the cloth is room temperature. Pat the area dry with a clean, dry cloth. The cloths may help decrease pain


    How can I prevent cellulitis?

          Do not scratch bug bites or areas of injury. You increase your risk for cellulitis by scratching these areas

          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 immediate care?

          Your wound gets larger and more painful

          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


    CARE AGREEMENT:

    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. 


    © 2017 Truven Health Analytics LLC All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics. 


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