Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What is Cellulitis?

Lymphedema People


What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a potentially serious bacterial infection of your skin. It appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender, and it may spread rapidly. Cellulitis is a common infection of the skin and the soft tissues underneath the skin. It occurs when bacteria invade broken or normal skin and start to spread just under the skin or in the skin itself. This results in infection and inflammation. Inflammation is a process in which the body reacts to the bacteria. Inflammation may cause swelling, redness, pain, or warmth.

Skin on the lower legs or face is most commonly affected by this infection, though cellulitis can occur on any part of your skin. The infection may only be superficial, but it may also affect the tissues underlying your skin and can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream. Unlike impetigo, which is a very superficial skin infection, cellulitis refers to an infection involving the skin's deeper layers; the dermis and subcutaneous tissue. The main bacteria involved in cellulitis is Staphylococcus ("staph"), the same bacteria that causes many cases of impetigo. Occasionally, other bacteria may cause cellulitis as well. Left untreated, the spreading bacterial infection may rapidly turn into a life-threatening condition. That's why it's important to recognize the signs and symptoms of cellulitis and to seek immediate medical attention if they occur.

Many different types of bacteria can cause cellulitis. However, most cases are caused by Streptococcus pyogenes (strep) or Staphylococcus aureus (staph). Other types of bacteria can cause infection after certain types of skin injuries, such as animal bites, puncture wounds through wet shoes, and wounds exposed to freshwater lakes, aquariums, or swimming pools.

More information on cellulitis

What is cellulitis? - Cellulitis is a potentially serious bacterial infection of your skin. It appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender.

What are cellulitis symptoms? - The symptoms of cellulitis are those of any inflammation, redness, warmth, swelling, and pain.

What causes cellulitis? - Cellulitis is caused by different types of bacteria. Streptococcus pyogenes is the most common cause of superficial cellulitis.What is treatment for cellulitis? - Cellulitis is treated with antibiotics. Treatment for uncomplicated cellulitis is usually for 10 to 14 days.

What are cellulitis symptoms?

The signs of cellulitis are those of any inflammation; redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. Any skin wound or ulcer that exhibits these signs may be developing cellulitis. Other forms of noninfected inflammation may mimic cellulitis. People with poor leg circulation, for instance, often develop scaly redness on the shins and ankles; this is called "stasis dermatitis" and is often mistaken for the bacterial infection of cellulitis.

An area of the skin with cellulitis looks inflamed. There is usually swelling of some sort that is red in colour, feels warm, and is painful. This inflamed patch can rapidly grow within the first 24 hours. Cellulitis may appear on a part of the skin where there has been some sort of a trauma or injury, such as an animal bite

In cellulitis, the skin becomes red and swollen and is both warm and painful to the touch and is sometimes accompanied by fever, malaise, chills, and headache. If antibiotics are not given, the condition may progress to abscesses (pockets of pus) and tissue damage. Erysipelas is a superficial form of cellulitis characterized by redness, swelling, vesicles, fever, and pain. It is caused by a species of streptococci, which usually starts with a headache, fever, and general distress, followed by small, red patches that spread and swell so that the border may be easy to see and feel.

In cellulitis, the affected area of skin feels warm and usually is red, swollen and painful. The redness can be vague or can stand out compared to surrounding skin. The area of warmth can be felt with the back of the hand, especially when compared to surrounding skin. There may be a spreading network of red streaks in the skin, caused by infection in the vessels that carry lymph (tissue fluid), as well as enlarged lymph nodes (swollen glands) near the area of infection.

Fever and malaise (a generally sick feeling) often accompany cellulitis. Severe infections can cause low blood pressure if bacteria get into the bloodstream. Bloodstream infections (blood poisoning) from cellulitis are particularly dangerous in the very young and very old, as well as in those with weakened immune systems or abnormal heart valves.

What causes cellulitis?

Cellulitis is caused by different types of bacteria. For example; if cellulitis develops due to a common household cut, the bacteria responsible is usually either Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus. If cellulitis develops due to a cat bite, the culprit is usually Pasteurella multocida. The most common infecting organisms are beta-haemolytic Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus. Less common bacteria include Pseudomonas aeruginosa, particularly following a puncture wound involving the foot or hand, and Haemophilus influenzae in children with facial cellulitis. There are many other ways in which bacteria can get through the skin, such as dog bites or through surgical wounds.

The lower extremities are the most common site of infection. A skin abnormality (e.g., skin trauma, ulceration, tinea pedis, or dermatitis) often precedes the infection. Scars from saphenous vein removal for cardiac or vascular surgery are common sites for recurrent cellulitis, especially if tinea pedis is present. Frequently, however, no predisposing condition or site of entry is evident. Streptococcus pyogenes is the most common cause of superficial cellulitis with diffuse spread of infection. Staphylococcus aureus occasionally produces a superficial cellulitis typically less extensive that of streptococcal origin and usually only in association with an open wound or cutaneous abscess. Cellulitis occurring after animal bites may be caused by other bacteria, especially Pasteurella multocida from dogs and cats.

Sometimes cellulitis develops even when there is no apparent skin trauma or injury. This is because the cellulitis-causing bacteria can enter through microscopic openings in the skin. People who have poor immune systems, such as people with AIDS, are more prone to cellulitis.

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