Cellulitis

Definition:
Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and underlying tissues that can affect any area of the body. It often begins in an area of broken skin, like a cut or scratch, when bacteria invade and spread, causing inflammation, pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.

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It is an inflammation of the connective tissue underlying the skin, that can be caused by a bacterial infection. Cellulitis can be caused by normal skin flora or by exogenous bacteria, and often occurs where the skin has previously been broken: cracks in the skin, cuts, blisters, burns, insect bites, surgical wounds, or sites of intravenous catheter insertion. The mainstay of therapy remains treatment with appropriate antibiotics. Skin on the face or lower legs is most commonly affected by this infection, though cellulitis can occur on any part of the body. Cellulitis may be superficial — affecting only the surface of the skin — but cellulitis may also affect the tissues underlying the skin and can spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream.

Cellulitis is unrelated to cellulite, a cosmetic condition featuring dimpling of the skin.

Symptoms:
Early symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, and early signs of redness on the affected area.

Cellulitis is characterized by redness, swelling, warmth, and pain or tenderness. Cellulitis frequently occurs on exposed areas of the body such as the arms, legs, and face. Other symptoms can include fever or chills and headaches. In advanced cases of cellulitis, red streaks (sometimes described as ‘fingers’) may be seen traveling up the affected area. The swelling can spread rapidly.

Cellulitis typically begins as a small, inflamed area of pain, swelling, warmth, and redness on a child’s skin. As this red area begins to spread, the child may begin to feel sick and develop a fever, sometimes with chills and sweats. Swollen lymph nodes (commonly called swollen glands) are sometimes found near the area of infected skin. Cellulitis is not contagious.

Causes:
Cellulitis is caused by a type of bacteria entering by way of a break in the skin. This break need not be visible. Group A streptococcus and staphylococcus are the most common of these bacteria, which are part of the normal flora of the skin but cause no actual infection until the skin is broken. Predisposing conditions for cellulitis include insect bite, animal bite, tattoos, pruritic skin rash, recent surgery, athlete’s foot, dry skin, eczema, injecting drugs (especially subcutaneous or intramuscular injection or where an attempted IV injection “misses” or blows the vein); plus burns and boils, though there is debate as to whether minor foot lesions contribute and also morbidly obese people can experience it.

The appearance of the skin will help a doctor make a diagnosis. The doctor may also suggest blood tests, a wound culture or other tests to help rule out a blood clot deep in the veins of the legs. Cellulitis in the lower leg is characterized by signs and symptoms that may be similar to those of a clot occurring deep in the veins, such as warmth, pain and swelling.

This reddened skin or rash may signal a deeper, more serious infection of the inner layers of skin. Once below the skin, the bacteria can spread rapidly, entering the lymph nodes and the bloodstream and spreading throughout the body.

In rare cases, the infection can spread to the deep layer of tissue called the fascial lining. Necrotizing fasciitis, also called by the media “flesh-eating bacteria“, is an example of a deep-layer infection. It represents an extreme medical emergency.

Diagnosis:

Cellulitis is most often a clinical diagnosis, and local cultures do not always identify the causative organism. Blood cultures usually are positive only if the patient develops generalised sepsis. Conditions that may resemble cellulitis include deep vein thrombosis, which can be diagnosed with a compression leg ultrasound, and stasis dermatitis, which is inflammation of the skin from poor blood flow.

The incubation period for cellulitis varies, depending on the type of bacteria causing it.Sometimes it can develop in as little as twenty-four hours or can take days to develop. Your doctor can diagnose cellulitis by asking a few questions and examining the area of affected skin. Sometimes, especially in younger kids, a blood culture may be done to check for bacteria growth. A positive blood culture means that bacteria from the skin infection have spread into the bloodstream, a condition known as bacteremia. This can potentially lead to septicemia, an infection affecting many systems of the body.

Treatment:
A child with severe cellulitis may be treated in the hospital using intravenous (IV) antibiotics. Kids with milder cellulitis can be treated at home with antibiotics. The doctor may also suggest that the affected part of the body be immobilized and elevated to reduce swelling and pain. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce discomfort.

After 1 or 2 days on antibiotics at home, a child may return to see the doctor, who’ll check that the area of cellulitis has improved and that the antibiotics are working to heal the infection.

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Is Antibiotic Treatment for Cellulitis Necessary?

Duration:
In many cases, cellulitis takes less than a week to disappear with antibiotic therapy. However, it can take months to resolve completely in more serious cases, and can result in severe debility or even death if untreated. If it is not properly cured it may appear to improve but can resurface again even after months and years.

Prevention:
You can prevent cellulitis by protecting your child’s skin from cuts, bruises, and scrapes. This may not be easy, especially if you have an active child who loves to explore or play sports. Protective equipment worn to prevent other injuries during active play can also protect skin: elbow and knee pads while skating, a bike helmet during bike riding, shin guards during soccer, long pants and long-sleeved shirts while hiking in the woods, sandals (not bare feet) on the beach, and seatbelts while riding in a motor vehicle.

Good hygiene and good wound care lower the risk of cellulitis. Any wounds should be cleaned and dressed appropriately. Changing bandages daily or when they become wet or dirty will reduce the risk of contracting cellulitis. Medical advice should be sought for any wounds which are deep, dirty or if there is concern about retained foreign bodies.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulitis

http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/cellulitis.html

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