What is cellulitis, and what causes it?
Cellulitis is a type of infection located in the superficial layers of the skin. It most commonly affects the lower limbs, but can affect the skin anywhere on the body. Cellulitis is caused by bacterial infection of the skin. The reservoir for bacteria causing cellulitis of the lower limb is often the toe web spaces, where Staphylococcus aureus and/or streptococci species commonly reside.
What are the signs of symptoms of the infection?
The dermatologic signs of cellulitis are redness, swelling and warmth in the affected skin. This can be accompanied by bleeding into the skin.
The symptoms associated with cellulitis can be fever, chills, tachycardia (fast heart rate), hypotension (low blood pressure) and confusion. Many patients can however be afebrile and have no associated symptoms early in the presentation.
Are there any risk factors to contracting cellulitis?
The risk factors for developing cellulitis include any defects in the cutaneous surface, such as swelling, varicose veins and venous stasis, skin surgery, trauma, ulceration or dermatologic conditions such as eczema. This is because these disruptions to the skin integrity allow an easier access to the bacterial organisms that cause cellulitis.
Are there any preventative measures?
The prevention of cellulitis requires early treatment of any disease processes that threaten the skin barrier. This includes compression stockings to prevent and treat lower leg swelling, early management of varicose veins and effective control of inflammatory diseases of the skin, such as eczema.
Is foot cellulitis more common?
The lower limbs, and particularly the feet, are more susceptible to cellulitis for a number of reasons. The reservoir for the infecting bacterial organisms is often the interdigital toe spaces, especially when maceration, scaling and fissuring are present. Also, the feet and lower limbs have a gravitational strain greater than any other area of the body. This venous pressure, especially when combined with venous insufficiency or traumatic breaks in the skin, makes this area of the body more vulnerable to bacterial colonization and infection with these organisms.
If you would like to make contact with the Australasian College of Dermatologists you may do so via the following contact details:
Telephone: (02) 8741 4101