Melbourne Hand Surgery

Cellulitis

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and the underlying connective tissue. It is most commonly due to bacteria that are commonly found on the skin, like Staphylococcus and Streptococcus. It can be the result of cracked skin, cuts, bites, blisters, burns, surgery, injections or any other break in the skin.

What are the symptoms?

Cellulitis is associated with skin redness, throbbing pain, skin sensitivity, swelling and increased warmth of the affected skin. The redness increases in area as the cellulitis worsens, and often travels up the forearm and arm. There may be discomfort in the lymph nodes in the armpit and you may have fevers and shakes, and feel generally unwell.

Risk factors

Cellulitis is more likely to occur and be troublesome in individuals who have diabetes, lymphoedema or immune compromise.

Treatment

Treating cellulitis of the hand and forearm involves a combination of

  • elevation
  • antibiotics
  • splinting
  • pain relief
  • rest
  • +/- surgical cleaning of the entry wound or any blistered skin or devitalised tissue
  • identifying the bacterial source of the infection through swabs, blood cultures and/or tissue culture

If cellulitis is not responding promptly to treatment it is advisable to see a surgeon. Cellulitis can progress to become serious and it can also mimic a variety of other infective conditions that require surgery, such as abscess formation, necrotising fasciitis, septic arthritis or flexor tenosynovitis.

FRACS

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