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Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that grows below the skin surface and can cause permanent tissue damage. It is normally caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus, which commonly enters the body through a cut or other break in the skin. However, there are reported cases of cellulitis where the skin was not broken, and typically involve people who have a weak immune system or have been diagnosed with diabetes. These people are also more likely to experience serious effects from cellulitis and may even get cellulitis again.

What is Cellulitis?

The word cellulitis translates to “inflammation of the cells.” More precisely, cellulitis is infection of skin tissue immediately below the skin’s outer surface. In human beings, skin and the tissues under it are the most typical places for microbial infection. Skin is our first defense from penetrating bacteria and other deadly microbes. A skin infection can happen if it is negatively affected by surgery, injury, or after being burned. Even something as insignificant as a scrape or an insect bite can permit bacteria to get past your skin, and can result in an infection. Normally, the body’s defense mechanism kills bacteria if it gets past the skin, but occasionally bacteria can grow and trigger an infection.

The moment it passes the surface of the skin, the warm, moist, nutrient rich environment allow bacteria to spread quickly. Disease-creating bacteria discharge proteins called enzymes that result in tissue deterioration. The body’s response to such deterioration is inflammation, indicated by pain, redness, heat, and swelling. This red, painful area will grow larger when the infection and ensuing tissue damage grow. An unattended infection might move into the lymphatic system, the lymph nodes, the bloodstream, or to deeper flesh. Cellulitis usually takes place on the face, neck, and legs.

What causes Cellulitis?

This person's leg is inflamed with cellulitis as shown by the red colorationWhile different types of bacteria may cause cellulitis, it is usually caused by Streptococcus pyogenes (the bacteria which leads to strep throat) and Staphylococcus aureus. Streptococcus pyogenes is the so-called “flesh-eating bacteria” and, in extraordinary cases, can trigger a hazardous, deep skin infection called necrotizing fasciitis.

Orbital cellulitis is a serious infection of the tissues directly adjacent to the eye, including eyelids, eyebrow, and cheeks. It may be brought on by bacteria that can’t develop in the presence of oxygen (anaerobic bacteria). In children, Haemophilus influenzae type B often leads to orbital cellulitis right after a sinus infection. The occurrence of orbital cellulitis has decreased significantly over the years with introduction of effective vaccines.

Symptoms of Orbital Cellulitis

Symptoms include eyes that are sore, red, swelling, and sensitive to intense light or touch. Eyes may bulge out and could be hard, or completely unable to move. Momentary vision loss and eye drainage, accompanies by chills, fever, headaches, vomiting, and an overall sense of illness may be reported.

Symptoms of cellulitis

Symptoms include redness, warmth, pain, and swelling in the infected area. The infected area may also display a red patch that grows radially (like a bigger circle), within the initial 24-hour period. A heavy red line that points in the direction of the heart could appear, suggesting an infection within the lymph vessels (lymphangitis). Additional symptoms may include fever, chills, tiredness, sore muscles, and an overall feeling of malaise or body-ache. Some people also feel nausea, vomiting, stiff joints, and hair loss around the infection.

Treatment of Cellulitis

To treat cellulitis, which can be a potentially life-threatening disease, antibiotics are the most common choice. Minor or moderate cellulitis may be handled using antibiotics taken on a four to eight hour schedule, and can be administered from home, following a doctor’s advice and prescription. More severe cases will require hospitalization and drugs that may be administered intravenously.

At any time, if you believe you have symptoms of cellulitis, see your doctor immediately to allow for properly diagnosis of your ailment and to determine the best course of treatment.

5 Responses to Cellulitis – What is it and What causes it?

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  • Asia Symon says:

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  • Julie Polszi says:

    I am so happy to know more about cellulitis now. What a horrible disease (or infection ?) Anyway it’s bad. The stories I’ve read about it are heartbreaking and really tell me to avoid the situations where we could contract it. Thanks for giving some info on avoidance too.

  • Roni McLean says:

    This makes me believe we’re in danger from deadly microbes and should be a little more vigilant in our daily lives. Thanks for the heads-up.

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