Things that increase the risk of cellulitis are:
An injury to the skin such as:
- A cut, scratch, puncture, or bite
- A blisterburn, or skin ulcer
- Skin cracks or splits, such as between the toes
Skin conditions, such as:
- Intertrigo—irritation in folds of the skin
- Athlete's foot
- IV drug use
- Having certain conditions, such as diabetes or obesity
- Blood vessel problems, such as venous insufficiency or peripheral artery disease (PAD)
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The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may diagnose cellulitis based on how the skin looks. The outer edge of the redness may be marked. This will help to see if the infection spreads.
The doctor may also do blood tests. Fluid from the area may also be tested. This is to find out what bacteria is causing the problem.
The goal is to get rid of the infection and manage pain. Treatment may last 5 to 10 days. Most cellulitis will clear up after 1 to 2 weeks of treatment.
Hospital care may be needed for:
- Severe cellulitis
- Diabetes or a weak immune system
- An infection on the face
Treatment may be:
- Medicine, such as:
- Antibiotics—to clear the infection
- Antifungals, by mouth or applied to the skin—for fungal infections
- Pain medicine
- Supportive care, such as:
- Keeping the area raised—to help move fluids out and speed healing
- Protecting the skin—keeping the area clean and bandaged
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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American Academy of Dermatology https://www.aad.org
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases https://www.niaid.nih.gov
Canadian Dermatology Association https://dermatology.ca
Health Canada http://www.canada.ca
Cellulitis. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/rashes/cellulitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Cellulitis. DermNet New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/cellulitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Cellulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116794/Cellulitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Cellulitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/bacterial-skin-infections/cellulitis. Accessed March 29, 2021.
Linder KA, Malani PN. Cellulitis. JAMA. 2017;317(20):2142.
Stevens DL, Bisno AL, et al. Practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of skin and soft tissue infections: 2014 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2014;59(2):147-159.