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Cellulitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment | Merck Manual Consumer Version

October 18, 2019

Cellulitis – The Quick Facts. What is
cellulitis? Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that can spread
quickly and can be very serious. Cellulitis is caused by bacteria that
get into your skin. Bacteria are most likely to enter your skin where you have
a cut, insect bite, scrape, burn, puncture wound, or patches of dry skin. Cellulitis
is often caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. Symptoms of cellulitis include:
skin redness, swelling, warmth, pain, and sometimes blisters with yellow fluid. You
can also sometimes experience fever and swollen lymph nodes. The infection is
most common on the legs but can happen anywhere on the body. In a couple of days
it could spread from a spot the size of a quarter on your calf to cover your
entire lower leg. If the infection gets into the bloodstream you can have high
fever, low blood pressure, and shutdown of some of your organs. Risk is higher for
people who are overweight, have a weakened immune system, have other skin
diseases like eczema or athlete’s foot, already have a swollen arm or leg, use IV
drugs, or have had cellulitis before. Doctors diagnose cellulitis based on how
your skin looks. There are no tests to tell for sure. Cellulitis is typically
treated with antibiotics taken by mouth but, sometimes when there is serious
infection, by vein in the hospital. If you have cellulitis in your leg doctors will
ask you to elevate it. To prevent cellulitis keep skin wounds
clean, cover them with a bandage, and apply an antibiotic cream for protection.
You should also treat fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and other skin
conditions to help heal any breaks in the skin. If you have diabetes or poor
circulation examine your feet everyday, use a moisturizer, and avoid injury by
wearing proper shoes.

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