What is erysipelas? Symptoms, treatment, nutrition

Erysipelas is a bacterial infection of the skin. The bacteria enter the body through small skin injuries and spread quickly. What you should know about symptoms and treatment.

A erysipelas, medically erysipelas, is a non-purulent, feverish bacterial infection of the skin. The inflammation is usually caused by the pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes. The bacteria enter the body through small skin injuries and spread quickly. While a healthy immune system fights off the bacteria, the risk of erysipelas increases in immunocompromised people.

What is erysipelas?

If the immune system is healthy and the skin barrier is intact, the body’s defense against erysipelas pathogens is not a problem. However, the risk of erysipelas increases in immunocompromised people. The bacterial infection of the skin is usually triggered by the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes, more rarely by staphylococci. The pathogen usually enters the body through small skin injuries, such as:

insect bites
dry patches of skin on hands and feet
athlete’s foot
chronic wounds
There it spreads via skin vessels, fat and connective tissue and via the lymphatic system.

erysipelas – who is affected?

Both men and women are affected. The median age at onset is around 50 years. In 80 percent of cases, erysipelas appears on the extremities, especially on the lower legs and feet. A pre-existing lymphatic drainage disorder is usually involved in the development of erysipelas. People with diabetes, overweight, lymphatic drainage disorders, circulatory disorders, venous insufficiency and people with a history of erysipelas have an increased risk of developing erysipelas.

Erysipelas symptoms: How to recognize erysipelas

It can take a few hours to several days for the first erysipelas symptoms to appear after an infection. Fatigue, fever, chills and pain in the affected skin area are among the first warning signs that the body is fighting an infection.

A short time later, swelling (edema) and an itchy reddening appear. The affected area of ​​skin feels hot. The skin feels uncomfortable and shows a slight sheen. Another symptom of erysipelas is painful swelling of the lymph nodes in the area of ​​infection. In severe cases of erysipelas, blisters and bleeding form on the skin. It is also possible that skin tissue dies off (necrosis).

The doctor can usually tell whether it is erysipelas by the appearance of the skin. A blood test and a skin sample ensure the diagnosis of erysipelas: If the number of white blood cells is increased, this indicates inflammation. In addition, a skin sample is examined for streptococci.

Treating erysipelas: That helps

Those affected with erysipelas must take antibiotics – either in tablet form or as an infusion through a vein. The medication is administered for up to ten days, in the event of a recurrence (recurrence) for up to 20 days. In addition, the affected skin areas must be elevated and immobilized. The goal of high-dose antibiotics is to kill the bacteria and stop them from spreading. Cooling compresses, pain-relieving medication, fever reducers and anti-inflammatory measures complement the treatment of erysipelas.

Differences to erysipelas: symptoms and causes of shingles

Another important part of erysipelas treatment is finding the skin lesion through which the erysipelas pathogens have entered. This must be treated with antiseptics and appropriate skin hygiene and care, among other things, in order to prevent renewed erysipelas infection. If the original skin injury is not found and treated, erysipelas can break out again.

Risk of erysipelas: Complications of erysipelas

In the case of uncomplicated erysipelas, the therapy can be carried out on an outpatient basis. In severe cases or in the event of complications, those affected must be admitted to a hospital as inpatients.

Complications are possible if the treatment is too late, the bacteria have infected large areas of the skin, or the immune system is severely weakened. Life-threatening complications are rare but possible.

The possible consequences of erysipelas include, in addition to a deterioration of the skin situation, among others:

blood poisoning (sepsis)
Heart valve inflammation (endocarditis)
Heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis)
Inflammation of the meninges (meningitis)
chronic lymphedema
Signs of a serious course, in which the emergency medical service must be called immediately, are:
strong pain
accelerated breathing to heart palpitations
disturbances in consciousness (drowsiness or confusion)
In order to avoid complications and serious health consequences, a doctor should be consulted at an early stage.

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