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1. Life / Health & Healing / Medical Conditions, Procedures & Prevention

Created: 26th February 2002
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Cellulitis is a type of non-contagious skin infection. It tends to infect the deeper layers of the skin (unlike impetigo which infects the superficial layers), and is usually caused by Staphylococcus or streptococci bacteria. It is unpleasant, and worth avoiding, but can become especially dangerous for diabetics. While not common, the combination of the effects of cellulitis and diabetes may result in death.


There are several different types of cellulitis:

  • Standard Cellulitis commonly affects the lower parts of the leg.

  • Facial Cellulitis usually only occurs in adults over 50 and children under three.

  • Perianal Cellulitis usually only occurs in children.

  • Preseptal and Orbital Cellulitis effects the eyelid. Preseptal is a minor example of cellulitis, while orbital tends to be worse.


The main cause of cellulitis is through infection by bacteria of some type of skin lesion. This lesion can be as simple as a cut, scrape, bite, burn or blister, or it may also sometimes occur after surgery.

Cellulitis may also appear if you have been taking immunosuppressive medicines or may result from erysiplas, a superficial streptococcal skin infection. People with a history of various other ailments, such as diabetes or ulcers, may also be at risk.


Symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Raised, painful, warm, inflamed skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Hair loss (over the infected area)
  • General malaise
  • Blistering, pustulations


The normal treatment for cellulitis is through the use of antibiotics. However, because the infection attacks the deeper layers of the skin tablets can sometimes be ineffective. In these circumstances it is instead necessary for the antibiotics to be delivered directly into the blood stream via a drip or injection, and the patient will require hospitalisation. Such internal treatment may need to be given for several days. When the infection has started to subside it will then be possible for the patient to leave hospital and continue with a simple course of tablets.

In extreme cases, for example, where the patient is diabetic, the treatment can, unfortunately, result in the need for amputation, where physically practical. While there is also potential for fatality, this is rare.

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Written and Researched by:

The Ghost of Polidari

Edited by:

The Apprentice

Referenced Entries:

Vomiting - a Cautionary Tale from New Zealand

Related BBC Pages:

BBC Health
First Aid


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