From WikiMD's Wellness Encyclopedia

A case of cellulitis: the left leg (on the right) is affected, the right leg is not.

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that affects the deeper layers of the skin, including the dermis and subcutaneous tissue. The condition often involves the face, but can occur on any part of the body. Cellulitis should not be confused with cellulite, which is a cosmetic condition characterized by dimpling and uneven texture of the skin. The most common causative agents of cellulitis are Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria, which can enter the skin through breaks, such as wounds, cracks, insect bites, or compromised immune systems.

Cellulitis following an abrasion: Note the red streaking up the arm from the involvement of the lymphatic system
Cellulitis of the leg with foot involvement


Infected left shin in comparison to the right-sided shin with no sign of symptoms

Symptoms of cellulitis include redness, warmth, and pain at the site of infection, as well as fever. Treatment typically involves antibiotics.

Causes[edit | edit source]

Cellulitis is primarily caused by bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. These bacteria can enter the skin through various types of breaks, including:

  • Wounds
  • Cracks in the skin (e.g., from dryness or eczema)
  • Insect bites
  • Surgical incisions
  • Skin conditions that compromise the integrity of the skin
  • Weakened immune systems

Symptoms[edit | edit source]

Symptoms of cellulitis typically appear at the site of infection and may include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Formation of pus or drainage
  • Skin dimpling

Systemic symptoms may also be present, such as:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Diagnosis[edit | edit source]

Cellulitis is usually diagnosed through a clinical examination, based on the characteristic signs and symptoms. In some cases, additional testing may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, such as blood tests, wound cultures, or imaging studies.

Treatment[edit | edit source]

Treatment for cellulitis generally involves the use of antibiotics, either oral or intravenous, depending on the severity of the infection. In mild cases, oral antibiotics are typically prescribed, while more severe cases may require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. Additionally, the following measures may be recommended:

  • Rest and elevation of the affected area
  • Pain management with over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Application of cool, moist compresses to the affected area
  • Prompt treatment is crucial to prevent complications, such as abscess formation, sepsis, or tissue damage.

Prevention[edit | edit source]

To reduce the risk of developing cellulitis, individuals should take the following precautions:

  • Practice good hygiene, including regular handwashing
  • Properly clean and care for wounds and skin injuries
  • Keep the skin moisturized to prevent cracking
  • Avoid scratching insect bites or skin irritations
  • Wear protective clothing and footwear when engaging in outdoor activities

See also[edit | edit source]

Cellulitis Resources


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD