Cellulitis is an infection that affects the dermis and subcutaneous layers of the skin. This condition is usually caused by bacteria making their way into the body via breaks in the skin’s surface.
The upper tissues of the skin and below then become inflamed, creating what can be a very painful problem that may spread and become a serious health condition. One major cause of this is a bacterium known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcuse aureus (MRSA).
MRSA is generally benign until it enters the body, at which point this antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause infection. MRSA cellulitis is fairly common and the degree to which is can become worse greatly depends on the health of the individual with the infection.
MRSA Cellulitis Causes and Risk Factors
Causes of cellulitis due to MRSA come in many forms, though the most prevalent of these involves breaks in the skin. Cuts, burns, scrapes, blisters or any sort of open wound create an entry for MRSA bacteria. Health conditions which damage the integrity of the skin, such as chicken pox, eczema, shingles and Athlete’s foot may also allow an infection to take hold.
There are several general and specific risk factors associated with this type of infection. People with weakened immune systems, such as those suffering from particular health conditions or taking certain types of medications, are at a higher risk. Those who have ulcers due to diabetes or vascular disease are also prime candidates for infection.
MRSA forms on the body in bacterial colonies, which can sometimes live for years without any signs that they are present. Those in close living situations have a higher risk of developing an MRSA colony. People in long term health facilities have the highest risk, as they are constantly exposed to others with a high likelihood of MRSA. Hospitals and elderly care facilities are two very high-risk environments.
Symptoms of Cellulitis Infection
Symptoms of MRSA cellulitis are most commonly seen on the legs, feet, arms and the head or neck area. Areas affected usually start small and expand as the infection progresses. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Pain and soreness
- Swelling, tenderness, inflammation
- Small bumps, pimples or sores
- Warmth of the skin
- Erythema – A reddening or rash of the infected area
Some less common symptoms that may accompany an infection are:
- Fever, chills, sweating and shaking
- General feelings of being ill or weak
- Muscle aches
- Joint stiffness
- Hair loss in the affected area
These later symptoms may be indicators that an MRSA cellulitis infection is becoming serious. If one experiences one or more of these, a doctor should be consulted immediately to prevent the infection from spreading further and causing more serious complications.
Advanced Stages of MRSA Cellulitis Infection
If left unchecked, what starts as a small infection can become very serious, especially for those with more risk factors. Abscesses may form, as well as blisters and ulcers in the infected region. Eventually, an infection can spread further, causing one or more of the following health problems:
- Sepsis – Infection of the blood
- Osteomyelitis – Infection of the bones
- Endocarditis – Infection of the Heart
- Gangrene – Death and decomposition of the body’s tissues
It is imperative to seek medical care before the infection reaches this point.
Seeing The Doctor
Sometimes, other conditions, such as stasis dermatitis, can be mistaken for early stages of MRSA cellulitis. A doctor’s experience can help to clear up misdiagnosis as well as determine how serious a cellulitis infection is. Any indications that one may have an infection should prompt a visit to the doctor, especially if the condition appears to be spreading or if symptoms appear on sensitive areas, such as the face.
Doctors will most likely treat the condition with a regimen of antibiotics. Treatment can take anywhere from a few days to a number of months, depending on how far along the infection is as well as the overall health of the patient. MRSA cellulitis infection has the potential to be life-threatening, but can be dealt with easily if recognized and treated before it gets out of hand.