Erysipelas

Definition

Erysipelas is a type of skin infection. It affects the outermost layer of the skin and the local lymph nodes. 

Causes

Erysipelas is usually caused by group A streptococcus bacteria. The condition may affect both children and adults.

Some conditions that can lead to erysipelas are:

Symptoms

The infection occurs on the legs or arms most of the time. It may also occur on the face and trunk.

Symptoms of erysipelas may include:

Exams and Tests

Erysipelas is diagnosed based on how the skin looks. A biopsy of the skin is usually not needed.

Treatment

Antibiotics are used to get rid of the infection. If the infection is severe, antibiotics may need to be given through an intravenous (IV) line.

People who have repeated episodes of erysipelas may need long-term antibiotics.

Outlook (Prognosis)

With treatment, the outcome is good. It may take a few weeks for the skin to return to normal. Peeling is common as the skin heals.

Possible Complications

Sometimes the bacteria that cause erysipelas may travel to the blood. This results in a condition called bacteremia. When this happens, the infection may spread to the heart valves, joints, and bones.

Other complications include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have a skin sore and other symptoms of erysipelas.

Prevention

Keep your skin healthy by avoiding dry skin and preventing cuts and scrapes. This may reduce the risk for erysipelas.


Review Date: 10/14/2018
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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