Cellulitis involves infection of the skin and the underlying subcutaneous tissue. The condition can be triggered by various organisms but typically caused by streptococcus and staphylococcus species.
It is important to note that the skin is highly predisposed to infection from lingering skin conditions, insect or animal bites or a scratch or open wound. The infections can be localized or mild but some cases become systemic and trigger bodily infection that oftentimes require hospitalization.
Signs and symptoms
The initial sign of cellulitis might include a localized area of redness on the skin with a pronounced border. This can be painful, warm and slightly elevated or swollen. As the infection progresses, the redness or erythema can increase.
Fever and swollen lymph nodes might develop while the affected skin becomes firm which is called as induration.
In some cases, the infection can progress into an abscess or accumulation of pus within the skin. Once this occurs, there is an evident mass that is soft and filled with fluid. In severe cases of cellulitis, symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, lightheadedness, vomiting or generalized malaise can occur. In addition, low blood pressure and rapid heartbeat are indications that the infection became systemic.
Non-systemic treatments for cellulitis
If the inflammation is localized and detected early, a topical antibiotic can be used. The application of a cool compress is also recommended. In case cellulitis progresses into a localized abscess, it might require incision and drainage.
Even though cellulitis can develop on any part of the body, it typically affects the extremities. It is vital to avoid engaging in vigorous use of the extremities as well as keeping it in a raised position to promote blood flow and lymphatic drainage to and from the infection site to encourage healing.
For severe cases of cellulitis or those that are widespread, systemic antibiotics might be required. Since the common germs responsible for the skin infection include streptococcus and staphylococcus, the medications aimed on these organisms are typically used first.
The first line of medications might include certain forms of penicillin or cephalosporin. In case methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is likely, drugs such as doxycycline or combination medications are used.