Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria are the most common causes of cellulitis.
Normal skin has many types of bacteria living on it. When there is a break in the skin, these bacteria can cause a skin infection. Skin in the infected area will become red, hot, irritated, and painful.
Culture of any fluid or material inside the affected area
Most of the time, treatment involves antibiotics taken by mouth and close follow-up by your doctor. You may be given painkillers.
You should raise the infected area higher than your heart to reduce swelling. Rest until your symptoms improve.
You may need to stay in a hospital if:
You are very sick (for example, you have a very high temperature, blood pressure problems, or nausea and vomiting that does not go away)
You have been on antibiotics and the infection is getting worse
Your immune system is not working well (due to cancer, HIV)
You have an infection around your eyes
You require antibiotics through a vein (IV)
Cellulitis usually goes away with 7 - 10 days of antibiotics. Longer treatment may be needed if cellulitis is more severe. This may occur if you have a chronic diseases or your immune system is not working properly.
People with fungal infections of the feet may have cellulitis that keeps coming back. The cracks in the skin from the fungal infection allows the bacteria entry to the skin.
Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 90.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.