- Mar 30, 2007
Cellulitis is a spreading bacterial infection of the skin and tissues beneath the skin. Cellulitis usually begins as a small area of tenderness, swelling, and redness. As this red area begins to enlarge, the person may develop a fever—sometimes with chills and sweats—and swollen lymph nodes ("swollen glands") near the area of infected skin.
Cellulitis refers to an infection also involving the skin's deeper layers: the dermis and subcutaneous tissue. cellulitis is caused by Staphylococcus, the same bacteria that cause many cases of impetigo. Occasionally, other bacteria may cause cellulitis as well.
Cellulitis may occur anywhere on the body, but the leg is the most common site of the infection (particularly in the area of the tibia or shin bone and in the foot), followed by the arm, and then the head and neck areas. In special circumstances, such as following surgery or trauma wounds, cellulitis can develop in the abdomen or chest areas.
Symptoms: The signs of cellulitis include redness, warmth, swelling, and pain in the involved tissues. 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 often mistaken for the bacterial infection of cellulitis.
[FONT="]Treatment[/FONT][FONT="]: First, it is crucial for the doctor to distinguish whether or not the inflammation is due to an infection. The history and physical exam can provide clues in this regard, as can sometimes an elevated white blood cell count. A culture for bacteria may also be of value, but in many cases of cellulitis, the concentration of bacteria may be low and cultures fail to demonstrate the causative organism.[/FONT]
[FONT="]When it is difficult or impossible to distinguish whether or not the inflammation is due to an infection, doctors sometimes treat with antibiotics just to be sure. If the condition does not respond, it may need to be addressed by different methods dealing with types of inflammation that are not infected. For example, if the inflammation is thought to be due to an autoimmune disorder, treatment may be with a corticosteroids.[/FONT]
[FONT="]Antibiotics, such as derivatives of penicillin or other types of antibiotics that are effective against the responsible bacteria, are used to treat cellulitis. If the bacteria turn out to be resistant to the chosen antibiotics or in patients who are allergic to penicillin, other appropriate antibiotics can be substituted. In many cases, treatment requires the administration of intravenous antibiotics in a hospital setting, since oral antibiotics may not always provide sufficient penetration of the injury to be effective. In certain cases, intravenous antibiotics can be administered at home.[/FONT]
[FONT="]In all cases, physicians choose a treatment based upon many factors, including the location and extent of the infection, the type of bacteria causing the infection, and the overall health status of the patient[/FONT]