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Cellulitis: bacterial skin infection

Streptococci infection

Cellulitis, also known as erysipelas, is a spreading inflammation of tissue, most commonly the skin.

Some bacteria, particularly a group called the streptococci, produce powerful enzymes that break down the natural barriers to spreading bacteria in the tissue. This allows infection to spread.

Symptoms of cellulitis

Cellulitis starts with a contaminated scratch, prick or cut and quickly spreads to cause a hot, red, spreading area on the skin. You may also be able to see red streaks extending along the lymph drainage channels towards the lymph nodes.

Cellulitis in the leg spreads to affect the lymph nodes in the groin, which become enlarged, easily felt and tender. In the arm the nodes are in the armpit. Cellulitis on the face may cause enlargement of a lymph node in front of the ear or in the neck.

A person with cellulitis may have a high fever and will feel very unwell.

Causes

Cellulitis is caused by infection, usually with the streptococcus bacteria.

Treatment of cellulitis

Cellulitis almost always responds readily and quickly to antibiotic drugs. In severe cases these antibiotics are given by injection directly into a vein for a few days, followed by antibiotic pills for one or two weeks.




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