Erysipelas is a bacterial skin infection that affects the upper layers of your skin. It is related to cellulitis, an infection that affects the deeper layers of your skin. Here are five things you need to know about erysipelas.
What are the symptoms of erysipelas?
If you have erysipelas, you will have a bright red rash on your face or on your limbs. This rash has raised, well-defined borders. These well-defined borders help to distinguish erysipelas from cellulitis. The rash will feel hot to the touch and the affected skin may also be tender.
What causes it?
Erysipelas occurs when bacteria breach your skin barrier. Typically, the bacteria responsible are streptococci, though other bacteria can sometimes be responsible. Minor trauma such as bug bites or scratches can allow the bacteria to get inside your skin. The breaks in your skin may be so small that you can't see them, but since bacteria are very small, they are able to get inside.
Immunosuppression can also play a role in the development of this infection. If you have a compromised immune system due to HIV infection, cancer treatment, organ transplantation, or other causes, you will be less able to fight off the bacteria.
Is it serious?
Most of the time, the prognosis for people with this condition is very good. The mortality rate is less than 1% among people who seek treatment. However, many complications are possible. Minor complications include chronic swelling in the area or scarring of the skin. More serious complications include gangrene, abscesses, or meningitis. To avoid complications, make sure to get treatment right away.
How do doctors treat it?
The main treatment for erysipelas is oral antibiotics. In addition to the antibiotics, your doctor may prescribe prednisone, a type of steroid, to help reduce the inflammation and soreness in your skin.
Recurrence for this condition is common, so your doctor may also recommend steps for prevention. For example, keeping your skin hydrated may be helpful as this may keep you from scratching your dry skin and introducing bacteria.
Is it common?
Erysipelas is a fairly common skin infection: its reported incidence is approximately 200 cases for every 100,000 patient-years. It tends to affect either young children or older adults. It is also more common among people who are immunocompromised or among people who have lymphatic drainage problems.
If you have a hot, red rash on your skin, you may have erysipelas. Make an appointment with your doctor right away to have your rash evaluated and treated.
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