What is Acute Cellulitis?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
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  • Last Modified Date: 19 February 2019
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Acute cellulitis is a type of skin infection which progresses rapidly. As it is an acute condition, the symptoms may appear suddenly and severely, but will generally subside after proper treatment. In most cases, acute cellulitis is caused by certain types of bacteria. Symptoms of this condition may include tenderness, pain, swelling and skin redness. The treatment will generally include antibiotics.

Bacteria is the most typical cause of acute cellulitis. Staphylococcus and often streptococcus are the two most prominent types of bacteria that usually cause this skin infection. Most frequently, an individual becomes infected with cellulitis when he or she has broken skin on some area of his or her body, usually the hands, legs and feet.

Acute cellulitis may also develop from a surgical wound. As surgery generally requires breaking the skin, it often leads to several types of potential infections. For this reason, wounds or scars that result from a recent surgery can possibly lead to a wound infection that could cause a sudden onset of cellulitis. In addition, being bitten by insects may lead to infection. For instance, certain types of staphylococcus and streptococcus may be transmitted through some spiders.


Symptoms of this acute skin condition will generally appear rather suddenly. Frequently, acute cellulitis symptoms will include tenderness in the area of the infected skin, pain, swelling and skin redness. Some people may also have a fever, particularly in the earliest stages. Many individuals may also have a visible rash or the appearance of sores on their skin. Stiffness in the joints, aches in the muscles and fatigue may also be symptoms.

In many cases, visually inspecting the skin will be enough to diagnose cellulitis. This skin infection generally produces very peculiar looking skin, which often leads to an easy diagnosis, though doctors may still order additional diagnostic tests. A blood test is usually among them. If a surgical wound or other type of wound is the cause of the infection, skin cultures may be included in the diagnostic tests.

Acute cellulitis treatment will most often include antibiotics. The antibiotics should generally be taken until all of the skin infection has cleared. Pain medications can also be used if pain is a prominent symptom. Individuals with a very high fever, extreme swelling and certain pre-existing chronic conditions may be hospitalized for treatment.


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