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Cellulitis

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by bacteria.


CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

Your skin may swell and separate from the tissue and bone beneath it. You may have severe swelling in your arms or legs. Your lymph system may become damaged and increase your risk for more cellulitis infections. Your lymph system is part of your body's defense against illness and disease. You may form blood clots in nearby blood vessels. Your skin and nearby tissues may die and start to peel. Your infection may spread to your bone, blood, kidneys, and heart. This can be life-threatening.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to kill the bacteria that caused your cellulitis. This may be given as a pill or ointment.

  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.

    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.

    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.

Tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Wound cultures: Cultures are done to show what kind of germ is causing your infection. A swab of the draining area on your skin is sent to a lab for tests.

  • Biopsy: A small piece of tissue from your infected skin is sent to a lab for tests. A biopsy may show what germ is causing your infection. A biopsy may also be done to see if your infection is caused by another kind of skin disorder.

  • X-rays: An x-ray may show if your skin infection has spread.

  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your tissues on a monitor. An ultrasound may be done to show if there are areas under your skin where pus has collected.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray uses a computer to take pictures of your infected skin area. The pictures may show if the infection has spread to other areas. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

  • MRI: This scan uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your infected skin area. An MRI may show if you have pus collecting under your skin. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell caregivers if you have any metal in or on your body.

Treatment:

  • Abscess drainage: An abscess is a pocket of pus that collects below the skin. An abscess may form when your body is trying to fight an infection. Caregivers drain the pus by putting a needle through your skin into the abscess.

  • Debridement: Caregivers may cut away damaged, dead, or infected tissue to help the wounds heal.

  • Pressure stockings or boots: Compression stockings or pressure boots may be needed to help decrease swelling in an infected leg. The stockings and boots may also help decrease your risk for blood clots. Ask your caregiver for more information about compression stockings or boots.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Cellulitis (Inpatient Care)

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