What is Hand Cellulitis?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2018
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Cellulitis is a type of skin infection. The condition is mainly caused by bacteria. Cellulitis can occur in any area of the body. When it occurs on a hand, the condition is known as hand cellulitis. This type of skin infection can quickly spread into areas other than the primary site of infection.

Bacterias such as streptococcus and staphylococcus commonly cause hand cellulitis to develop. The infection generally occurs when a cut, scrap, sore or puncture wound leaves an opening in the skin large enough for bacteria to enter. A recent surgery can be another cause of the infection as the site of the surgical incision can become invaded by bacteria and lead to the illness. Cracked skin, such as that commonly found on the heels can also be a risk factor. In some cases, cellulitis of the hand is caused by insect bites on that body part.

Cellulitis hands may appear genuinely reddened and swollen. The hands may feel unusually warm compared to the rest of the body. Often, the skin covering the hands will look firm and glossy. For some people, it may be difficult to have their infected hands touched or to touch things with the hands due to tenderness. The joints may also become stiff, which can restrict flexibility. Certain individuals may notice that the hair covering their hands has diminished, although this symptom may be more visible in men.


Fatigue, shaking, sweating and chills can be additional hand cellulitis symptoms. There may also be an aching in the hand as well as muscle aches throughout the entire body. If the infection spreads, a fever may be an additional symptom. There may also be ongoing nausea, vomiting and swollen glands.

Doctors will thoroughly examine the infected hand and the rest of the body before making a diagnosis. It may also be necessary to order blood tests to better indicate the amount of infection in the body. Hand cellulitis can become lethal if the infection spreads. Once the infection gets into the bloodstream, it can quickly invade the entire body and a person's life could rapidly become at risk. To treat the infection, doctors normally use antibiotics, although extremely ill patients may be treated most sufficiently in a hospital.

To prevent hand cellulitis, openings in the skin should be treated with great care. This includes washing the areas and patting them dry. If a doctor prescribes an an oral or topical antibiotic medicine for an existing skin problem, it is important to take the medicine as prescribed, as it will protect the patient from further bacteria. The hands should also be protected and guarded from injury when taking part of risky activities, such as using extremely sharp tools and utensils. In addition, any opening in the skin can potentially become infected, therefore, it is important to be aware of the first signs of a possible skin infection.


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