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Cellulitis

Are you concerned about a skin infection? MaineHealth can help with cellulitis concerns and provide you with the right treatment to combat infection.

If you have a serious infection, accompanied by a rapidly spreading rash, increasing pain, shaking, chills and fever, seek help immediately. Go to your local emergency room for evaluation and treatment.

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is an infection that occurs when bacteria enters an opening in the skin, such as a cut, wound, or puncture.  It can also occur without any wound or skin injury.

The infection site typically swells, becomes painful and can rapidly spread if not treated immediately.  If bacteria spread to deeper tissue, the risk of more serious infection increases. It is important to seek medical care quickly.

Cellulitis risks

Those with the following conditions have an increased risk of contracting cellulitis:

  • History of cellulitis

  • Diabetes

  • Weak immune system

  • Edema

  • Skin conditions

  • Chronic swelling of arms or legs

  • Obesity

  • Intravenous drug use

To lower your risk of cellulitis, it is important to clean your skin, treat skin infections immediately, and care for wounds and scrapes by cleaning and bandaging them properly.

Clean any recent tattoos or piercings to keep the area free of germs that can lead to infection.

Cellulitis symptoms

The following are symptoms of cellulitis:

  • Painful, swollen, red, warm skin may crack, split or release fluid

  • Red streaks extending from the cut or wound toward the body (lymphangitis)

  • Fever/chills

  • Swollen glands

  • General ill feeling

A physical exam by your doctor is key

Providers will be able to diagnose most cellulitis with a physical exam. Your provider may order the following tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions:

  • Blood tests

  • Wound culture

  • Ultrasound

  • CT scan

  • MRI

Treating cellulitis

Cellulitis treatment includes antibiotics, resting and elevating the body part with cellulitis, and warms compresses. Call your provider if you have symptoms of cellulitis.

Serious cases of cellulitis may require inpatient hospital care and intravenous antibiotics.

Hydrating and cleaning your skin can help treat cellulitis as well.