Understanding Cellulitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Understanding Cellulitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that impacts the skin and nearby tissues, typically presenting as a red, swollen, and tender area. Often accompanied by fever and other indicators, it primarily affects the legs and face. Antibiotics are necessary for treatment as the infection stems from bacteria, commonly Streptococcus or Staphylococcus. Prompt medical attention is essential, as untreated cellulitis can lead to severe complications.


Cellulitis arises from bacterial infection, frequently originating from Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria entering through skin breaches like cuts, burns, or insect bites. Risk factors encompass:

  • Compromised immune system
  • History of cellulitis or skin conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Poor leg circulation
  • Varicose veins
  • Skin disorders causing breaks (e.g., eczema)
  • Environmental factors (e.g., hot, humid climates)
  • Previous surgery or injury
  • History of injectable drug use

Notably, cellulitis may affect even healthy individuals without underlying conditions.


Symptoms vary in severity but commonly include:

  • Pain or tenderness at the affected site
  • Redness, warmth, and swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or feverish sensations
  • Spreading rash or redness
  • Blisters and pus-filled ulcers
  • Sweating
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Rarely, vomiting

Untreated cellulitis can rapidly worsen, emphasizing the importance of seeking immediate medical attention if suspected.


Antibiotics form the cornerstone of cellulitis treatment, targeting the causative bacteria. The choice and duration of antibiotic therapy depend on bacterial strains and cellulitis severity.

  • Mild to moderate cellulitis is typically managed with oral antibiotics.
  • Severe cases necessitate intravenous antibiotics, often administered in hospital settings.

Additional treatments may include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g., ibuprofen, acetaminophen) for pain and inflammation.
  • Elevation of the affected limb to reduce swelling.
  • Application of warm compresses to the area.
  • Use of compression stockings to enhance circulation and minimize swelling.
  • Surgical intervention in severe cases to remove affected tissues.

Addressing underlying conditions like eczema or varicose veins is crucial to prevent cellulitis recurrence. Completing the full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if symptoms improve, is essential to prevent relapse.

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