Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and subcutaneous (under-the-skin) tissues that occurs when bacteria like Streptococcus and Staphylococcus enter the skin.
Where Do These Bacteria Enter the Body?
Although sometimes a portal of entry (where the bacteria enters the body) may not be obvious, bacteria are more likely to penetrate the skin in disrupted areas. These areas include:
- Dermatitis (inflamed skin)
- Animal bites
- Puncture wounds
The risk of cellulitis may increase with:
- Dry or flaky skin
- Skin conditions, such as eczema or shingles
- Chronic tinea pedis (athlete’s foot), which causes scaling, erythema (red, patchy skin), and erosion of the skin between and underneath the toes
- A compromised immune system or an immunosuppressive disease, such as diabetes
- Circulatory issues like venous stasis, a condition causing slow blood flow in the veins that usually affects the legs
- Lymphedema, a chronic swelling of arms or legs
- Regular use of intravenous (IV) drugs
- Contact sports or sharing exercise equipment
How is cellulitis transmitted?
Even though cellulitis is a bacterial infection, it usually does not transmit from person to person. A possible exception might be if a person with cellulitis has skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an open wound.
Will cellulitis go away on its own?
Less severe cases of cellulitis may resolve on their own; however, you may need prescription oral antibiotics. In most cases, cellulitis disappears a few days after starting on antibiotics. More severe cellulitis may require hospitalization and intravenous (IV) antibiotics.