Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria in the dermis and the subcutaneous tissue which form the deeper layers of the skin. It manifests itself as redness, rash-like blisters, swelling and pain in a localized area. Though there are several other symptoms that may accompany the skin distortion including fever, nausea, fatigue, shivering and joint stiffness, the former are the most identifiable markers of the disease.
Even as cellulitis is not a life threatening condition, it can be potentially serious, if not treated in time or compounded by other health issues. To realize how serious it could be, one must understand how it is caused.
Mode of Contraction
It is usually a tear or break in the surface skin or epidermis which exposes the inner layers to bacteria and hence diseases. Therefore, cellulitis is often contracted as a consequence of the following:
- Cuts and injuries leave the deeper skin layers more vulnerable to bacterial infection. Thus it is of requisite importance to treat open wounds with much care.
- Insect and animal bites are also capable of introducing bacteria into the skin. Insects are carriers of various harmful infections and their bacteria may be transferred into the body via a bite.
- Surgeries and other invasive procedures leave the immunity system weak and thus vulnerable to even the slightest exposure to bacteria. Sometimes, skin exposure caused due to these very procedures may later cause skin conditions such as cellulitis.
- In some cases, where there is no evidence of break in the skin having caused cellulitis, the reason for the infection may remain unknown. Such incidence is rare, though not unknown.
Since some of the modes of contraction such as cuts, wounds and insect bites are common conditions, one must be very wary of contracting cellulitis in these scenarios.
Cellulitis could be caused by a number of bacteria though usually it is streptococci or staphylococci varieties that are observed in cellulitis patients. Though most physicians diagnose the condition by a simple physical examination, sometimes they may require a bacteria culture to know the exact bacteria that is responsible for the infection; this helps in more effective treatment, especially in cases where the infection is severe and the body is not responding to prescribed antibiotics.
What Increases Risk
There are certain health conditions which make people more vulnerable to contracting cellulitis. These include the following:
- Obesity – this makes swelling more easily contractible which in turn increases the potential for cellulitis.
- Poor Immunity – this allows the bacteria to subsist and spread easily. Patients undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from HIV/AIDS, elderly individuals and those who have undergone surgery are thus at much risk.
- Diabetic Individuals – Diabetes not only weakens immunity but also affects blood circulation. The overall vulnerability to skin diseases including cellulitis is thus heightened.
- Blood Circulation Issues – In individuals suffering from poor blood circulation, there is deficit of ample blood supply to ward off infections, thereby making the possibility of contracting cellulitis a serious prospect.
- Other Skin Conditions – Patients of other skin conditions such as chicken pox or shingles, where liquid-filled blisters provide ideal inroads for bacteria, are also likely to be victims of cellulitis.
- Prior History of Cellulitis – Those who have been infected by the disease at some point in time are liable to contract it again. The phenomenon is not fully understood though recurrently observed.
It goes without saying that those people whose bodies are more susceptible to getting infected based on the aforementioned proclivities should be extremely cautious. Medical opinion and aid must be sought at the first sign of potential infection.