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What is Cellulitis by Dina Imsirevic

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Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that can occur on any part of the body but is most common on the lower legs.  Staphylococcus and Streptococcus are the typical causes for Cellulitis.  This infection may appear on the exterior side of one’s skin, but it may also extend and move into the bloodstream and lymph nodes. Orbital cellulitis and periorbital cellulitis occur in and around the eye.  Cellulitis is a serious condition and may be life-threatening.  However, with immediate medical attention, it is very treatable.

There are three common types of cellulitis.  The first and most common form of the infection occurs on the outer layer of the skin.  This area will be warm to the touch, swollen, and tender.  Those who are infected may also have a fever, chills, and muscle aches.  Orbital cellulitis and periorbital cellulitis can occur anywhere near the eye, including the eyebrows, eyelid, or cheek.  The latter type of cellulitis is more common in young children.  The symptoms of orbital and periorbital cellulitis include swelling and redness in or around the eye.  Periorbital cellulitis does not cause any eye pain but orbital cellulitis is painful and causes decreased vision.

There are many ways that one can develop cellulitis.  Since the infection is usually developed because of bacteria that live on the skin, there is a higher chance of developing the infection if a person has a burn, cut, scrape, animal/insect bite, or any open wound on the body.  Athlete’s foot, shingles, and eczema may also cause this infection to occur.  Even though cellulitis is not very contagious, very close contact can spread the infection.  Individuals who have a weak immune system, inject illegal drugs, or have diabetes are also more likely to come in contact with this infection.

Treatment for all three types of cellulitis is very similar.  The patient will be prescribed antibiotics by mouth or through a vein (IV).  In very severe cases the patient will have to stay in the hospital.   Orbital cellulitis needs to be watched closely because the infection can spread and get worse at a fast speed.  It is very important to see a healthcare provider as soon as any symptoms occur.  If the infection is caught early on, it is very treatable and the patient will make a full recovery.  If the patient is not treated, sepsis or blood clots can occur, which can be fatal.

Those who are at high risk for cellulitis can take precautions so that the infection will not occur.  Keeping skin hydrated with lotion and also clean is important and will prevent it from cracking.  If an individual already has an infection, like eczema or athlete’s foot, they should see the doctor immediately.  Their doctor may be able to provide the patient with regular antibiotics, which will prevent the infection from occurring.  It is also very important to continue any medication that the doctor has prescribed to the patient, even if that patient is feeling better.

There are different forms of cellulitis and different symptoms that one may experience.  As soon as any symptoms occur, it is important to contact a medical provider right away.  If the skin condition is not treated immediately, it can be life-threatening.  If a person is at high risk for cellulitis, precautions can be taken.


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