Erysipelas is a bacterial infection affecting the skin. It is basically a form of cellulitis but unlike cellulitis which is affects deeper layers of the skin, erysipelas affects only the superficial layers of the skin. It is generally characterised by- swollen and shiny patches, redness of the skin, warm and tender to touch, blisters in severe cases, sharp edges or borders of the areas affected on the skin and bleeding into the skin. Additionally, a person also gets fevers, chills, shivering and high temperature.
Erysipelas is caused by one of the bacteria variant of Streptococcus (Group A) that is also responsible for causing strep throat. In most cases the bacteria enters our body through cuts or sore or wounds from surgery and leads to an infection. Conditions like athlete’s foot and eczema which leads to a break in the skin can also cause erysipelas. Other factors that contribute to spreading and worsening of the condition include- obesity, alcoholism, diabetic problems, weak immune system and also veins and lymphatic vessels not working properly.
Moreover, erysipelas occurs in the same region of the body and is not restricted to only the faces. It also affects people of all age group.
As the erysipelas is a skin infection occurring on superficial layers, the diagnosis of the condition generally involves a physical examination by the doctor. The appearance and symptoms of the condition helps in identifying the condition as erysipelas tend to occur only with particular condition. If your case is severe or if the doctor is not able to know whether it is cellulitis or erysipelas, you may be recommended to have a blood test that will show- raised white cell count, raised C-reactive protein and a positive blood culture indicating the involvement of a bacteria.
Once proper diagnosis is done, the condition is generally treated by giving antibiotics to the patient. The type of medicine will depend on the cause but it includes medicines containing penicillin. It is either given orally or through an intravenous. Patients with penicillin allergy are usually given erythromycin, roxithromycin or pristinnamycin. The treatments usually take 10 to 14 days to start working. Besides taking medication, a patient is required to put ice packs on the skin and also apply lotions to stop the skin from getting dry and cracking. Other measures include putting your infected area of the body on an elevated position to prevent clotting and swollenness.
As erysipelas is a bacterial infection affecting the skin, people showing these symptoms and signs will be eligible for the treatment. This symptoms include red, swollen areas of the skin, sharp and raised edges between the affected and unaffected area, blisters and warm and tender on touching the infected areas.
People who do not show any symptoms of the erysipelis is not eligible for the treatment. Also people suffering from cellulitis that looks similar to erysipelas is also not eligible.
Erysipelas can occur in people of all age groups but infants and adults above the age of 60 years are more prone to developing this condition due to weakened immunity. Because erysipelas reoccur in one-third of the people affected by the condition, it may lead to certain complications like- abscess (a localized pus), gangrene (death of body tissues), thrombophlebitis (inflammation of a superficial vein), chronic leg swelling, infections in other parts like infective endocarditis(heart valves), septic arthritis, bursitis (inflammation in the joint) and tendonitis( inflammation or irritation of tendons), post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (a kidney condition affecting children), cavernous sinus thrombosis(dangerous blood clots that can spread to the brain) and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome(failure of vital body organ associated with fever and rash).
People who are suffering from erysipelas have to follow a post-treatment measures ensure proper healing. The first thing a person should do is make sure his or her infected areas are rested in a elevated position to prevent and reduce swelling. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids and walk around your house to help the reduction of any pain and swelling. The important thing to remember is that erysipelas is curable but can reoccur in the same area. When it reoccurs, its important to consult a doctor immediately to treat the condition. The reoccurrence is generally treated with long-term medicines to stop further attack. The long-term and short-term treatments have minimal side-effects and results in no scarring of the skin.
As erysipelas is curable with medicines and other measures, it usually takes 10 to 14 days for the swolleness and pain to go away. However, the redness of the skin takes a liitke bit longer to heal and does not leave any scarring.
The results of the treatment are semi-permanent meaning the condition generally reoccurs in one-third of the patients who suffered from erysipelas which is treated by long-term medicinal course.
There are various alternatives to erysipelas that includes homeopathy and home remedies as well. Homeopathy treatments include- Belladonna to treat the symptoms of erysipelas, Rhus tox and Apis mellifica. Home remedies include- applying almond oil, blackberry leaves, washing the infected area with wormwood tea or baking soda or witch hazel, drinking wheat bran soaked in water and applying cold compress on the infected area.