Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and deep underlying tissues. Erysipelas is an infection of the outermost layers of the skin.

What causes cellulitis?

Group A strep (GAS) and staphylococcus aureus bacteria are the most common causes of cellulitis and erysipelas.

Both cellulitis and erysipelas begin with a minor incident, such as a bruise. They can also begin at the site of a burn, surgical cut, or wound, and usually affect your arm or leg.

When the rash appears on your trunk, arms, or legs, however, it is usually at the site of a surgical cut or wound.

Even if you have no symptoms, you carry the germs on your skin or in your nasal passages and can transmit the disease to others.

What are the symptoms of cellulitis?

Symptoms of cellulitis include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Swollen glands or lymph nodes
  • Tender, painful, red skin that may blister and scab over
  • Perianal (around the anus) itching and painful bowel movements

Symptoms of erysipelas include:

  • A fiery red rash with raised borders on your face, arms, or legs
  • Hot, red skin with sharply defined raised areas

In addition, the infection may come back, causing chronic (long-term) swelling of your arms or legs (lymphedema).

How is cellulitis diagnosed and treated?

Your doctor may take a sample or culture from your skin lesions to identify the bacteria causing the infection. He or she may also identify the bacteria by running a blood test.

In most cases, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to be taken by mouth. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend that you be hospitalized to receive intravenous antibiotics

Reference: The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your personal medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional.

Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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