Cellulitis : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Skin infection – bacterial

Definition

Cellulitis is a common skin infection caused by bacteria.

See also:

  • Orbital cellulitis
  • Periorbital cellulitis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria are the most common causes of cellulitis.

The skin normally has many types of bacteria living on it. When there is a break in the skin, however, bacteria can enter the body and cause infection and inflammation. The skin tissues in the infected area become red, hot, irritated, and painful.

Risk factors for cellulitis include:

  • Cracks or peeling skin between the toes
  • History of peripheral vascular disease
  • Injury or trauma with a break in the skin (skin wounds)
  • Insect bites and stings, animal bites, or human bites
  • Ulcers from diabetes or a blockage in the blood supply (ischemia)
  • Use of corticosteroid medications or medications that suppress the immune system
  • Wound from a recent surgery

Pictures & Images

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a deep infection of the skin, usually accompanied by generalized (systemic) symptoms such as fever and chills. The area of redness increases in size as the infection spreads. The center of the circled lesion has been biopsied.

Cellulitis on the arm

Cellulitis on the arm

Cellulitis is a noncontagious inflammation of the connective tissue of the skin, resulting from a bacterial infection. Antibiotics are given to control infection, and analgesics may be needed to control pain. Within 7 to 10 days of treatment cellulitis can be cured.


Review Date : 4/17/2009
Reviewed By : Michael Lehrer, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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