Cellulitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Cellulitis infection is a skin disease caused by bacteria. This condition often occurs in skin areas that have suffered previous cracks, wounds, insect bites or blisters. It is not the same as Erysipelas. However, the two often occur simultaneously and are sometimes difficult to distinguish.


The infection is caused by a skin break through which bacteria (Group A Streptococcus and Staphylococcus) enters. Sometimes the skin break can be so small it is not visible.

Apart from skin cracks, other conditions that may cause the infection are recent surgery, eczema, tattoos, athlete’s foot, pruritic skin rash, boils and drug injections. The skin disease can occur when surgery is performed on deep skin wounds.


The skin infection is characterized by pain, swelling and feeling of warmth. There may also be rashes and itching. Besides skin cuts, surgical wounds and burns, the infection may appear in the arms, legs and face.

The disease can develop in 24 hours or take a few days. More severe cases include other symptoms like high fever, shaking and feeling extremely cold.


The doctor will perform blood tests to rule out other causes like blood clots. The skin infection is often mistaken for other ailments like deep vein thrombosisa and Lyme disease, so other tests will be performed.


The area affected by cellulitis infection must be rested. The wound needs to be cleaned. Treatment consists of oral antibiotics. Only in severe cases is intravenous (IV) therapy required.

For less serious cases, flucloxacillin monotherapy will be sufficient. If there is streptococcal infection, flucloxacillin is combined with oral phenoxymethylpenicillin.

In other cases, intravenous benzylpenicillin or ampicillin/amoxicillin / co-amoxiclav are used. Pain relievers may also be given. It is also possible to administer hyperbaric oxygen treatment as a form of adjunctive therapy.


All wounds must be dressed properly. Bandages must be cleaned every day. They should be replaced if they get damp. This will reduce the chances of getting infected. If the wound is very dirty or very deep, consult a doctor. Seek medical help if there are any foreign objects left in the wound.

People at Risk

This includes old people and individuals who have a weak immune system. Also susceptible are diabetics. They are particularly vulnerable to infection in the feet because it hampers blood circulation at the legs. This leads to foot ulcers.

Diabetics must also manage their blood glucose levels. Poorly managed glucose levels will allow bacteria to grow. The infection will spread rapidly once it gets into the bloodstream.

Drugs that weaken the immune system will make one prone to infection. Skin diseases like chickenpox cause blisters which allow bacteria to get in. Diseases that afflict the legs and arms heighten the risk for infection.

Also at risk are those who share hygiene facilities. Those that are exposed to unsanitary conditions may also contract the disease.

Using the right antibiotics, cellulitis infection can be cured. At the same time, being aware of what circumstances increase the risk factor will help you deal with the disease correctly.