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What Is Cellulitis and How Can I Avoid It?

Our specialty team at mydoc Urgent Care provides exceptional medical services to individuals of all ages from locations in East Meadow, Forest Hills, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, New York. We’re also committed to providing the information you need to make informed decisions about your health. Here’s what we’d like you to know about cellulitis and the danger it poses to your overall wellbeing.

Understanding cellulitis

Cellulitis is a potentially serious bacterial skin infection that, according to the National Institutes of Health, is diagnosed in more than 14 million people in the United States every year and leads to about 650,000 hospitalizations annually. Caused by a break in the skin that allows bacteria to enter the deeper skin layers, cellulitis may lead to extensive tissue damage and even tissue death (gangrene). Left untreated, cellulitis can spread into the lymph nodes and bloodstream, where it can quickly expand throughout the body and may lead to a life-threatening systemic infection (sepsis). Though rare, cellulitis complications also include necrotizing fasciitis, or “flesh-eating disease,” linked to group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria.

Cellulitis causes and symptoms

Most often caused by streptococcus and staphylococcus bacteria that are common in the environment, cellulitis can occur rather suddenly. It frequently develops on the legs and feet but can appear anywhere on the body. Although it may be related to a laceration or obvious break in the skin, cellulitis can also occur in areas where skin is irritated or weakened by conditions such as:
  • Eczema
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Excessively dry or flaky skin
  • Ulcerations (sores) related to chronic circulatory issues such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
  • Animal bites or cuts sustained while swimming or wading are also common triggers for cellulitis.
Symptoms to watch for include:
  • Area of expanding and deepening skin redness with warmth
  • Swelling in the affected region that may spread as the infection advances
  • Red spots or blisters on the skin
  • Dimpling or orange-peel texture to the skin
  • Worsening pain and tenderness to touch in the affected area
  • Fever
Note that individuals who are obese or have conditions such as diabetes that weaken the immune system have an increased risk of developing cellulitis.

Treating cellulitis

Cellulitis requires medical care that typically includes oral antibiotic therapy, which is generally prescribed for 10-14 days. However, extensive infections, or those not responding to oral antibiotics within three days, may require hospitalization and treatment with intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

Avoiding cellulitis

Though anyone can develop cellulitis for no discernable reason, you can help lower your risk by: Washing and drying your hands thoroughly before caring for a wound Monitoring wounds carefully for redness, drainage, or other signs of infection Covering wounds as necessary with a clean bandage, changing daily or more frequently when wet or dirty Treating eczema, athlete’s foot, and other skin conditions promptly It’s also important to wear appropriate footwear such as quick-drying or submersible shoes that protect your feet when wading. Be sure to change socks or shoes that become wet, however, since the moisture can cause fungal infections and other issues that increase your risk of cellulitis. For an accurate diagnosis and treatment for cellulitis, take advantage of our walk-in services or schedule a same-day appointment at mydoc Urgent Care today.  


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