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Cellulitis

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Definition

Cellulitis is an acute inflammation of the underlying connective tissue of the skin. It usually occurs at a site where there is a break in the skin either by a cut, sting or burn.

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Causes

  • Cellulitis is caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes and Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Cellulitis can occur any where on the body but it usually occurs on face, arms and lower legs (shins).

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Symptoms

  • Pain or tenderness of the area
  • Skin red and warm to touch
  • Tight, glossy, stretched appearance of the skin
  • Skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever, chills, shaking, fatigue and weakness
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stiffness of the joint closest to the swelling

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Implications

The infection caused especially by Streptococcus pyogenes may spread rapidly to the deeper layers of tissue under your skin and result in an extremely serious and life threatening condition called necrotizing fasciitis or flesh eating disease. Infection underneath the skin can spread to the surrounding lymph nodes and enter the blood stream, resulting in septicemia or generalized blood infection. This signals an extreme emergency. Prompt hospitalization and immediate treatment with antibiotics administered intravenously may be necessary. Cellulitis of the face can cause seizures and meningitis.

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What You Can Do

  • Hospitalization may be necessary to administer antibiotics intravenously, in case of severe infection that may be accompanied by fever.
  • Medications
    • Antibiotics - Either oral or intravenous antibiotics may be prescribed by your physician, depending on the extent and severity of the infection.
    • Analgesics, antipyretics and anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Naprosyn can be taken to relieve pain, fever and subside inflammation.

  • General Measures
    • Keep the affected area elevated to reduce swelling
    • Get adequate rest until the condition improves
    • Apply moist, warm compresses to the site of infection. This increases the blood supply to the area and helps fight the infection.
    • Eat healthy and nourishing diet to boost up the immune system to fight the bacteria
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent kidney damage from the burden of antibiotics and pain killers

  • Vitamin Supplements
    • Vitamin B complex, folic acid, vitamin E and C should be taken as these help fight the infection and promote healing.

  • Consult your Physician if:
    • There is persistent fever accompanied with drowsiness, generalized feeling of lethargy and weakness.
    • The affected area shows blisters or red streaks.
    • The affected area, especially fingers and toes develop numbness and black discoloration of the tissues (imminent gangrene) with ulcers

  • Preventative Measures
    • Wound care
      • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water
      • Apply antibiotic ointment or cream and keep it covered with a bandage.
      • Change the bandage or dressing regularly and frequently.
      • Treat superficial infections promptly
      • Watch for signs of infection spreading to deeper layers of skin
    • Wear protective coverings for your feet and hands while performing tasks or sports that might increase your risk of injury
    • Maintain a good general health by eating a well balanced and nutritious diet, exercising regularly, taking vitamin supplements, getting enough rest and drinking plenty of fluids.
    • Take care of any cuts or breaks in the skin promptly.
    • Follow your physicians advice and treatment to control chronic medical conditions.

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Cellulitis