What Is Cellulitis

This skin infection is relatively common but can be serious if left untreated.

Unhappy young woman looking at potential cellulitis infection on face.

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that can affect all parts of the body. It’s fairly common and if treated promptly, can be resolved in a few days. However, if left untreated, it can cause a serious and even potentially life-threatening condition.

Here is all you need to know about this common skin issue:

What causes cellulitis?

Cellulitis can stem from streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. It often enters through a crack, cut, blister, insect bite, or any other opening or wound in the skin. Medical conditions like diabetes, eczema, poor circulation, or chronic skin ulcers can also increase your risk of infection.

How can you prevent it?

Cellulitis can often be prevented if you practice good hygiene and effective wound care for any cuts on the skin. Wash any cuts or wounds with soap and water, use antibiotic ointments, and then cover wounds with a bandage when necessary. Also, be sure to keep your hands and nails clean, and try not to scratch or pick at scabs or wounds.

What are the symptoms?

Cellulitis often begins as a small, red area on the skin that is hot and tender to the touch. It may also be raised, swollen, or painful, and include pus-filled bumps.

In severe cases, you might even experience a fever or chills. As the infection spreads, the redness around the infection site can spread rapidly. Although it can affect any area of the skin, it most commonly affects the lower legs, arms, and the face.

Related: Foods That Are Good for Your Skin

When should you seek treatment?

If you suspect you have cellulitis, even a mild case, don’t be afraid to contact your healthcare provider. Seek treatment immediately if an area of redness on your skin grows larger or becomes more painful to the touch. Though most cases respond to antibiotics and treatment within a few days, untreated cellulitis can lead to life-threatening medical emergencies such as shock and sepsis.

If you are at risk for cellulitis and experience more than two cases a year, talk to your doctor about taking a daily antibiotic to prevent future and repeat flare-ups.

Related: Is Your Laundry Detergent Causing That Skin Rash?

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