Cellulitis Symptoms

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Dennis Lee, MD

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a common infection of the lower layers of skin (dermis) and the subcutaneous tissues (areas underneath the skin) caused by a bacterial infection. While cellulitis sometimes develops around wounds in the skin or surgical incisions, in other cases it arises without an obvious source for the bacterial infection. Staphylococci are the bacteria that most commonly cause cellulitis, followed by Streptococci. Less commonly, other types of bacteria may cause cellulitis.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

Cellulitis usually begins as a small area of pain and redness on the skin. This area spreads to surrounding tissues, resulting in the typical signs of inflammation - redness, swelling, warmth, and pain. A person with cellulitis can also develop fever and/or swollen lymph nodes in the area of the infection.

Who is at risk for cellulitis?

Anyone may develop cellulitis. Males and females and people of all races are equally likely to become infected. However, people whose immune systems are weakened for any reason (including from chemotherapy for cancer or other immune-suppressing drugs) and those with diabetes are at highest risk for developing cellulitis.

Can I catch cellulitis from an infected person?

No, cellulitis is not contagious because the top layer (epidermis) of the skin is not involved and provides a protective cover over the infected area.

How is cellulitis treated?

Antibiotics are essential for the treatment of cellulitis. Penicillin derivatives are often prescribed to treat cellulitis, but other antibiotics can also be effective. In more advanced cases of cellulitis, hospitalization and administration of intravenous antibiotics may be required. If not appropriately treated, the bacterial infection can spread throughout the body, resulting in serious illness.

For more, please read the Cellulitis article.


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