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Though cellulitis is a common skin condition, the condition can become a potentially life-threatening infection if left untreated. Cellulitis is not to be confused with cellulite. Cellulitis is caused by bacterial infections, such as streptococcus or staphylococcus. Cellulite is a collection of fatty tissue. A cellulitis infection can occur when bacteria enters a wound or scrape upon your skin. Tests will be conducted to either rule out other possible conditions or to provide a positive diagnosis.
Causes and Symptoms
Cellulitis occurs mostly on your legs, shins and ankles. An infection however, can occur anywhere on your body, such as your eyes. If you have a cut or wound, cracks upon your skin, or have just undergone surgery, bacteria can enter through these entrance ways and travel through your blood stream. Initial symptoms of the infection include red, swollen, tender and warm skin. You also can develop a fever within a few days of the start of your symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is also possible to develop small red spots on your skin.
Your physician will look at your skin for signs of inflammation first, as well as take notes on any symptoms you're experiencing. You also may undergo blood tests to check for signs of infection. The type of bacteria that is causing the infection also can be identified. A culture also can be taken from any affected areas that are oozing with pus. Blood and culture tests are necessary if you're not responding to antibiotics.
Another type of test may be administered to rule out the possibility that your are suffering from deep vein thrombosis. DVT mimics many of the symptoms that are also characterized by cellulitis. According to Merck, if it is believed that you are suffering from DVT, you will undergo a Doppler ultrasonography. A Doppler is a device that uses sound waves to examine arteries or veins within your body. If your physician finds that you don't have DVT, then a diagnosis of cellulitis will be confirmed.
Treatment is absolutely necessary in order to prevent the infection from spreading to your blood or organs. Antibiotics are usually the necessary course of treatment. Antibiotics can be prescribed for up to two weeks. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is important to finish oral antibiotics even if your symptoms are improving. If your infection is serious, your symptoms don't improve and you have a fever, you will need to be hospitalized in order to receive antibiotics intravenously.
If you have a wound, be sure to wash it thoroughly and apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound. Always keep your wounds covered. If your bandages become wet or dirty, change your dressings. If you begin to notice signs of an infection, such as pain, drainage or skin that is red and hot to the touch, seek immediate medical attention. If you don't treat your wounds properly, you can develop complications like necrotizing fasciitis, which is a type of flesh-eating streptococcus.