Cellulitis represents inflammation of tissues located below the skin i.e. inflammation of the subcutaneous connective tissue as well as dermal layer of the skin. The affected part of the body is red, swollen and warm and patients complain abut excruciating pain.
Cellulitis - The Onset of Infection and Causes
In the majority of cases cellulitis develops in the areas where there is a loss of skin's integrity (an abrasion, cut or ulcer). It also affects portions of the skin previously damaged by local trauma or animal bite. This infection is frequently reported in diabetic patients and those with weakened immune system.
Staphylococcus aureus and Group A Streptococcus are infectious agents that commonly cause cellulitis although other bacteria may be involved in the inflammation as well. For instance, in children under six, cellulitis is basically caused by Haemophilus influenzae and usually affects the face, arms and upper torso.
Cellulitis - Symptoms and Signs
As mentioned earlier the infection usually begins in case there is previous damage to the skin. Once the area is contaminated with bacteria, these start to multiply and trigger inflammation and all the associated symptoms and signs.
Initially, the affected area becomes tender and swollen. The skin soon becomes red and further progression of the infection leads to fever and chills, fatigue, general ill feeling and muscle aches and pains. There may also be enlargement of regional lymph nodes. Inflammation seems to progress and swelling becomes bigger as the infection spreads. Additional signs of cellulitis are hair loss at the site of infection, joint stiffness due to swelling of the tissues over the joint, nausea and vomiting.
Cellulitis - Treatment and Prognosis
The infection is, fortunately, curable. Patients are prescribed penicillin and if they are allergic to penicillin they receive another antibiotic infective agents responsible for the infection is sensitive to. Cellulitis is treated with oral antibiotics. Patients additionally receive pain relieving medications. The infected parts of the body should be elevated above the level of the heart. This position reduces swelling. Hospitalization is indicated in patients with severe cellulitis, those treated with antibiotics who do not respond well to treatment, immunocompromised patients and patients with orbital cellulitis.
Cellulitis usually withdraws after a week or 10 days with adequate treatment. However, the condition may be also complicated with blood infection (sepsis), bone infection, endocarditis, meningitis and shock. Tissue death or gangrene may occur as well. These complications prolong the course of the disease and require additional treatments, usually medicamentous and sometimes even surgical.