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Erysipelas

Strep infection - erysipelas; Streptococcal infection - erysipelas; Cellulitis - erysipelas

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

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Erysipelas on the cheek
Erysipelas on the face

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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 or 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.

Related Information

Cellulitis
Septic shock

References

Bryant AE, Stevens DL. Streptococcus pyogenes. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 197.

Patterson JW. Bacterial and rickettsial infections. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Limited; 2021:chap 24.

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Review Date: 11/10/2020  

Reviewed By: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. 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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