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Cellulitis is Serious

CELLULITIS DESCRIBED

Cellulitis is a serious bacterial infection that can develop very rapidly in tissues affected by lymphedema.

  • Normally healthy skin protects these tissues and prevents infections; 
  • When the tissues are damaged by lymphedema, even a minor break in the skin (such as an insect bite or a paper cut) can allow bacteria to enter the underlying tissues to rapidly create a life-threatening infection.
  • Because these infections develop and spread so rapidly, it is important that the patient, and caregiver, know how to recognize the earliest symptoms and respond immediately appropriately.
  • Unless treated promptly these infections can become so serious that hospitalization can be required. 
  • Worse yet, uncontrolled cellulitis can be fatal. 

THE CAUSES OF CELLULITIS

  • Cellulitis is caused by the Staphyloccus bacteria (also known as staph)
    and/or by Streptococcus (also known as strep).
  • These bacteria normally live harmlessly on healthy skin; however when the skin and underlying tissues are damaged by lymphedema, any break in the skin can allow these bacteria to enter the  affected underlying tissues.
  • It is here that a serious infection rapidly develops into cellulitis which has the potential of becoming a very serious infection that can require hospitalization to allow the administration of intravenous antibiotics.

SUGGESTIONS AND PRECAUTIONS

  • When you are diagnosed with lymphedema, add to your list of questions to ask your physician is how to recognize the symptoms of cellulitis at an early stage.
  • Also discuss why prompt administration of the appropriate antibiotic, as soon as possible, is essential.
  • Many antibiotics what might be recommended have very serious side-effects. Discuss these and any allergies or other reasons why certain antibiotics should not be appropriate for you.
  • Once you and your doctor have determined which antibiotic might be best for you, ask your doctor for a prescription for this medication to have on hand in case of an emergency.   
  • Have this prescription filled and the medication stored in a safe place with the instructions for its use. Read about this antibiotic and any possible side effects -- this could save you problems later.
  • HOWEVER at the first signs of an infection, contact your physician but DO NOT begin taking this medication until your physician has told you to do so.

CAUTION!!!

Many antibiotics have such strong side effects that the drug by itself can be dangerous.Do not start treatment with the the strongest medication.

SYMPTOMS OF CELLULITIS 

Cellulitis developing on the lower legs.
              © Lymph Notes

  • Achy, flu-like symptoms.
  • A sudden increase in swelling
  • Rapidly increasing redness or streaky red lines on the skin.
  • Chills and fever, particularly if the fever increases rapidly.
  • When the tissues feel hot and tender.
  • An itching rash develops.

 AN OVERVIEW OF CELLULITIS ALERTS  

  • Do not underestimate the seriousness of a cellulitis infection.
  • At the first sign of trouble, seek medical help immediately. 
  • Your physician is responsible for the medical treatment of cellulitis. You, and your lymphedema therapist, should follow the doctor's orders.
  • Carefully follow your physician's instructions. 

CELLULITIS TREATMENT

  • Penicillin-related antibiotics have traditionally been used for this purpose; however treatments have become more difficult with the emergence of MRSA (methicillin resistant staphyloccus aureus); some strains have developed resistantance to penicillin-related antibiotics.
  • However if the infection is severe, or if other complications are present intravenous administration of the antibiotics, and close monitoring to detect complications may be required.

 

THE INFECTED AREA SHOULD NOT BE MASSAGED BY ANYONE, INCLUDING A THERAPIST OR THE PATIENT, UNTIL THE PATIENT HAS BEEN ON ANTIBIOTIC FOR AT LEAST 48 HOURS AND HAS BEEN GIVEN CLEARANCE BY HIS OR HER PHYSICIAN
 

© LymphNotes.com 2015.This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.                    

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'Living With Lymphedema' forum.
Category: Living With Lymphedema Updated: 2014-12-15


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