Proper Treatment of Cellulitis
by ACE Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Institute
Tips for Cellulitis.
- Clean all cuts or breaks in the skin diligently regardless of their size.
- If the damaged skin has a red, swollen, hot and glossy appearance seek medical attention immediately.
- Cellulitis that is not treated can progress to a systemic infection, sepsis, that can be life-threatening.
- Most cellulitis symptoms will begin to resolve within a few days of beginning the antibiotic medication, but they may take several weeks to resolve.
- You might have to attend Physical Therapy to fully rehabilitate the injured area due to weakness and possible loss of motion if the symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time.
Cellulitis is an infection that can cause the skin to swell, turn red, hot to the touch, tender, glossy and painful. If it is not treated aggressively and quickly, it can become a life-threatening systemic problem. Bacteria entering the skin through a cut or bite can cause cellulitis. Proper and thorough cleaning of cuts and scrapes will normally help prevent it. Once infection sets in treatment usually involves a regimen of antibiotics, rest and steps to keep wound area clean.
Cellulitis is caused by bacteria (usually Streptococcus or Staphylococcus). These bacteria enter the body via an injury or lesion to the skin such as a cut, abrasion, insect bite or surgical incision.
Most people do not develop cellulitis when they have an opening in their skin, but some conditions make some people more susceptible than others. Conditions may include:
- Ongoing skin ailments – Skin conditions that lead to cracks and “breaks” in the skin such as eczema, athlete’s foot, chickenpox and shingles this can lead to the onset of the disease.
- Immune deficiency – A weakened immune system can leave the body unable to “fight” against the bacteria.
- Needles – Intravenous drug users are susceptible due to the constant use of needles.
- Chronic swelling – Having a condition such as Lymphedema that leads to chronic swelling of the limbs makes someone more prone to developing the condition because the skin is prone to cracking.
- Past infections -If you have had cellulitis in the past, your chances are greater of developing it again.
Cellulitis usually develops quickly and effects the skin in the lower extremities more frequently than the upper body. The area involved will usually be red in color, swollen, the skin might be glossy, hot to the touch, very tender to the touch, extreme pain might occur in the area and the person might have a fever. As the body attempts to “fight” the infection, a person will generally feel awful! Left untreated the infection can spread throughout the body. The affected body part might develop blisters and red streaks. The person will most likely become lethargic, drowsy and very ill.
Treatment begins with a thorough cleansing of infected area, using warm soap and water. Cover the area to keep it dry, protect it and prevent exposure to dirt and germs. Avoid high bacteria areas like hot tubs, swimming pools, public showers and gyms.
If the symptoms of cellulitis appear, it is imperative that you seek a doctor’s diagnosis. The doctor will normally prescribe antibiotic drugs. These are usually given as an oral medication and should be taken for the entire length of the prescription (usually 2 weeks). Your doctor might prescribe pain medication at the same time.
During the healing phase, you should rest and elevate the involved body part.. This reduces stress on the body part, and allows your body time to fight the infection. Fatigue hinders the body’s ability to heal itself.
Your body should respond and the symptoms should dissipate and resolve within 10 – 14 days. If the infection is severe, the doctor might admit you to the hospital and give you antibiotics intravenously. The most severe cases of cellulitis can cause blood infections, gangrene (tissue death), bone infections and inflammation of the lymph tissue.
Cellulitis can be prevented in most cases by simply cleaning and protecting skin injury immediately. If there is chronic inflammation, this condition should be treated with Physical therapy and the use of compressive garments. The use of skin moisturizers and other medications to control skin conditions that lead to dry skin and cracking can help to protect against development of cellulitis.
Cellulitis is a condition that can affect almost anyone if the conditions are present. Its onset is usually quick and more times in the lower extremities than any other body part. The symptoms are severe and must be treated with the use of antibiotics or they can worsen and cause a condition that can become life threatening.
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