Cellulitis is a skin infection that occurs when bacteria enter broken skin through a cut, scrape, or bite. It can cause swelling, redness, and pain. The skin can also feel warm or hot to the touch.
Though cellulitis is common and can spread quickly throughout your body, it's not contagious.
Call the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases to learn more or make an appointment at 412-647-7228 or 1-877-788-7228.
Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection. Each year in the U.S., doctors diagnose about 14 million cases causing nearly 650,000 hospitalizations.
Cellulitis can occur on any part of the body's skin but happens most often on the feet or legs.
Without treatment, the infection can spread and cause potentially serious complications including sepsis.
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that can occur when bacteria enter the bloodstream and cause the immune system to overreact.
Not all bacteria cause cellulitis, but the most common type that causes these skin infections is group A Streptococcus (group A strep).
Staphylococcus bacteria can also commonly cause cellulitis.
Some people are more likely to get cellulitis than others, such as those with:
Other people at higher risk of cellulitis are those who shoot illegal drugs and those who are overweight or obese.
If a person with cellulitis doesn't receive treatment, it can cause a worse infection such as sepsis. Sepsis is a dangerous condition that can occur when bacteria enter the bloodstream.
Though rare, cellulitis can also cause other serious conditions, including:
There's no vaccine to prevent cellulitis. The best way to prevent it is to protect broken skin from bacteria and practice good hygiene.
Here are tips for avoiding cellulitis:
If you have diabetes, check your feet and lower legs daily for any injuries or cuts. If you notice any, see your doctor.
The symptoms of cellulitis are easy to notice.
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.
Some symptoms are more serious and require urgent care.
If you have any of the following additional symptoms, go to the ER or an urgent care right away:
Your doctor will diagnose cellulitis by looking at the affected area. Most people with mild cases don't need blood tests.
If your infection spreads quickly — or spreads to other parts of the body — you may need blood and imaging tests.
This will help your doctor learn what type of bacterial infection you have and how much is present.
The goal of treating cellulitis is to cure the infection.
Doctors treat most cases with antibiotics. This is often a cream you put on your skin or a pill you swallow.
Some people may need an IV. This sends the medicine directly into your bloodstream and the site of infection.
Most people get better very quickly after they start taking antibiotics for their cellulitis.
Some people have allergies to certain types of antibiotics. Make sure your doctor knows about any drug allergies you may have.
Common side effects of antibiotic treatment of cellulitis include:
Most people don't need to stay overnight in the hospital for cellulitis.
People who have a larger area of infection or a greater risk for other problems may need to stay in the hospital.
To learn more about the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases or to make an appointment, call 412-647-7228 or 1-877-788-7228.