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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Cellulitis - Symptoms

Symptoms of cellulitis include tenderness, pain, swelling, and redness at the site of infection. If the infection spreads, you may have fever and chills, along with swollen lymph nodes. Sometimes, if cellulitis causes a high fever, you may have changes in mental function, such as confusion or sleepiness. Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body, most often on the legs, face, or arms. Although the infection is not usually severe in adults, in some cases it can spread quickly, causing more intense symptoms.

Symptoms in infants and children

In children, cellulitis often affects the face, legs, arms, or the area around the anus. Swelling and redness are often widespread and lack distinct borders.

In infants, cellulitis can be serious because their immune systems cannot protect them from infection.

Symptoms in adults

In adults, cellulitis typically develops near a surgical site or at the site of an injury, such as a burn, a cut, or an animal bite. It usually affects the legs but can occur on other areas of the body, such as the face and ears. Pain and tenderness may be the first signs of cellulitis before visible signs of infection appear.

Cellulitis often comes back (recurs), especially if you have a weakened immune system or a condition that affects the health of your skin, such as a fungal infection or diabetes. Recurrence is also more common if you have problems with your blood circulation or with the lymphatic system, which drains fluids from your tissues. Recurring infection in the legs can cause a condition called elephantiasis, an enlargement of the skin on the legs and tissues in the legs.

Other conditions with similar symptoms (such as pain, swelling, and redness) include contact dermatitis and shingles.

Symptoms of cellulitis in the eye area

If cellulitis affects the eye area, you may have pain in and around the eye, restricted eye movement, and disturbances in your vision. Cellulitis affecting the eye requires urgent treatment to prevent permanent eye damage, blindness, or spread of the infection to the brain (meningitis).

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 10, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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