Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Cellulitis facts
- What is cellulitis?
- What are cellulitis symptoms and signs?
- Where does cellulitis occur?
- What does cellulitis look like?
- What are cellulitis risk factors?
- What causes cellulitis?
- Is cellulitis contagious?
- How is cellulitis diagnosed, and what is the treatment for cellulitis?
- Can cellulitis be prevented?
- What is the outlook/prognosis for cellulitis?
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- Take the MRSA Quiz
- MRSA - Slideshow
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
Where does cellulitis occur?
Cellulitis may occur anywhere on the body, but the lower leg is the most common site of the infection (particularly in the area of the tibia or shinbone and in the foot; see the illustration below), followed by the arm, and then the head and neck areas. In special circumstances, such as following surgery or trauma wounds, cellulitis can develop in the abdomen or chest areas. People with morbid obesity can also develop cellulitis in the abdominal skin. Special types of cellulitis are sometimes designated by the location of the infection. Examples include periorbital (around the eye socket) cellulitis, buccal (cheek) cellulitis, facial cellulitis, and perianal cellulitis.
What does cellulitis look like?
The signs of cellulitis include redness, warmth, swelling, tenderness, and pain in the involved tissues. Any skin wound or ulcer that exhibits these signs may be developing cellulitis.
Other forms of noninfected inflammation may mimic cellulitis. People with poor leg circulation, for instance, often develop scaly redness on the shins and ankles; this is called "stasis dermatitis" and is often mistaken for the bacterial infection of cellulitis.
What are cellulitis risk factors?
Most commonly, cellulitis develops in the area of a break in the skin, such as a cut, small puncture wound, or insect bite. In some cases when cellulitis develops without an apparent skin injury, it may be due to microscopic cracks in the skin that is inflamed or irritated. It may also appear in the skin near ulcers or surgical wounds.
In other circumstances, cellulitis occurs where there has been no skin break at all, such as with chronic leg swelling (edema). A preexisting skin infection, such as athlete's foot (tinea pedis) or impetigo can predispose to the development of cellulitis. Likewise, inflammatory conditions of the skin like eczema, psoriasis, or skin damage caused by radiation therapy can lead to cellulitis.
People who have diabetes or conditions that compromise the function of the immune system (for example, HIV/AIDS or those receiving chemotherapy or drugs that suppress the immune system) are particularly prone to developing cellulitis.
Conditions that reduce the circulation of blood in the veins or that reduce circulation of the lymphatic fluid (such as venous insufficiency, obesity, pregnancy, or surgeries) also increase the risk of developing cellulitis.
Next: What causes cellulitis?
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