Cellulitis is a type of skin infection that is caused by bacteria, primarily by staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria. It is a serious infection that not only affects the skin, but also the fat underneath it. Cellulitis primarily occurs on arms, legs or face. It is not contagious but anyone with damaged or broken skin can catch it.
If the skin is damaged or broken, bacteria can inhabit and thrive underneath the skin. While Cellulitis occurs mostly when skin is broken or damaged, it can at times even start on normal skin if the immune system is weak.
This common problem can affect anyone. However, people having athlete’s foot, skin abrasions, swollen legs, poorly controlled diabetes and skin problems like eczema are more likely to develop cellulitis.
Cellulitis is characterized by redness, inflammation and swelling of the skin, tenderness of the infected area, swelling of the lymph nodes and fever. The condition can be effectively treated with the help of antibiotics. If left untreated or treated improperly, it can lead to severe and long term complications.
As the condition advances, the deepest layer of skin becomes infected, inflamed and sore. This can infect the lymph nodes and blood cells, resulting in a condition called septicemia.
The potential cellulitis complications are:
Gangrene: Advanced cellulitis can lead to tissue death or gangrene, which is characterized by painful inflammation at the site of infection. The skin becomes reddish brown in color and is extremely painful.
Meningitis: People suffering from untreated Cellulitis on face are exposed to the risk of developing meningitis. Meningitis is inflammation of membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, also known as meninges. Meningitis is a very serious infection and it could even be life threatening or could lead to brain damage. Meningitis causes symptoms such as high-grade fever, severe headache, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, photophobia and changes in mental status.
Sepsis: Septic condition occurs when the bloodstream is infected with bacteria. This can affect other organs of the body. The symptoms of sepsis include high or low body temperature, rapid heart rate, diarrhea, chills, decreased urine output, light-headedness, skin rash, confused and decreased mental alertness. Prompt medical care is required in sepsis.
Lymphadenitis: Lymphadenitis is one of the most common complications of cellulitis. It is characterized by swelling of lymph nodes as a result of inflammation, tender lymph nodes and tenderness of the skin in the affected region. This condition requires immediate medical attention.
Abscess: In severe cases of cellulitis, dead inflammatory cells can lead to the formation of abscess. Abscess also contains neutrophils and bacteria. Characterized by pain and swelling, abscess requires immediate medical care. Your health professional will drain the abscess and pack the area to prevent infection.
Necrotizing Fasciitis: In some cases, cellulitis may spread to deep tissue layers known as fascial lining. Though it is a rare complication, it can damage skin, muscles and deeper tissues, and can lead to shock. This condition begins as a small, red spot on the skin and rapidly changes in to a painful reddish spot that spreads quickly to other areas on the skin.