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6 Things That Increase Your Risk of Cellulitis

 

The common bacterial skin infection can be dangerous–so find out if you’re at high risk.

Cellulitis is an infection of the deep layers of the skin, the dermis and subcutaneous tissue. It’s caused by bacteria, and if it’s not treated immediately, cellulitis can become serious and even life-threatening if it spreads to the blood.

“Cellulitis is common, and the major cause is the streptococcus bacteria that reside on the skin,” says Amesh Adalja, MD, an emergency medicine doctor and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. Aside from the streptococcus bacteria, other kinds of bacteria that cause cellulitis are staphylococcus, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Haemophilus influenzae, and Clostridium perfringens.

The bacteria infect your skin in places where it’s broken or cracked. Breaks in your skin can be caused by scrapes, burns, surgery, fungal infections, and many other things. Even if the break in the skin is too tiny for you to see it, bacteria can get in.

Cellulitis can affect any part of the body, but it typically affects the legs, hands, and feet. It usually appears as red spots, pain, swelling, and warmth, and it may also cause a fever. “Cellulitis tends to occur more frequently in summer months,” Dr. Adalja says, possibly because the heat causes more sweating and swelling, leading to skin abnormalities. If you suspect that you have cellulitis, contact your physician as soon as possible.

Anyone can get the potentially dangerous skin infection if bacteria find their way into the layers of your skin. However, there are certain conditions that put you at a higher risk of developing cellulitis.

A weak immune system

“The immune system is the means by which the body controls infection,” Dr. Adalja explains. “When the immune system is impaired, the ability to control infection is diminished and can allow microorganisms to proliferate and cause damage.”

People with compromised immune systems–due to things like cancer, HIV/AIDS, or certain medications–should take special precautions to keep skin clean in an effort to avoid getting cellulitis. “For example, keeping the spaces between the toes dry and free of infection is one general measure to take,” Dr. Adalja says. Other ways to practice good skin hygiene are washing scratches with warm water and soap, applying moisturizer to dry skin, and washing your hands often.

 

 






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