Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection; it usually affects the arms and the legs. It usually occurs after an injury that breaks the skin. Bacteria can cause the infection through the skin.

The most common type of bacteria causing cellulitis is:

  • Group A beta-hemolytic streptococci
  • Streptococcus pneumonia
  • Staphylococcus aureus

The most common symptoms of cellulitis include; redness of the skin, swelling, tenderness, pain, fever headache and fatigue. The symptoms of a more serious cellulitis infection include shaking, chills, lightheadedness, muscle pain and sweating.

Some cases of cellulitis would be considered an emergency if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system.

Diagnosis of cellulitis depends on physical examination, in addition to blood and skin samples for confirmation. A bacterial culture is used to identify the type of the organism and indicate the proper antibiotic to be taken.

The risk factors for cellulitis include; obesity, history of cellulitis, skin conditions and injury as cut and burns.

It is essential that people with diabetes take extra precautions to prevent skin injury.

The appropriate treatment depends on the patient’s age, general health, the type of the bacteria causing the infection and severity of the condition. It is important to start treatment right away that includes oral, intramuscular or intravenous antibiotic according to the signs and symptoms severity, their response to treatment and if fever presents. Also, keep the infected area clean, apply topical antibiotics if prescribed and rest.

Your physician will mostly prescribe a regimen of oral antibiotics that extend from 10 to 21 days to treat the infection. The length of the antibiotic regimen depends on the severity of the condition and the class of the antibiotic. It is important to take the whole course of the antibiotic as prescribed by your physician even if your symptoms improve within the first days of treatment.

Cellulitis usually resolves within 7 to 10 days of starting the antibiotic regimen, longer treatment is indicated if the infection is severe due to chronic diseases as diabetes.

Penicillin and its derivatives or other types of antibiotics that are effective against specific bacteria are used for the treatment of cellulitis. The list of medication that can be used for treatment includes penicillin, amoxicillin, amoxicillin with clavulanic acid, ampicillin with sulbactam, ceftriaxone and clindamycin. Other classes of antibiotics can be used depending on the bacteria, resistance and allergic reaction

For Group A streptococci, the first line agent is penicillin, the most common side effects are nausea, vomiting, epigastric distress, diarrhea and headache.

For Staphylococcus aureus (methicillin-resistant), the first line agent is vancomycin, the most common side effects are nausea, stomach pain, headache and tiredness.

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