Erysipelas – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Erysipelas is a bacterial infection in the upper layer of the skin. Erysipelas is almost the same as another skin disorder called cellulitis, but cellulitis is an infection in the lower skin layer. These two conditions are similar in appearance and are treated in the same way.

Erysipelas is usually caused by Streptococcus Group A bacteria, the same bacteria that cause strep throat. This infection will cause extensive red skin with firm borders. Erectile disease usually attacks the face and legs. Erysipelas often improve with treatment. This infection is effectively treated with antibiotics.

Causes of Erysipelas

Erysipelas disease occurs when Group A Streptococcal bacteria invade the skin and enter the skin. These bacteria normally do exist on the skin and other body surfaces without causing damage or any disease. However, when there is inflammation or sores on the skin, these bacteria enter and cause infection. Conditions that cause lesions in the skin can be in the form of eczema or “athlete’s foot”, which opens a gap for bacteria to enter and cause erysipelas. Erysipelas can also occur when bacteria spread from the nose and then cause infections in the nose and throat.

Other causes of erysipelas include:

  • Ulcer or wound on the skin
  • Slices on the skin due to the surgical process
  • Insect bite
  • Certain conditions such as psoriasis
  • Swollen feet due to health problems such as heart failure or diabetes
  • Injections from illegal drugs such as heroin injections.

Erysipelas symptoms

Often, a person will feel unwell before signs of erysipelas appear on the skin. Symptoms can include fever, chills and high temperatures.

Symptoms of erysipelas typically include:

  • Feeling unwell
  • Patterns of lesions on the skin that are red, swollen, and painful with a sharply demarcated and thickened edge
  • The affected skin area is shiny
  • Enlarged glands

The skin is usually affected in certain areas and can appear in one of the following ways:

  • Swollen and sparkling
  • Reddish
  • Warm and soft to the touch
  • Blisters in severe cases
  • Sharp edge between affected area and unaffected skin
  • Red streaks above the affected area
  • Can turn purple or black in severe cases.

When erysipelas invade the face, the swollen area usually covers the nose and cheeks.

Erysipelas Risk Factors

Children especially between the ages of 2-6 years and adults over 60 years, tend to get erysipelas. Older adults such as the elderly have a weakened immune system or people who have just had surgery do tend to get erysipelas infection.

Erysipelas diagnosis

The doctor diagnoses erysipelas simply by examining physically and asking you about the symptoms. During the examination, the doctor will check for swelling, redness, and warm areas of the skin on the face and legs. The doctor will also ask if you have other types of infections or small cuts on the skin such as cuts or scratches.

Erysipelas Treatment

Most people with erysipelas can be treated at home, but some people require hospitalization. Depending on the severity of the condition, the therapeutic plan can include home care, medication, and surgery.

1. Treatment of erysipelas at home

Usually, the swollen body parts due to this infection need to be elevated in a higher position than other body parts in order to reduce swelling. For example, if your leg is affected, the foot must be elevated (raised) above the waist. You can also provide a pillow on the legs so that the foot is higher in position. It is also important to drink enough fluids and to walk around and change positions from time to time. The affected leg may need to be elevated for several days before the swelling heals.

2. Treatment of erysipelas at home

Antibiotics, such as penicillin, are a common therapy for erysipelas. You can take medication as prescribed at home if you have a mild case. Treatment requires approximately one week. More serious cases of erysipelas require treatment in a hospital, where antibiotics can be given via venous (IV) lines.

Young children and the elderly need therapy in the hospital. Sometimes, bacteria do not respond to antibiotics that have been given and it is very important to try other antibiotics. The doctor will also provide pain relief and fever. Antifungal treatment for athlete’s foot disease is also needed for erysipelas.

3. Erectile surgery

Surgery is needed in very rare cases where the disease gets worse quickly and causes healthy tissue to die. Surgery is needed to cut dead body tissue.

Prognosis and Complications of Erysipelas

For most people, antibiotics will be effective in treating erysipelas. However, in some people who experience long-term erysipelas, which do require long-term antibiotic medication as prevention. Without therapy, there are serious complications of the erysipelas condition, including:

  • Abscess
  • Frozen blood
  • Gangrene, a condition that triggers tissue death
  • Blood poisoning, where the infection spreads throughout the body through the bloodstream
  • Infection of the heart valve
  • Bone and joint infections.

Infection can also spread to the brain if erysipelas occur near the eyes or face.

Prevention of Erysipelas

Although erysipelas are not always preventable, the following steps can minimize the risks:

  • Get used to keep the wound clean
  • Proper treatment for “athlete’s foot” if you experience it
  • Use moisturizer to prevent dry and chapped skin
  • Prevent getting scratches or sores on the skin
  • Convince skin diseases such as eczema get appropriate and effective therapy.

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