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Cellulitis is a common skin condition that occurs when bacteria enter the deeper layers of the skin, causing infection and inflammation. It commonly affects the legs and face but can occur anywhere on the body. Cellulitis can be painful and may lead to serious complications if left untreated.
The affected area becomes red, swollen, and warm to the touch. The skin may feel tender or painful and may throb. Swelling can make the skin appear puffy and stretched. The skin may become tight and shiny because of the swelling. Some people may experience a fever.
Cellulitis is usually caused by bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria. These bacteria can enter the skin through cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or cracks in the skin's barrier. Individuals with weakened immune systems, poor circulation, or certain chronic conditions are more susceptible to developing cellulitis.
A healthcare provider can diagnose cellulitis through a examination of the affected area. They will look for the characteristic redness, warmth, and swelling. In some cases, a sample of the affected skin might be taken for laboratory analysis to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection.
Cellulitis is typically treated with antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infection. The choice of antibiotics depends on the severity of the infection and the type of bacteria involved. It is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics even if symptoms improve.
Includes but not limited to:
Oral Antibiotics (Doxycyline or Cephalexin)
While antibiotics are the primary treatment, you can also take steps at home to aid the healing process. Elevate the affected limb to reduce swelling, keep the area clean and dry, and take over-the-counter pain relievers to manage discomfort. Drink plenty of fluids and rest to support your body's healing.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed to monitor your progress. If your symptoms worsen or do not improve after a few days of treatment, seek medical attention promptly.
Keep your skin clean and moisturized to maintain its protective barrier. Treat any cuts, scrapes, or insect bites promptly with thorough cleansing. Avoid scratching or picking at skin wounds to prevent bacteria from entering. Practice good hygiene, including regular handwashing, to minimize the risk of infection.
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No, cellulitis itself is not contagious. It's caused by bacteria that enter the skin through cuts or breaks, rather than being spread from person to person like a contagious illness.
While over-the-counter creams might provide some relief for mild skin irritations, they are not effective in treating bacterial infections like cellulitis. Cellulitis requires prescription antibiotics to eliminate the infection and prevent it from spreading.
With appropriate antibiotic treatment, you may start to notice improvement within a couple of days. However, it's important to complete the full course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor, usually for about 7 to 14 days, to ensure the infection is fully eradicated.
Yes, cellulitis can recur, especially if there are underlying factors that make you more susceptible, such as poor circulation, diabetes, or weakened immune system. To reduce the risk of recurrence, it's essential to manage any underlying conditions and promptly address skin injuries or infections.
You should seek medical help if you notice symptoms of cellulitis, such as redness, warmth, swelling, and pain, especially if they're accompanied by fever, chills, or worsening discomfort. If the infection is severe, spreading rapidly, or not responding to home care, don't delay in getting medical treatment to prevent complications.