Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Cellulitis

Cellulitis

Condition Basics

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a common skin infection that happens when bacteria spread through the skin to deeper tissues. Most cases are mild and last several days to a couple of weeks. But cellulitis can sometimes progress to a more serious infection, causing severe illness that affects the whole body (sepsis) or other dangerous problems.

Treatment is needed to help control the infection and reduce symptoms.

Some people are at higher risk for cellulitis, such as those who have diabetes, a weakened immune system, or edema. They also tend to get sicker from cellulitis. And they are more likely to get cellulitis again.

What causes it?

Cellulitis is caused by bacteria, most often strep or staph. You can get infected after any event that causes a break in the skin, such as:

  • Surgery.
  • A cut or bite.
  • A new tattoo or piercing.
  • Problems that cause skin breakdown, such as eczema, psoriasis, or a fungal infection like athlete's foot.

Sometimes cellulitis can occur even if there wasn't an obvious break in the skin.

What are the symptoms?

At first, the infected area will be warm, red, swollen, and tender. If the infection spreads, you may have a fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes.

Cellulitis can occur anywhere on the body. In adults, it often occurs on the legs, face, or arms. In children, it is most common on the face or around the anus.

How is it diagnosed?

Doctors are often able to diagnose cellulitis based on your symptoms and a physical exam. In most cases, you won't need further testing.

But tests sometimes may be done to find out what's causing your symptoms and to rule out other problems. For example, you may need blood tests, an ultrasound, or an imaging test such as a CT scan or an MRI.

How is cellulitis treated?

Cellulitis is treated with antibiotics. If the infection is mild, you may be able to take antibiotic pills at home.

If the infection is severe, you may need to be treated in a hospital so that you can get IV antibiotics directly into your bloodstream, along with any other care you may need.

Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions about medicine and skin care. To help with your recovery and to feel better:

  • Take all of your medicine as prescribed. Don't stop taking it just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Elevate the affected area to reduce swelling. Warm compresses may also help.
  • Use pain relievers as needed.

How can you prevent it?

If you are at risk for cellulitis, you can take steps to help prevent it. If you've had cellulitis before, these steps may help prevent it from coming back.

  • Take good care of your skin. Keep it clean, and use lotion to prevent drying and cracking.
  • Check your feet and legs often. This is especially important if you have diabetes.
  • Treat any skin infection right away.
  • Ask your doctor if you need to take antibiotics or other medicine on a regular basis to prevent cellulitis.
  • If you have edema, ask your doctor about wearing compression stockings or sleeves.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Skin Changes Swelling

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details