What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that typically affects the skin and the tissues beneath the skin. Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body. Periorbital cellulitis (infection of the eyelids or other soft tissue around the eyes) is a particularly serious form of cellulitis.

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Cellulitis is most frequently caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA), Streptococcus pneumoniae, and beta-hemolytic streptococci. Whenever the offending bacteria enter through a break in the skin—for example, from an injury or insect bite, or through a disorder that breaks the skin, such as cracks or peeling from dry skin, a stye, or a hordeolum (localized bacterial infection of an oil gland or eyelash follicle in the eyelid margin)—they can quickly lead to inflammation and infection.

Cellulitis can be serious and sometimes requires hospitalization; however, in many people, cellulitis responds promptly to antibiotic therapy. The infection can be harder to eliminate in people who have chronic medical conditions, especially conditions that suppress the immune system.

Periorbital cellulitis (invasive infection of the soft tissues around the eye) is particularly dangerous for everyone, but especially for children. The infection can advance rapidly and in some cases may cause blindness or other life-threatening complications.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have signs of cellulitis on your face, particularly near your eyes, including painful red, warm or inflamed skin, a rash or sore that appears suddenly and grows rapidly within 24 hours; tight, or a glossy appearance to the inflamed area. Also, seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have serious symptoms of sepsis (a life-threatening bacterial blood infection), such as severe difficulty breathing and sweating, which may be combined with high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), pale or blue lips, and rapid heart rate (tachycardia).

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for cellulitis but your symptoms recur or persist.


What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

Symptoms of cellulitis can occur anywhere on your skin but are far more dangerous when they occur on your face, especially near your eyes. These symptoms can also be accompanied by flu-like symptoms (fatigue, fever, or aches and pains), including a high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit). Symptoms of cellulitis around the eyes always constitute an emergency.... Read more about cellulitissymptoms


What causes cellulitis?

Cellulitis is most frequently caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and beta-hemolytic streptococci. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, is a particularly dangerous type of bacterial infection that is resistant to many antibiotics. These bacteria can enter through a break in the skin due to an injury, an insect bite, or an area of cracked or peeling skin, and quickly lead to inflammation and infection.... Read more about cellulitiscauses


How is cellulitis treated?

The most common treatment for cellulitis is taking antibiotics by mouth (orally). You may also receive analgesics to control your pain. Cellulitis can be serious enough to require a hospital stay, especially if you have a high fever, unstable blood pressure, persistent nausea or vomiting, or a weakened immune system. You will also be more likely to need hospitalization if your cellulitis occurs around your eyes or if, despite being treated with antibiotics, your infection gets worse.... Read more about cellulitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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