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What is Cellulitis?

June 17, 2019 Pegalis Law Group

If you’ve ever suffered from cellulitis, you know that it can be quite painful. Your skin gets swollen, hurts, and feels warm to the touch.  It can also be frightening because it spreads rapidly and may involve a fever. But what is cellulitis, exactly?

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection. It’s fairly common, but also has the potential to be extremely serious. Usually affecting the skin on the lower legs, but sometimes occurring on the face, arms, or other areas, cellulitis happens when broken skin allows bacteria to get inside your body. If you don’t seek medical treatment, it can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream, and that’s where it gets dangerous. In fact, it can quickly become a life-threatening condition.

How do you know if you have cellulitis? It usually happens on one side of the body and has symptoms that include:

  • Redness, probably spreading
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness and pain
  • Warmth at the affected site, and sometimes a fever
  • Red spots or blisters
  • Dimpling of the skin

If you’ve got any of these symptoms, it’s smart to see a doctor. If your skin seems to have a red, swollen tender rash, or you have a rash that’s changing rapidly, and you have a fever, seek emergency care immediately. If you have some of the symptoms but you don’t have a fever, you should still try to get an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Cellulitis is not contagious, so you don’t need to worry about passing it from person to person. It typically occurs when streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria enter your body through your skin. The more serious type of cellulitis is caused by methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and incidences of this type of infection are becoming more common. Cellulitis doesn’t require a large cut or area of broken skin and sometimes can even occur from something as small as a bug bite. It can happen anywhere on your body, but the lower leg is the most common spot. Cellulitis is likely to happen when your skin has been disrupted, either by cuts or puncture wounds, an ulcer, athlete’s foot or dermatitis, an animal bite, or even surgery. It can also occur where your skin is dry and flaky.

If you’ve had an injury or your immune system is weakened, whether, by a medical condition or certain medications, you’re at higher risk for cellulitis. Lymphedema, the chronic swelling of your arms or legs, can put you at risk for cellulitis, as can conditions like eczema, athlete’s foot, or shingles. If you’ve had cellulitis in the past you’re more likely to get it again, and being overweight also increases your risk.

Your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics for your cellulitis, and with antibiotic treatment, the condition typically resolves quickly. You can also help prevent cellulitis from occurring in the future by thoroughly cleaning any wounds with soap and water, applying protective cream or ointment like Polysporin, Neosporin, or Vaseline, and covering the wound with a bandage. If you have diabetes, you should be especially careful to inspect your feet daily, moisturize your skin, be careful when trimming your toenails and fingernails, be protective of your hands and feet, and treat skin infections like athletes foot promptly.

When cellulitis is not properly treated, it can escalate quickly into a severe infection. Sometimes, it can even spread to the underlying bone and may evolve into sepsis. This is a life-threatening condition, and if you were under a doctor’s care yet experienced sepsis from poorly treated cellulitis, you may be entitled to compensation due to malpractice.

If you have questions about medical care or treatment, or a catastrophic injury, don’t delay in calling Pegalis Law Group, LLC for a no-fee consultation.  We obtain justice for our clients after hospitals, doctors, construction companies, and drivers commit preventable errors that cause harm. Reach us through our website or call (516) 684-2900.