We have all experienced that nasty type of sunburn. You know, the one that hurts just by wearing clothes, taking a shower, or even just moving. Most of the time relief can be found by reaching for aloe vera, Noxema, or anything else that will relieve the burning.
Eventually, a couple of days will pass, and the burn will subside, usually leaving you with peeling skin to indicate your skin is slowly healing. However, imagine that sunburn not getting any better, and it appears to be crawling up your limbs day after day causing them to swell and become tender to the touch. This is cellulitis.
Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by either strep or staph bacteria that gets into the skin and can spread deeper into the tissue. Cuts, sores, surgical wounds, burns, or animal or insect bites are the most common causes. Skin problems, such as ulcers, eczema, psoriasis, or fungal infections, such as Athlete’s foot, can lead to cellulitis. Edema, or fluid build-up in the arms or legs, can also cause cellulitis.
However, cellulitis can be contracted without a break in the skin. Adults with diabetes, peripheral arterial disease or weakened immune systems are most prone to cellulitis and are the most likely to contract it again. They are also likely to develop dangerous problems after contracting cellulitis.
In adults, cellulitis occurs mostly on the leg, face, or arms, while in children, it occurs mostly on the face or around the anus. Cellulitis on the face can spread to the eyes, causing a serious eye infection, or it can spread to the brain, causing meningitis. Cellulitis on the leg may cause blood clots.
It is important to see your doctor right away, if you have any red, swollen, and tender areas, especially on your legs, arms, or face that are warm to the touch. These areas, along with fever, chills, or swollen glands could signify that the infection is spreading.
If cellulitis is not treated with antibiotics, it can spread into the bloodstream or the lymph nodes, causing sepsis, a dangerous, life threatening condition. Mild cases of cellulitis may be treated at home with antibiotics as prescribed by your physician, and it is important to finish all medication, even if symptoms begin to subside before the prescribed amount is finished. More severe cases require hospitalization with antibiotics being administered intravenously.
It is also important to follow up with your doctor if the areas of cellulitis are getting redder, larger, more painful, or displaying red streaks, after beginning antibiotic treatment.