Understanding Bacterial Skin Infections: Erysipelas

When it comes to bacterial skin infections, erysipelas is a bacterial skin infection caused by streptococcus. It is also called St. Anthony's Fire due to the bright red rash that it causes. The infection is characterized by a bright red butterfly shaped rash developing on the body. It usually starts on the face or legs. The infection can cause a lesion on the skin and then become inflamed.


There are many symptoms that are associated with the skin lesion, such as fever, chills, fatigue, shivering, headaches and nausea, which can cause vomiting. This is a serious skin infection that should not be ignored. If you think you have developed this, you should see your doctor. If the infection is ignored, it can cause sepsis.

Those at Risk

Erysipelas is most common in infants, young children and the elderly. Others that are at a greater risk of developing this are those with weakened immune systems, or those who have had surgery and are having problems with the lymphnodes. Cuts or ulcers on the skin can also cause erysipelas. The infection that causes erysipelas is the same that can cause strep throat or infections due to surgery.


Your doctor will most likely be able to diagnosis erysipelas by examining the skin. You will usually not need to have a biopsy done unless your doctor is not sure what you have. Then, a biopsy may be done to rule out other infections. In most cases of erysipelas, a biopsy will not grow any bacteria. After a diagnosis is made, your doctor will most likely prescribe an antibiotic for the treatment. Antibiotics used are penicillin, eryhtromycin or clindamycin.

If the case is very severe, you may need to have an IV antibiotic administered at a hospital. Although, IV antibiotics are not usually necessary. For the other symptoms which may accompany the infection, over the counter pain relievers or ice packs may help you to be more comfortable until the antibiotic has time to work. It will usually take a week or two for the symptoms to disappear and for you to feel back to normal. If the infection has been neglected, it can cause major problems such as the development of sepsis. Sepsis is a bacterial infection which attacks the bloodstream and can be very dangerous.


To prevent erysipelas from coming back, it is important to make sure that you take the full dose of antibiotics that your doctor prescribes you. Another way to prevent getting erysipelas is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you get cut or injured, make sure that it is clean and dry to prevent developing this infection.

If you think that you have developed erysipelas, you should see your doctor as soon as possible to prevent any major complications. The treatment and duration of the infection will be easier the sooner you get treatment.

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