Cellulitis is a skin infection that affects millions of people each year, and it can pose serious health risks if left untreated.
Our team, led by Dr. Lori Fulton at Ovation Wellness located in Flowood, Mississippi, is committed to providing the information you need to make informed decisions about your health. This blog reviews what cellulitis is and how to prevent it from developing.
Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that can pose serious health risks. The National Institutes of Health has stated that this condition is diagnosed in more than 14 million people in the United States annually and accounts for 650,000 hospitalizations annually.
When there’s a break in your skin, bacteria can enter the deeper skin layers, leading to extensive tissue damage and even tissue death — known as gangrene.
If left untreated, cellulitis can spread into the lymph nodes and bloodstream, allowing it to quickly expand throughout the body and develop into a serious life-threatening condition called sepsis.
Other rare complications of cellulitis include necrotizing fasciitis, or “flesh-eating disease,” linked to group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria.
Causes and symptoms of cellulitis
Cellulitis often occurs suddenly and is typically caused by streptococcus and staphylococcus bacteria that are found in the environment. While cellulitis most often appears on your legs and feet, it can develop anywhere.
Obvious places where cellulitis can happen are large lacerations or breaks in your skin. However, this condition can also develop when your skin is irritated or weakened by conditions such as these:
- Athlete’s foot
- Excessively dry or flaky skin
- Sores that come from having chronic circulatory issues such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
Other common triggers are animal bites or cuts from swimming or wading in a pool.
These are some symptoms of cellulitis that you want to be on the lookout for:
- Warm, red skin areas that expand and deepen
- Skin swelling in the affected area that spreads with the infection
- Red spots or blisters on the skin
- Worsening pain and tenderness to touch in the affected area
It’s important to know that those who are obese or have conditions that weaken their immune systems — such as diabetes — have an increased risk of developing cellulitis.
How to prevent and treat cellulitis
It’s not completely possible to avoid cellulitis altogether; however, these are some things you can do to lower your risk:
- Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before caring for a wound
- Monitor wounds carefully for redness, drainage, or other signs of infection
- Cover wounds as necessary with a clean bandage, changing daily or more frequently when wet or dirty
- Treat eczema, athlete’s foot, and other skin conditions properly and carefully
Whenever you’re wading, it’s essential to wear appropriate footwear to protect your feet when you’re swimming or wading. We recommended investing in quick-drying or submersible shoes.
In addition, always change your shoes or socks when they get wet since trapped moisture can cause fungal infections and other issues that increase your risk of cellulitis.
If you do develop cellulitis, you need to seek proper medical care. Typical lines of treatment include oral antibiotics that you must take for about 7-14 days. If your infection doesn’t respond well to antibiotics or worsens, you may need to be hospitalized for intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
For an accurate diagnosis and treatment for cellulitis, book an appointment with us online or call 601-326-6401.