There are two common skin infections called cellulitis and erysipelas. Both cause red, hot and swollen skin. Cellulitis affects deeper layers of the skin and even fat underneath, while erysipelas affects superficial layers.
Both infections happen when germs that leave on the skin get inside. Germs can become “virulent” more aggressive due to other conditions. Chronic health conditions, obesity, presence of another skin infection or condition and skin injury can set up favorable soil for cellulitis and erysipelas.
Affected people may have skin symptoms only or also develop fever, chills and fatigue. Upper and lower extremities are affected more often. However, both skin infections can affect face, chest, abdomen, back and private areas.
Diagnosis is made by collecting proper medical history and doing physical exam. Tests are rarely needed but can be done if infection is complicated or not going away.
Treatment involves antibiotic pills but for severe infection or if person cannot tolerate oral medications, intramuscular (IM) or intravenous (IV) injections are done.
It is important to seek prompt medical attention since both infections may progress rapidly and cause severe damage if left untreated. Antibiotics prescribed by medical provider should be completed to avoid recurrence or bacterial resistance.
Keeping affected extremity elevated helps to reduce edema and pain. Over-the-counter antibiotics and creams are not useful in treatment of cellulitis and erysipelas.