Home | Articles | Know the Early Symptoms and treatment of Cellulitis

By Dr Bhavik Shah
HOD and Critical Care Consultant
Published on 14/11/2022

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin condition that is relatively common but can occasionally be serious. Even though it can affect any part of the body, it most frequently appears on the lower legs. The affected skin gets extremely painful, red, swollen, and warm when touched. This infection is caused by a skin break that gets bacteria in. The need for therapy for this infection cannot be put off. It spreads quickly to the lymph nodes, then to the bloodstream.

What causes cellulitis?

Cellulitis develops when bacteria (usually staphylococcus and streptococcus) enter the skin. Though cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, the lower leg is the most commonly affected . Bacteria are more likely to infiltrate disrupted skin areas, such as where people have recently had surgery, puncture wounds, cuts, an ulcer, or dermatitis. Animal bites can also cause cellulitis. Moreover, bacteria might enter through flaky, dry, or inflamed skin.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

Cellulitis is categorized into two stages. The first stage is when the infection begins and spreads. Keep in mind that this could happen to any part of the body. It is common near wounds, damaged skin, cuts, and even bruises.
Here is the list of early symptoms of the first stage:

1. Redness of the surrounding area:

The area will turn red when the infection begins. One may even notice red streaks forming around the diseased area. This is the first indication of cellulitis. This is the time to seek medical help before the situation worsens. Skin redness also tends to spread.

2. Swelling of the infected area:

The infection causes swelling in the surrounding area. This is caused by inflammation or an accumulation of fluid beneath the skin.

3. The infected area is warm to the touch:

As the infection progresses, the surrounding area will become warm to the touch. This is a strong indication that the infection is spreading and that people need medical attention.

4. The area is painful to touch:

The area would then become painful to touch in the following stage. The area around the wound will be more sensitive than the rest of the skin. Because the skin is now extremely sensitive, even a gentle touch might cause discomfort.

5. Pus buildup or leakage of clear or yellow liquid:

In some cases, people will notice a buildup or flow of clear or yellow fluid. This is pus created as a result of the infection.

You must seek medical care immediately if you see any of the following symptoms. These include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Swelling and hardening of the infected area
  • Pain around the infected area
  • Numbness around the area when pressing

If any of the symptoms mentioned above start appearing in the patient, then reaching them to an emergency room is crucial. If delayed, then this infection could become life-threatening.

Factors that enhance the risk of cellulitis:

Many factors can put people at risk of developing cellulitis.

  • An injury:

    Cellulitis is caused mainly by an injury. Bacteria can enter the body and bloodstream when people have an injury or when the skin breaks. This could be due to an injury, burn, or cut.
  • Having a weak immune system:

    Cellulitis is more common in people who have a weaker immune system. This is especially true for patients suffering from immune-suppressing diseases such as leukemia, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and others.
  • Obesity:

    Obesity is another prevalent factor that might raise the chances of having cellulitis.
  • Preexisting skin conditions:

    If you have a history of skin problems, you are more likely to develop cellulitis. Skin disorders such as athlete's foot, eczema, or shingles can cause skin breaks. These cracks or cuts can readily allow bacteria into the body, leading to cellulitis.
  • If you have had cellulitis:

    The chances of getting cellulitis again are considerably higher if you've already had cellulitis.

How to treat cellulitis?

Before beginning treatment, the doctor will conduct tests to determine the best treatment for cellulitis. Most frequently, these are antibiotics that will treat the current infection.

How to ensure that a skin wound does not progress into cellulitis?

  • Cleaning the wound:

    The most significant thing to do if you have a cut or wound is to keep it clean. One can wash the wound with soap after a bath.
  • Using an ointment:

    One can use ointments and creams on an open wound or cut. These are intended to speed up the healing process while protecting the damage. A barrier that prevents bacteria from entering will be created by doing so.
  • Using a bandage:

    The best course of action when someone has a cut or wound is to keep it covered. By doing this, bacteria won't be able to touch it. Additionally, it will shield the wound from environmental toxins and keep it protected and dry.

How to prevent cellulitis?

Here are a few ways that would help to prevent a cellulitis infection. These include:

  • Keep your feet safe:

    Always look around the legs and feet for any injuries. Make cautious to clean any cuts or wounds before taking any medication.
  • Keep your skin moisturized:

    This is something that will strengthen the skin and keep it from flaking or cracking. A good moisturizer will keep the skin supple and reduce cuts and scratches. However, do not apply moisturizer to open sores.
  • Get help immediately:

    If you have a cut or a wound, seek medical attention as soon as possible. This can prevent the infection from spreading and stop the symptoms from worsening.