Cellulitis - Treatments

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How is cellulitis diagnosed, and what is the treatment for cellulitis?

First, it is crucial for the doctor to distinguish whether or not the inflammation is due to an infection. The history and physical exam can provide clues in this regard, as can sometimes an elevated white blood cell count. A culture for bacteria may also be of value, but in many cases of cellulitis, the concentration of bacteria may be low and cultures fail to demonstrate the causative organism. In this situation, cellulitis is commonly treated with antibiotics that are designed to eradicate the most likely bacteria to cause the particular form of cellulitis.

When it is difficult or impossible to distinguish whether or not the inflammation is due to an infection, doctors sometimes treat with antibiotics just to be sure. If the condition does not respond, it may need to be addressed by different methods dealing with types of inflammation that are not infected. For example, if the inflammation is thought to be due to an autoimmune disorder, treatment may be with a corticosteroid.

Antibiotics, such as derivatives of penicillin or other types of antibiotics that are effective against the responsible bacteria, are used to treat cellulitis. If the bacteria turn out to be resistant to the chosen antibiotics, or in patients who are allergic to penicillin, other appropriate antibiotics can be substituted. Sometimes the treatment requires the administration of intravenous antibiotics in a hospital setting, since oral antibiotics may not always provide sufficient penetration of the inflamed tissues to be effective. In certain cases, intravenous antibiotics can be administered at home.

In all cases, physicians choose a treatment based upon many factors, including the location and extent of the infection, the type of bacteria causing the infection, and the overall health status of the patient.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: PGKid, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: July 21

Two years ago I developed cellulitis, up until then I never heard of it. Not knowing the warning signs I put off going to the hospital for most of the day. When I went it was quite bad infection on my left leg up my left leg and thigh. Apparently my white count was so high they admitted me immediately and gave me IV antibiotics every 4 hours. The fluid blisters on my lower leg were huge and disgusting, dripping continuously. I ended up going to wound debridement once I was out of the hospital, to help clean up and heal from my knee to my ankle. I still have skin scarring but I can walk on my leg and that's all that matters. Needless to say 3 weeks in the hospital and 3 weeks on outpatient IV therapy gave me a new understanding for the seriousness of this disease. All caused by a sore on my toe which took over 2 years to get healed up. While healing I had reoccurring bouts of cellulitis.

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Comment from: sstrain, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: August 12

I went to the doctor today because of an extremely painful sore on my left upper thigh. It is red but has about 15 things that look similar to bite marks inside of the bigger lump. It started hurting yesterday and now I am in so much pain that I had to go to the doctor today on my lunch break. My doctor told me that it was cellulitis and asked if I had rubbed against anything in the yard, or been into anything unusual, which I hadn't. She prescribed me amoxicillin because I am 4 months pregnant and that is one of the only antibiotics safe to take during pregnancy. She said if it hadn't gotten better in 2 days, to call back, and that they would give me a shot of an antibiotic inside the bump.

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