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Cellulitis and Erysipelas

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Cellulitis is inflammation of the skin and deep underlying tissues.

Erysipelas is an inflammatory disease of the upper layers of the skin.

Group A strep (streptococcal) bacteria are the most common cause of cellulitis and erysipelas.

Transmission

Both cellulitis and erysipelas begin with a minor incident, such as a bruise. They can also begin at the site of a burn, surgical cut, or wound, and usually affect your arm or leg. When the rash appears on your trunk, arms, or legs, however, it is usually at the site of a surgical cut or wound.

Even if you have no symptoms, you carry the germs on your skin or in your nasal passages and can transmit the disease to others.

Symptoms

Symptoms of cellulitis may include

  • Fever and chills
  • Swollen glands or lymph nodes

In addition

  • Your skin will be painful, red, and tender
  • Your skin may blister and then scab over
  • You may have perianal (around the anus) cellulitis with itching and painful bowel movements

Symptoms of erysipelas may include

  • A fiery red rash with raised borders on your face, arms, or legs
  • Hot, red skin with sharply defined raised areas

In addition, the infection may come back, causing chronic (long-term) swelling of your arms or legs (lymphedema).

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider may take a sample or culture from your skin lesions to identify the bacteria causing infection. He or she may also recover the bacteria from your blood.

Treatment

Depending on how severe the infection is, your healthcare provider will treat you with either oral or intravenous (through the vein) antibiotics.

Last Updated November 08, 2013

Last Reviewed November 08, 2013