What are the Symptoms of Cellulitis?

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  • Written By: Shannon Philpott
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
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  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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Cellulitis is an infection of the skin that results in severe inflammation of the affected areas. Symptoms include redness, tenderness, and swelling areas of the skin that look similar to a rash. Although it may occur on any part of the body, the most common area where symptoms appear is on the legs and face. Cellulitis symptoms may also include fever, chills, excessive sweating, and swollen lymph nodes.

Symptoms of cellulitis are caused by a skin or tissue bacterial infection that spreads beneath the skin. The first sign of cellulitis is typically a small area of the skin that is tender. Symptoms progressively grow worse over time if not immediately treated. A small red area may ultimately grow into a larger area of affected skin and induce a hot feeling accompanied by swelling.

Cellulitis affects the skin’s deeper levels, such as the subcutaneous tissue and dermis. Symptoms of cellulitis may go undetected at first before the affected area develops and the bacteria grow within the deeper skin layers. The primary bacteria causing cellulitis symptoms are streptococcus and staphylococcus — sometimes referred to as staph. It is likely that a physician will need to perform either an ultrasound on the affected area or a blood culture to positively diagnose cellulitis.


Individuals susceptible to symptoms of cellulitis often have cuts, blisters, burns, surgical incisions, tattoos, or cracks in the skin. Infection is more likely in people with weakened immune systems and diabetes. Poor blood glucose levels and poor circulation increases the likeliness of symptoms of cellulitis because bacteria grow quickly once an infection is within the bloodstream. Symptoms may be more prevalent among people living in close quarters sharing hygiene facilities, such as college dormitories and nursing homes.

Symptoms of cellulitis are treated primarily with antibiotics. Ointments and lotions can also be used to ease cellulitis symptoms; however, they are often used simultaneously with antibiotics to rid the body of bacteria that causes cellulitis. In extreme cases, portions of the skin will need to be removed to eliminate the infection and pain medication may be necessary. An individual who experiences symptoms of cellulitis typically should consult with a physician to determine appropriate treatment. In severe cases, where high fevers and chills accompany the redness, tenderness, and swelling, hospitalization may be necessary to relieve the symptoms.


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