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How can I diagnose and treat cellulitis?

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THIS ARTICLE WILL TELL YOU ABOUT

  • The causes of cellulitis
  • How the condition is diagnosed and treated
  • Other skin conditions that increase the risk of recurrent cellulitis

 

YOU WOULD BE LIKELY TO REFERENCE THIS ARTICLE IF YOU WERE RESEARCHING:

  • Skin infections
  • Assessment of skin conditions affecting the lower limb
  • Dermatology

 

IN WHAT SITUATIONS WILL THIS ARTICLE BE USEFUL TO ME?

Cellulitis is an acute spreading bacterial infection of the connective tissue, dermis and subcutaneous layers of the skin. It is an “opportunistic” infection commonly occurring through breaks in the skin. It is important to understand the presentation of cellulitis as is often confused with other dermatological condition such as venous stasis eczema.

If you are working in primary care you may see patients with signs and symptoms of cellulitis associated with minor cuts and wounds. Sometime patients require admission to acute care if they have developed serious complications including necrotising fasciitis, osteomyelitis and bacteraemia so accurate assessment and diagnosis is vital.

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOUR MENTOR/TUTOR

  • Which patients are most at risk of cellulitis?
  • When should a patient with cellulitis be referred to acute care?

 

STUDENT NT DECODER

Lymphangitis - Infection of lymph vessels. This may be present in more severe cases of cellulitis, appearing as a red line originating from the cellulitis and leading to tender swollen lymph glands draining the affected area (for example, in the groin with leg cellulitis).

Venous stasis eczema (varicose eczema) – This is a common inflammatory condition affecting the lower limbs and often coexists with varicose veins. Clinical signs include inflamed red eczematous skin, itch, scaling, sometimes weeping crusting skin, pigmentation (haemosiderin deposit), hardened skin, tight red/brown skin/tissues (lipodermatosclerosis - vulnerable to ulceration), atrophy blanching.

Secondary lymphoedema This is caused by damage or disruption to the lymphatic system as a result of an infection, injury, trauma or cancer.

 

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