Cellulitis is an infection caused by bacteria in soft tissues beneath superficial skin. Staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria are the main culprits behind cellulitis infections. While the condition is relatively common, most patients are able to recover without complications.
Any detailed cellulitis definition will tell you that the condition is not contagious. This however doesn’t mean that a localized infection will not keep spreading. In fact, spreading is what makes cellulitis potentially dangerous. Cellulitis throat infection for example is a considered a risk factor for scrotal cellulitis. Strep throat or pneumonia in kids soon spreads to the eyes.
The first signs present as reddened and swollen areas. Like most bacterial infections, affected areas may become hot and tender. Systematic symptoms of illness such as chills, fever and swollen lymph nodes soon develop.
Early treatment is important to prevent cellulitis complications and improve nursing diagnosis for cellulitis.
Cellulitis after surgery infection
Cellulitis after surgery is not uncommon. The many incision sites in surgery patients readily act as entry points for bacteria. There are many bacteria that harmless live on human skin. Once there is an opening on skin, these bacteria can reach soft tissues where they divide and cause infection. This is what happens during surgery.
Commonly affected areas are the buttocks and breasts. Cellulitis on buttocks may for example develop after reduction or increment surgery. On the breasts, surgery to treat cancer, reduce, enlarge or correct breasts may be the cause.
Not always will surgery patients develop cellulitis. There are certain factors that make some patients more susceptible than others. These include:
- Cancer treatments
- Poor wound care
- Multiple surgeries
- Intravenous drugs use
Signs and symptoms begin in a localized area, around where bacteria entered. Redness and swelling appear first. They are a result of body’s natural reaction to pathogens. In most cases, inflammation occurs around a site where foreign substances have been introduced in the body. This is what happens in case of early cellulitis.
With increased activity as immune cells fight bacteria and as bacteria rapidly divide, the affected area feels hot and tender. This may be accompanied by tightening and hardening. In most cases, immune cells will not be able to contain invading bacteria. The bacteria will therefore spread, first to adjacent tissues, then to blood and later perhaps distant organs. Systematic symptoms such as fever and chills will show up soon after infection has started spreading.
Treatment is done with antibiotics. A couple of tests will be required to confirm the nature of pathogen causing infection. This is particularly because MRSA is common in hospital premises and may be responsible for cellulitis after surgery. You can ask your doctor about taking antibiotics before and after surgery.
Cellulitis abscess pictures, causes and treatments
Boils, abscesses and cellulitis can mimic each other. Boils develop when hair follicles get blocked and infected with bacteria. Presence of bacteria causes pus formation which collects under the skin. Boils are usually painful, tender and feel hot. An abscess is what a large boil could actually be. It develops much deeper in the skin. Affected areas are redder and more swollen. Cellulitis is an infection that develops beneath the dermis. Sometimes, cellulitis results in abscess as commonly seen with MRSA infections.
Cellulitis abscess makes the condition more painful. Doctors are sometimes able to recognize its symptoms during physical examination. Imaging tests are required in most cases, however. This is especially true when dealing with abscess in the mouth or abscess on the face. Orbital cellulitis also requires imaging tests to check for abscesses.
Surgery is usually required to completely remove cellulitis abscess. Incision surgery is more preferable, although draining can be done with a needle and syringe. This however may encourage recurring cellulitis. Antibiotics are given afterwards to ensure complete removal of infection.
Although cellulitis is often painful, formation of an abscess makes the pain worse. Patients should consult their doctors immediately when this happens. This is mostly because the infection may be resulting from MRSA. MRSA doesn’t readily respond to treatment with commonly prescribed antibiotics. Even worse, tests to check for this bacteria type often bring disappointing results.
Complications of cellulitis infection
Some complications of cellulitis can be very severe while others are manageable even at home. They include:
Cellulitis sepsis is one of the deadly complications. When infection reaches the circulatory system, certain chemicals are released to fight off the invading pathogens. These chemicals sometimes trigger inflammation throughout the body. When severe, this leads to systematic organ failure, sending the victim to septic shock and probable death.
Signs of early sepsis include difficult breathing, confusion, fever and increased heart rate. Drop in blood pressure indicate advancing sepsis.
Treatment is done with antibiotics. Patients are also given IV fluids to raise blood pressure. When too low, medications that constrict blood vessels are used to raise blood pressure.
The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by membranes. As mentioned earlier, tissues usually get inflamed when invaded by a pathogen. Infection in the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord undergo the same inflammation process once infection reaches them. This leads to the dangerous condition known as meningitis. Victims can die within minutes.
Signs and symptoms include severe headache, high fever, seizures and stiffness in the neck. Meningitis is more likely to develop as a complication of facial, orbital or periorbital cellulitis where no cellulitis cure has been given. See periorbital cellulitis pictures for illustrations.
Lymph nodes are connected with lymphatic vessels which transport lymphatic fluid. Together, they make up the lymphatic system. This is a very important part of our immune system. Bacteria from a localized infection often spreads to the lymphatic system. There, it may cause obstruction or damage to lymphatic vessels. This leads to a weakened immune system and more notably lymphedema. Lymphedema is where some parts of the body mostly lower legs swell due to retention of lymphatic fluid. Lymphedema cellulitis is common in people with chronic legs swelling. Symptoms of cellulitis in leg may appear after sores or cracks caused by swelling.
Treatment is done with antibiotics. Since lymphedema is not curable, measures such as massage, compression garments and short walks help.
Gangrene is usually a complication of cellulitis abscess. An abscess may develop between two skin layers or in pathways of blood vessels. This may cut blood supply to some tissues or organs. As a result, most of the tissue’s cells will die due to lack of nourishment. Gangrene is said to have occurred when this happens. It is very common in scrotal cellulitis.
Early signs include skin paleness and loss of sensation. Treatment is done with surgery or needle and syringe to drain the accumulated fluid.
Other complications such as loss of vision and necrotizing fasciitis may also occur.
Nursing diagnosis for cellulitis
After treatment, nursing diagnosis for cellulitis is important to check the progress of the patient. The diagnosis may focus on the following:
A wound deep enough to result in cellulitis can be quite painful. The problem is that as long as the wound is not yet healed, cellulitis may remain a recurring problem. Pain can also result from cases such as cellulitis in nose and cellulitis eye symptoms.
Surgery to remove dead tissue or drain abscesses can result in some physical changes. Sometimes, grafting may even be required. It is important to check how patients are dealing with that. Complications such as gangrene can also lead to major changes on the skin.
Cellulitis is cannot develop unless bacteria reaches the soft tissues. But not everyone knows that. Also, factors such as having a weakened immune system and having chronic leg swelling can make cellulitis a recurring problem. It is important that patients be armed with such knowledge during recovery. In addition, patients may find it helpful to learn about home treatments or a cellulitis home remedy such as tea tree oil.
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