Cellulitis is a common skin infection caused by bacteria.

See also:

Alternative Names

Skin infection - bacterial


Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria are the most common causes of cellulitis.

Normal skin has many types of bacteria living on it. When there is a break in the skin, these bacteria can cause a skin infection. Skin in the infected area will become red, hot, irritated, and painful.

Risk factors for cellulitis include:


Symptoms of cellulitis include:

Signs of infection:

Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may reveal:

Your health care provider may mark the edges of the redness with a pen, to see if the redness goes past the marked border over the next several days.

Tests that may be done:


Most of the time, treatment involves antibiotics taken by mouth and close follow-up by your doctor. You may be given painkillers.

You should raise the infected area higher than your heart to reduce swelling. Rest until your symptoms improve.

You may need to stay in a hospital if:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Cellulitis usually goes away with 7 - 10 days of antibiotics. Longer treatment may be needed if cellulitis is more severe. This may occur if you have a chronic diseases or your immune system is not working properly.

People with fungal infections of the feet may have cellulitis that keeps coming back. The cracks in the skin from the fungal infection allows the bacteria entry to the skin.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

Seek medical attention immediately if the cellulitis is on your face.


Protect your skin by:

Whenever you have a break in the skin:


Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009; chap 9.

Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 90.

Review Date: 5/13/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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