Sunday, October 11, 2009

What is Cellulitis?

What is Cellulitis?

Written by Amanda Wattson, MD
Saturday, 10 October 2009

Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and the layer of tissue under the skin.

What is going on in the body?

Cellulitis most often develops on the legs but can be seen on the face and on any other skin
on the body. It tends to affect a fairly large area of skin. Cellulitis is usually due to an infection
of the skin with bacteria, but it may also be caused by a fungus.

What are the causes and risks of the infection?

Cellulitis is usually caused by a break in the skin that becomes infected with bacteria or
fungi. It can occur in wounds caused by injury and in surgical wounds. It can also occur when
there is no obvious break in the skin.

Risk factors for cellulitis include the following:

- recent surgery
- diabetes
recent chickenpox infection
-immunodeficiency disorder, in which the body's infection-fighting mechanisms are impaired.
People with AIDS, for example, have a significant risk of cellulitis.
- impaired circulation, such as peripheral arterial disease, which limits blood flow to the legs
and arms.
- chronic use of steroids

What are the treatments for the infection?

For mild, superficial infections, oral antibiotics, such as cephalexin or dicloxacillin, are often
used. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can be used
as needed to relieve discomfort. For more severe infections, individuals may need intravenous
(IV) antibiotics, such as oxacillin or nafcillin.

Cellulitis may get worse even with treatment, especially in people with diabetes. In these
cases, more aggressive treatment may be needed. This may include surgery to remove dead
skin or even bone.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medications may cause upset stomach, rash, or allergic
reactions. Surgery may cause bleeding, new infections, or allergic reaction to anesthesia.

What happens after treatment for the infection?

In most cases, cellulitis goes away after treatment. If treatment is successful, people can
usually return to normal activities.

How is the infection monitored?

The healthcare provider will examine the area of cellulitis regularly to assess healing. In
some cases, special X-ray tests may be used if a deeper infection is suspected. Any new
or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.

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