Leg Cellulitis is defined as a skin infection which is manifested by redness, swelling, pain and warmth. People of all ages can be infected by cellulitis on the lower leg. The lymph nodes in the body may also become swollen and tender. Except on the lower leg, infections can occur anywhere on the human organic structure (systematic symptoms). In this article we will only talk about leg cellulitis, details about foot cellulitis can be found here.
Symptoms and Signs
Symptoms and signs of lower leg cellulitis may take place at the infected region of patient’s skin (local symptoms), or they can manifest along several parts of the human organic structure (known as systematic symptoms). You can read more about cellulitis symptoms by visiting this page.
Lower leg cellulitis is a disease induced by bacteria- Streptococcus. The group A of this bacteria is the most common cause of infections on the lower leg in otherwise healthy adults. It is usually found on the skin and in the throat . Some other cause of cellulitis in the lower leg in adults is a bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus , usually found on human skin and mouth and nose lining (also known as mucosa).
The most common cause of lower leg cellulitis in children under 3 years old is Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib). This bacteria sometimes may cause serious health issues.
Specific and General Risk Factors
Medical discoveries regarding cellulitis revealed that individuals with certain risk factors have a greater tendency to lower leg cellulitis than others. General risk factors such as: Vein troubles; Problems with the lymphatic system; Breaks in the skin; Obesity; Leg swelling.
Specific risk factors for cellulitis in lower leg include: Skin ulcer (diabetic ulcer); Surgical wounds; Radiation therapy; Eczema, Psoriasis, A previous episode of cellulitis; Coronary artery bypass surgery; IV antibiotics use; Chemotherapy; Pregnancy; HIV or AIDS, Diabetes, Leukemia, Lymphoma, Psoriasis, Lupus, Dyshidrosis and Heart failure.
Risk factors are not a direct cause of this type of cellulitis, but risk factors still increase the chances of disease development. Individuals who believe that they may be at risk of lower leg cellulitis should talk about it with their dermatologist.
Doctors usually diagnose lower leg cellulitis by analyzing the patient’s medical history, performing a physical examination and ordering a blood test. Looking at the infected skin area is the most reliable way of diagnosing this type of infection.
Affected area will probably be: swollen, red, warm and painful to touch. The doctor will also look for any damages of the skin (scrapes, cuts, bruises, ulcers, skin conditions) where bacteria could have entered into patient’s body.
The ultimate test that will reveal whether a cellulitis infection exists or not is a blood test.
The aim of lower leg cellulitis treatment is to heal the affected skin area and any underlying shapes that may cause a return of this type of skin and soft tissue infection.
Effective treatment involves healing process which includes antibiotics and recurrence prevention. Antibiotics are usually the first type of treatment, so if you have any allergic reaction to penicillin you must tell your dermatologist. During healing period for lower leg cellulitis you should keep the infected leg in the air whenever possible and use cold compress to help reduce pain.
Medical research has shown that about 50% of individuals who receive treatment experience a recurrence (return) of this type of infection. In this case a dermatologist may prescribe strong medicine for a longer period of time (3-6 months).
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