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Health Digest

When Should You Seek Medical Attention For Cellulitis?

By Joanna Marie,


Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that affects the skin's deeper layers. It is typically caused by bacteria, such as staphylococcus aureus or streptococcus pyogenes. They can enter the skin through a break or wound, such as a cut, scratch, or insect bite. The bacteria can then spread and infect deeper layers of skin and underlying tissue (via the Mayo Clinic ).

Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most commonly found on the legs, arms, and face. People with weakened immune systems, such as those with diabetes or HIV, are at a higher risk of developing cellulitis, explains the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, people with lymphedema — a condition that causes swelling in the arms or legs — have a heightened risk of cellulitis. Those with previous skin infections and skin conditions, such as eczema, or who have had recent skin injury (like a burn or cut) are also at increased risk, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Other risk factors for cellulitis include poor circulation — especially in the legs — and obesity, per HealthCentral .

When To See A Doctor

If left untreated, cellulitis can spread quickly and cause serious complications, like toxic shock syndrome, says the Mayo Clinic . It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you suspect you have cellulitis. Some of the signs and symptoms of cellulitis include red, swollen skin that is warm to the touch, pain or tenderness in the affected area, skin discoloration, and blisters or abscesses, per the Cleveland Clinic . Cellulitis can also cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle aches, which are common symptoms of infections.

In some cases, cellulitis may also cause redness and swelling in the lymph nodes near the affected area, which can be life-threatening. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention promptly.

Lastly, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, such as diabetes, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible if you suspect you have cellulitis.

How Is Cellulitis Normally Treated?

According to the Mayo Clinic , cellulitis is typically treated with antibiotics to eliminate the underlying bacterial infection. The choice of antibiotic may depend on the type of bacteria causing the infection and the severity of the infection. In some cases, antibiotics may be given orally, and in more severe cases, they may be given intravenously in a hospital setting (via the Mayo Clinic).

It is vital to finish the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if symptoms improve. This will ensure that all bacteria are eliminated and prevent the infection from recurring. Additionally, people with the condition should take steps to prevent cellulitis by practicing good hygiene and avoiding cuts and scrapes.

In addition to antibiotics, treatment may include wearing compression stockings (to reduce inflammation), wound care (to prevent the spread of the infection), and anti-inflammatory medication (to reduce swelling), says the Cleveland Clinic .

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