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What is Erysipelas?

Erysipelas is an infection of skin on the superficial layers caused by streptococcus bacteria. In the middle ages, it was known as St. Anthony’s Fire, named after an Egyptian who successfully treated this bacterial infection.

Children and elderly people are at higher risks of getting the infection when compared to adults.

This infection usually appears on the lower limbs, in nearly 80% of the cases. If the face gets affected, it spreads out to form a butterfly shape involving the cheek and nose areas.

Causes:

  • A simple cut in the skin.
  • Skin ulcers especially ulcers in the leg and fungal infections.
  • Problems with drainage through the lymph system or veins.

Symptoms of Erysipelas:

  • Skin lesions.
  • Fever accompanied with headache, chills and shivering.
  • Sores on the bridge of the nose and cheeks.
  • Skin underneath the sore is characterized by red, painful swelling.
  • Formation of blisters.
  • Infection spreads within a few hours creating a raised border between the healthy skin and infected skin.
  • Fat tissue present underneath the skin is more prone to get infected.
  • Bleeding may lead to the formation of purple patches (purpura).

This condition is diagnosed looking at the changes on the skin.

Treating Erysipelas:

  • Because of the sensitivity of the streptococcal bacteria to penicillin and penicillin containing antibiotics, this would be the first treatment option. They are either given orally or injected intravenously.
  • Medicines that can be used include: Erythromycin (Erythroped) for people who are allergic to penicillin, Benzylpenicillin injection, Penicillin V in the form of syrup or tablet and Flucloxacillin (Floxapen) in the form of syrup, intravenous or intramuscular injections or tablet.

Complications:

  • Septic shock.
  • Spread of infection to the bones, joints and heart valves.
  • Bacteremia, a condition where the bacteria enters the blood may be seen in some patients.

You can prevent and reduce the risk of getting Erysipelas by keeping the skin dry and free from scrapes and cuts.

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