Skin infections that affect the deeper layers of tissue are potentially serious, not to mention discomforting with their numerous manifestations. Cellulitis is one such bacterial infection of the skin which hampers normal living and may become a recurrent condition.
What makes cellulitis even more dangerous is that it can be contracted easily, since it is usually a break in the skin where exposure to disease-causing bacteria takes place. This means that small cuts and wounds, insect bites, surgical procedures and generally low immunity make an individual vulnerable to this condition.
In cases where the infection is mild, the core symptoms of cellulitis are distressing but may not cause the patient too much inconvenience for prolonged periods. However, in cases where the infection is severe and complications occur, the condition can impede normal lifestyle and daily practices such as work, household chores, and even movement.
Since it is an infection of the skin, the primary discomforts are mostly localized in a specific region of the body where infection occurs. These include the following:
- The area infected by the virus changes in appearance. Usually, redness and rash-like sores begin to appear on the surface of the skin. It becomes glossy and stretched, taking on a colour and texture that is visibly distinct from an individual’s normal complexion.
- The redness is usually accompanied by swelling and pain, the latter of which can get very intense in some cases. Also, the redness and pain may begin extending further up the skin in the first 24 hours – this is a sign of the infection spreading; consulting a doctor speedily is thus recommended.
- In many cases, there is a sensation of warmth being emitted by the infected area. The skin begins to feel hot and there may also be hair loss in that specific region.
These are those symptoms that are usually observed when the infection is in its nascent stage. However, if not checked in time, there are other conditions which may develop, further distressing the patient. These include:
- Typically, fever, chills and shivering, fatigue and lethargy also begin to plague the infected individual. These are signs that the infection is gaining potency and thus command immediate medical attention.
- Emergency treatment must be sought if the patient suffers stiffness in joints, begins vomiting or body temperature shoots very high. These are signs that the infection may have spread from the skin to the blood or lymph nodes, either of which may be serious conditions.
It goes without saying that the medical aid must be sought as soon as first symptoms appear. Unfortunately, more often than not, people do not recognize the early redness as a sign of serious infection. Once the fever occurs however, there should be no delaying consultation. If medication is not taken promptly then, the condition is likely to become very serious, with the bloodstream or bones getting infected, lymphatic function getting disturbed or tissue death (gangrene) occurring.
Medication to treat cellulitis usually comprises of oral antibiotics, though in extreme cases, the latter are let into the bloodstream directly via injections or drip. Aside from such cases where severity of infection or complicated medical history may necessitate hospitalization and observed nursing, the patient recovers at home. Usually it takes between 7 to 14 days for complete healing to take place, though doctors may prescribe longer courses to prevent recurrence in some cases (usually people with low immunity).
While the medication needs be taken religiously for fast recovery, there are some means for relief of surface symptoms as well. Over-the-counter painkillers can be taken to relieve pain and the infected region can be elevated to reduce swelling. Also, good personal hygiene must be maintained so as to prevent other diseases when the body is already in a more vulnerable state.