Erysipelas is a bacterial skin infection. It mainly affects the legs and face. Erysipelas is contagious and requires antibiotic treatment.
What is it?
Erysipelas is an acute bacterial skin infection which is often caused by the streptococcus bacterium. It can affect any part of the body but mainly affects lower limbs, such as the feet or legs, and the face.
The bacteria enters the body via broken skin (cuts or ulcers). This causes the body to then quickly defend itself against the bacteria. The inflammation affects the dermis and the hypodermis, which are the two layers of skin below the epidermis. At this point, it is referred to as a derma-hypodermic infection.
Erysipelas quite often affects people over the age of 40. The average age of people suffering from the infection is around 60 years old.
The first symptom of erysipelas is a high fever (up to 40 degrees celcius), often accompanied by shivering. Then bright red rashes appear on the affected areas of the skin. When the legs are infected, they swell up and become painful to touch. If the face is affected, circular blisters may appear on the affected area. The glands may also become swollen around the infected area.
Erysipelas can lead to several complications if it is left untreated. Bacteria can spread in the body and cause septicaemia, a blood infection.
Is erysipelas contagious?
Erysipelas is a contagious infection. You must keep an eye out for the appearance of symptoms in order to prevent the bacteria from spreading. Diabetics, and people with weaker immune systems or consume a lot of alcohol and tobacco are particularly at risk. In addition to this, people who have broken skin such as cuts, ulcers, fungal infections or insect bites are all at risk as they serve as entry points for bacteria.
As erysipelas is derived from bacteria, a course of antibiotics are prescribed to treat it. The most popular antibiotic is penicillin, especially penicillin G. It can be taken orally or administered through an intravenous drip when a patient has had to be hospitalised, for a period of between ten and twenty days. If a patient is allergic to penicillin, macrolides or streptogramins are prescribed instead.It is also important to treat the area where the bacteria entered the body. There is a high risk of erysipelas reoccurring, especially for people who always get cuts.