Leg Cellulitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Options and More Useful Information

leg cellulitis

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.


Bacterial Causes

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

lower leg cellulitisMedical 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.


Cellulitis Leg Diagnosing

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.


Treatment Options

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).


Can Penicillin Effectively Prevent Recurrent Leg Cellulitis?

The first sign that our immune system is endangered is when we catch a cold or infection. Treating the common infections and medical conditions is successful with both medications and alternative medicine (herbs, meditations, energy therapies, acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and more), however, when infection is more severe and unpleasant, which infection such as cellulitis can be, we need to be more careful and informed about the treatment.

Even though we have talked in details about the causes, symptoms and treatments of cellulitis, it is mandatory we share information, once again, on the treatments with penicillin, given the severity of this infection, especially leg cellulitis.

Although alternative way of treating cellulitis, that is herbal medicine, grew in popularity in recent years, many still opt for antibiotic treatment of leg cellulitis. It is always better to have several ways to treat a certain condition, however, it is also better to know what researchers have concluded and accomplished in recent studies.

A group of researchers published a study Penicillin to Prevent Recurrent Leg Cellulitis in The New England Journal of Medicine. The focus of the research, as one can see from the title of the study, is to determine the period of time in which penicillin can effectively treat leg cellulitis in those patients who had already suffered this infection.

The participants were chosen from 28 hospitals in the United Kingdom and Ireland between July 2006 and January 2010. Those who were selected for the treatment were divided in two groups, the first group received the low-dose oral penicillin, and the second placebo (magnesium stearate, cellulose, starch, calcium phosphate) twice a day for 12 months.

As reported on health.usnews.com, lead researcher Hywel Williams of the University of Nottingham, explained:

“The penicillin reduced recurrences from 37 percent in the group taking placebo to 22 percent in those taking penicillin. But this effect only occurred in the period that folks took the penicillin. When they stopped the 12 months of penicillin, the protective effect wore off.”

Given that the common treatment for cellulitis is with antibiotics, the results of a report does not surprise us, however, what seems to be concerned is that the scientist are not sure whether or not the bacteria will develop a resistance to this treatment with antibiotics.

“We now know for the first time that low-dose penicillin works, but we don’t know how long it should be taken for and whether giving long-term antibiotics may cause resistance problems in the community in the long term, or whether it should be given for people with a first episode of cellulitis or just those with two or more previous episodes,” Williams said.

The primary results of the research showed that participant who took penicillin saw a recurrence of cellulitis 626 days after the treatment stopped, while those who were in the placebo group saw the recurrence after 532 days.

The research, however, concluded that the main cause of cellulitis is group A streptococci, and that patients who had two or more episodes of leg cellulitis had fewer recurrences due to the penicillin they received for 12 months.

In case you suffer from this infection, or you are just curious about herbal treatments, you can find different information on our web site. For instance, see the treatments with Betonite clay, Calendula, Bromelain, and Echinacea.

Since there are also alternative treatments for cellulitis, one should get familiar with these treatments as well. For those who wish to learn more about this research, they can find all information in the report.

Penicillin to Prevent Recurrent Leg Cellulitis, The New England Journal of Medicine, May 2013.

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