Cellulitis is an infection of the deeper layers of the skin that occurs when bacteria enter the skin through an opening. Any break in the skin can result in cellulitis. The internal nature of this infection raises the likelihood of transmission to the lymph nodes and bloodstream. If left untreated, cellulitis can become serious resulting in amputation and even death. Risk factors that raise the likelihood of cellulitis include a compromised immune system, skin conditions such as eczema or athlete's foot, chronic swelling in the arms or legs, and obesity. Surgery, burns, scrapes, or animal bites can also increase risk. As well, people with a history of cellulitis are more likely to develop it again.
Cellulitis can develop quickly into a more serious condition. In some cases, the condition damages the lymph vessels, blocking the drainage of fluids and causing chronic swelling. The infection may spread to the deeper layers of the fascia and become necrotizing fasciitis. The best way to prevent cellulitis is to avoid injuries to the skin. If you have a wound, keep it clean, covered, and apply a protective ointment. If you have had surgery, follow your surgeon's instructions to prevent cellulitis.
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