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Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria. It can be triggered by damage to the skin, and needs prompt treatment. A Livi doctor explains.

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is an infection of the skin that’s caused by a bacteria.

It can affect anyone. But it’s more likely to occur if the normal protective skin layer has been damaged, as this allows bacteria to enter the skin more easily. If cellulitis causes complications, it can be serious and would need prompt treatment.

Common causes of cellulitis include:

  • A wound – either from an injury or from surgery

  • An insect bite

  • Other skin conditions, like eczema or psoriasis, which cause the skin to dry out, crack or fissure

  • Poor circulation – this prevents wounds healing as quickly and reduces skin quality, often causing dry skin and fluid build-up

  • A skin ulcer or pressure ulcer (bedsore)

  • Drug injection sites

Cellulitis is also more common in those with a weakened immune system. Once you’ve had one episode of cellulitis, it’s not uncommon for it to recur again.

Symptoms of cellulitis

An area of skin that is:

  • Red

  • Hot to touch

  • Tender

  • Swollen

With more severe cellulitis infections there may also be:

  • A temperature

  • Shivering or chills

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea or vomiting

Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly affects the hands, legs and feet.

Cellulitis treatment

Cellulitis needs prompt treatment with oral antibiotics. A GP would be able to prescribe appropriate antibiotics for cellulitis.

If, despite taking oral treatment for cellulitis, the area of skin affected is spreading, becoming more painful or swollen, you may need antibiotics administered through a vein. This requires assessment in hospital. This may also be the case if you develop other symptoms with cellulitis, like a temperature or vomiting.

When to see a GP

  • If you develop a patch of skin with symptoms of cellulitis

  • If the area of cellulitis is growing, despite taking oral antibiotics

  • If the cellulitis is getting rapidly worse

  • If you develop a temperature, or feel sick and unwell in yourself, despite taking antibiotics

  • If you have a weakened immune system or are taking medication to suppress the immune system

  • If you have diabetes

  • If you develop cellulitis around the eye

Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

Lead GP at Livi

Last updated: