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Cellulitis is a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection. The affected skin appears swollen and red and is typically painful and warm to the touch. Cellulitis usually affects the skin on the lower legs, but it can occur on the face, arms, and other areas. It occurs when a crack or break in your skin allows bacteria to enter. Left untreated, the infection can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream and rapidly become life-threatening. It isn’t usually spread from person to person.

Cellulitis is fairly common and affects people of all races and ages. Men and women appear to be equally affected. Although cellulitis can occur in people of any age, it is most common in middle-aged and elderly people. Cellulitis is not contagious.


Cellulitis occurs when bacteria, most commonly streptococcus and staphylococcus, enter through a crack or break in your skin. The incidence of a more serious staphylococcus infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is increasing.

Although cellulitis can occur anywhere on your body, the most common location is the lower leg. Bacteria are most likely to enter disrupted areas of skin, such as where you’ve had recent surgery, cuts, puncture wounds, ulcer, athlete’s foot, or dermatitis. Animal bites can also cause cellulitis.

  • Cellulitis in the leg: Cellulitis is a leg infection caused by bacterial invasion through skin breaches.
  • Cellulitis on the leg: Cellulitis causes redness, swelling, and pain in the affected area when it happens on the leg.
  • Face cellulitis: Facial cellulitis manifests as facial edema, discomfort, and redness, necessitating rapid medical treatment.
  • Infection with cellulitis: Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection caused by Streptococcus or Staphylococcus.

Cellulitis is usually caused by germs getting into the skin through cuts, wounds, insect bites, or even dry, cracked skin.


Possible signs and cellulitis symptoms, which usually occur on one side of the body, include:

  • The red area of skin that tends to expand
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Warmth
  • Fever
  • Red spots
  • Blisters
  • Skin dimpling


A doctor will examine the individual and assess their symptoms. They may also take a swab or biopsy to find out which type of bacteria is present. Laboratory tests can help rule out other possible causes, as other conditions may look like cellulitis.

Identifying the cause and type of bacteria enables a doctor to prescribe the most suitable treatment. However, this can be challenging, as the presence of various types of bacteria on the skin can lead to inaccurate results.


Cellulitis treatment usually includes a prescription oral antibiotic. Within three days of starting an antibiotic, let your doctor know whether the infection is responding to treatment. You’ll need to take the antibiotic for as long as your doctor directs, usually five to 10 days but possibly as long as 14 days. In most cases, signs, and symptoms of cellulitis disappear after a few days. You may need to get hospitalized in order to receive antibiotics intravenously, if:

  • Signs and symptoms don’t respond to oral antibiotics
  • Signs and symptoms are extensive
  • You have a high fever

Usually, doctors prescribe a drug that’s effective against both streptococci and staphylococci. It’s important that you take the medication as directed and finish the entire course of medication, even after you feel better.

When To See A Doctor

It’s important to identify and treat cellulitis early because the condition can spread rapidly throughout your body. Seek emergency care if:

  • You have a red, swollen, tender rash or a rash that’s changing rapidly
  • You have a fever

See your doctor, preferably that day, if:

  • You have a rash that’s red, swollen, tender, and warm, or if it’s expanding but without fever


This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about cellulitis or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.