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by Scholten A
Saint Anthony's Fire

Definition

Erysipelas is an infection of the upper layers of the skin. It can lead to other problems if left untreated.

Causes

Erysipelas is caused by germs called bacteria. These germs live on the skin or come from other sources. They can enter the skin through a cut or injury to the skin. Once in the skin, the germs can grow and spread to the surrounding skin layers.

Puncture Wound
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Risk Factors

Erysipelas is more common in infants, young children, and older adults. Other things that raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Erysipelas often affects the face, arms, or legs. However, it can happen anywhere on the skin.

Symptoms may be:

  • Skin that is warm, red, firm, and swollen
  • Blisters
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Swollen glands or lymph nodes
  • Fever or chills

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor can diagnose erysipelas based on a skin exam.

Tests may be done if treatment does not help or there are other health problems. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Cultures of blisters
  • Skin biopsy—a sample of affected skin is taken and tested

Treatment

The goal is to treat the infection. Antibiotics are given by IV, pills, or liquids by mouth.

Underlying conditions may also be treated.

Prevention

The risk of erysipelas may be lowered by:

  • Treating conditions that raise the risk
  • Antibiotics to prevent infection—in those who have skin infections often

RESOURCES

American Academy of Dermatology  https://www.aad.org 

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases  https://www.niaid.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Dermatology Association  https://dermatology.ca 

Health Canada  http://www.canada.ca 

References

Cellulitis and erysipelas. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/skin-conditions/skin-rashes/cellulitis-and-erysipelas . Accessed July 30, 2021.

Erysipelas. DermNet New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/erysipelas. Accessed July 30, 2021.

Erysipelas. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/erysipelas . Accessed July 30, 2021.

Kozłowska D, Myśliwiec H, et al. Clinical and epidemiological assessment of patients hospitalized for primary and recurrent erysipelas. Przegl Epidemiol. 2016;70(4):575-584.

Management of erysipelas and cellulitis. The International Foundation for Dermatology website. Available at: https://ilds.org/our-foundation/. Accessed July 30, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Dan Ostrovsky, MD
  • Review Date: 07/2021
  • Update Date: 07/30/2021