Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Hand Cellulitis

hand cellulitis medical examination

Hand cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects the deep skin layers in the hand area. This occurs usually after a skin injury involving the hand. Manual workers are more exposed to this type of infections. The main bacterial causes are Strep and Staph strains.

Hand cellulitis is usually a benign condition. However, it can progress quickly into a severe state of infection and cause lasting damage if the treatment is delayed.

In this article, we explain how to recognize the common signs and symptoms of hand cellulitis. We also present the risk factors and the general treatment for this condition.


Signs, Symptoms and Complications

The common signs and symptoms of hand cellulitis are skin redness and warmth. The affected hand may feel extremely hot in comparison to the healthy one. There may also be a slight pain in the hand. An increase in the tenderness and redness, as well as swelling, may indicate that the condition is developing.

hand cellulitis - signs, symptoms and complications

It is crucial to begin the treatment as soon as possible to prevent serious complications. Local complications include damage to the many muscle ligaments and sheets surrounding the delicate hand muscles, as well as the small vessels; if the infection lasts, it can lead to permanent damage and a handicap.

The infection can also spread to the bloodstream and threaten other organs in the body. When the bacterial infection spreads to the blood, a condition called sepsis, it will be accompanied with chills and fever. These latter signs require immediate medical attention.



A doctor will typically examine the hand and assess the extent of the inflammation. He/she may ask some routine questions, about general health status and the circumstances of the incident (accident, injury, insect bite etc..). After, an examination of the affected area, a doctor may request a blood test. This can quickly confirm the presence of the infection. Diagnosis is usually made on the same day.

Overall, the main role of the medical assessment is to rule out more serious hand infections such as septic arthritis or tendinitis.


Risk Factors

Some risk factors increase the chances of cellulitis infection. Any trauma to the hand is a risk factor. These include all cuts, bruises, and insect bites.

It is essential to treat these as soon as they occur properly. Wounds require immediate proper washing. It is also important to cover the wound with an appropriate dressing.

A lack of general hygiene is another key risk factor. Overall, it is essential always to wash hands with soap.


Hand Cellulitis Treatment

The treatment for hand cellulitis involves a regular course of antibiotics that needs to be followed according to the doctor’s instructions. This will completely eradicate the infection.

Meanwhile, the patient/individual should ideally rest their hand since activity can increase redness and pain. Additionally, the hand should be kept in an elevated position. This will help to reduce any inflammation.

The doctor will make a new appointment to verify the healing of the hand and to confirm that the infection is gone.

Additional treatment may be required for more serious conditions. In severe cases, the patient may need to be hospitalized for intravenous administration of antibiotics and close follow-up.

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Thouria Bensaoula on Sept 24, 2019.

Last article update: 9/28/2019