Cellulitis is a deep infection of the skin caused by bacteria. It usually affects the arms and legs. It can also develop around the eyes, mouth, and anus, or on the belly. Normal skin can be affected by cellulitis, but it usually happens after some type of injury causes a skin break, including trauma or surgery. Once the skin breaks, bacteria can enter and cause infection.
Cellulitis is usually caused when bacteria enter a wound or area where there is no skin. The most common bacteria that cause cellulitis include:
Staph and strep bacteria are commonly found on the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth and nose in healthy people. The infection happens when there is a break in the skin that allows the bacteria to enter. Other causes may include human or animal bites, or injuries that happen in water.
Each person may experience symptoms differently. Common symptoms include:
Some cases of cellulitis are an emergency. Always talk with your physician immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
The symptoms of cellulitis may look like other skin conditions. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history and physical exam. Blood and skin samples may be taken to confirm the diagnosis and the type of bacteria that is present.A bacterial culture can identify the organism causing the condition and indicate the most effective antibiotic.
Your physician will consider your age, overall health and severity of the condition when determining the appropriate treatment for you.
Getting treated right away can help prevent the spread of cellulitis. Treatment may include:
Based on the physical exam, your physician may treat you in the hospital, depending on the severity of the cellulitis. In the hospital, you may get antibiotics and fluids through an intravenous (IV) catheter.