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Cellulitis is an infection that needs immediate treatment

September 2018

Woman in bed
Cellulitis can become very serious if not treated quickly

Many people believe cellulitis is something to do with weight and obesity but in fact cellulitis is a potentially dangerous infection.

It can develop anywhere in the body, although it most commonly affects the lower legs, but wherever it occurs, it can cause pain and other distressing symptoms. It is something that needs immediate treatment, because otherwise the infection can spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream and rapidly become life-threatening.

Cellulitis usually results from bacteria entering through small breaks in the skin…possibly from grazing or scrapes, cuts of course, or burns. It can also enter through fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and of course from any skin punctures or surgery. Many different bacteria can cause cellulitis but recently a strain a Staphylococcus that is a common cause of cellulitis has become resistant to previously effective antibiotics. This strain is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and is often developed in people in hospital or nursing facilities.

To begin with, cellulitis often only affects one side of the body, perhaps just one leg, and the first symptoms are redness and tenderness around the area. The infected skin can become hot and swollen and may start developing small pits like an orange peel; it can also feel warm and hard.

For most people, there may be a feeling of being a bit run down; but as the infection takes hold more severe symptoms can occur, including fever, chills, rapid heart rate, headache and even confusion.

One thing to be aware of is that sometimes the symptoms of cellulitis in a leg can be similar to those of a blood clot in the deep vein (thrombosis). If a doctor is concerned about this, a specific test can be undertaken to check.

But generally a doctor will identify cellulitis and prescribe prompt treatment with antibiotics in order to stop the infection from spreading and reading the blood or internal organs when it can become more difficult to treat.

Specific antibiotics will be used if the doctor believes the cause is the MRSA infection.

It can be frustrating because after treatment, the symptoms can appear to get worse before improving. This is because once the medication has killed off the bacteria, substances that cause tissue damage are released and the body continues for a short spell to react as though bacteria is still present.

However, antibiotics will be recommended as a course over some days, and eventually the symptoms will disappear.

Today the very real dangers of infection are well recognised by both the public and the medical profession; and if you begin to suspect you may have an infection, then it is very important you seek professional advice quickly before the bacteria can get a really strong hold.



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