Cellulitis is a potentially serious infection of the skin and the tissues beneath the skin. Most commonly, cellulitis is caused by types of bacteria known as streptococcus (type A strep) or staphylococcus, although MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph aureus) may also cause it.
Cellulitis occurs when bacteria enter your body through a cut, wound, burn, bruise, animal bite, puncture, or other opening in your skin.
Because cellulitis is common and can be serious, Dr. Avisheh Forouzesh at Advanced Infectious Disease Medical in Hoboken, New Jersey, would like you to know what this condition is, how to avoid it, and what to do if you think you may have it.
Causes of cellulitis
Your skin does a great job of shielding you from bacteria in your environment. It keeps bacteria from entering your body and your bloodstream. However, when wounds, cuts, cracks, or other openings appear in your skin, bacteria can enter, and cellulitis can develop.
Cellulitis is a fairly common infection, with an estimated 14.5 million cases in the United States each year.
Symptoms of cellulitis
Although cellulitis can occur anywhere on your body, it’s more likely to develop on your lower legs. Signs and symptoms of cellulitis include:
- Swollen glands
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A skin rash, especially one that spreads or expands over time
- Redness, pain, red spots, dimpling, warmth, swelling, tenderness, or blistering of your skin
The best way to prevent cellulitis is to keep cuts and wounds clean and covered, making it more difficult for bacteria to enter your skin. You can also take the following steps:
Good wound care
If you have surgery or suffer a wound, keep it clean and covered. Wash the area, apply protective ointments or creams, and cover the wound with a bandage. Watch for signs of infection, such as redness or swelling.
If you’ve had surgery, make sure your surgeon advises you on how best to care for the surgical site.
Take care of skin problems
Cellulitis can develop if you have athlete’s foot, dermatitis, foot ulcers, or other skin problems. Be sure to see your doctor for any skin conditions and follow all treatment instructions.
Keep an eye on your feet
The risk of cellulitis rises in people with lymphedema, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, immune suppression, and other conditions that result in poor circulation or higher risk of infection. Inspect your feet regularly to check for problems.
It’s also more common in people who are overweight or obese or who have chronic swelling in their arms or legs.
Seek medical attention for skin infections
Because cellulitis can turn serious, it’s important to call your doctor or go to the emergency room if you show signs or symptoms of a skin infection.
If you have cellulitis, Dr. Forouzesh prescribes an antibiotic to clear the infection. Depending on the size and depth of the infection, Dr. Forouzesh will decide whether you need oral (by mouth) or intravenous (via a vein) antibiotics.
When cellulitis is caught early, it can usually be successfully treated. Without treatment, it can spread elsewhere in your body and cause serious infections in your blood or permanent damage to your lymph vessels.
To learn more about protecting yourself or receiving treatment for cellulitis, call our office in Hoboken, New Jersey, or click the “book online” button to make an appointment.