What’s the Difference Between Cellulitis and Erysipelas?

Whereas cellulitis affects the inner layers of your skin, erysipelas affects the outside layer. Cellulitis can cause more systemic symptoms, although erysipelas usually have more distinct skin borders.

Bacterial skin infections include erysipelas and cellulitis. Although they can both impact any part of your body, the feet and lower legs are typically affected.

Your epidermis, the outermost layer of your skin, is impacted by erysipelas. It might impact adjacent lymph nodes as well.

The dermis, or inner layers of your skin, is impacted by cellulitis. Below the dermis layer, it may potentially spread to the muscles, tendons, and tissues.

The causes, signs, and treatments of erysipelas and cellulitis are covered in this article. Also, it describes who is most vulnerable to certain illnesses.

What causes cellulitis and erysipelas?

Bacteria causing erysipelas and cellulitis enter the skin. Although the exact method of bacterial skin entry is not always known, it is typically through an opening such as a cut, rash that oozes, or open sore. Burns, abrasions, and surgical wounds are all vulnerable to bacterial infection.

Erysipelas can be caused by a variety of bacterium species. Most frequently, group A Streptococcus bacteria are at blame. Additionally, impetigo (skin sores) and strep throat are illnesses caused by streptococcus. It is less common, but erysipelas can also be brought on by the same Staphylococcus bacteria that cause staph infections.

Team A Although Staphylococcus aureus is also a significant cause, streptococcus is the most prevalent cause of cellulitis.

Are erysipelas and cellulitis contagious?

Although erysipelas and cellulitis are not communicable diseases, the bacteria that cause them are. Person-to-person contact usually does not result in either condition since the bacteria need to enter your skin to produce the infection.

Who gets cellulitis and erysipelas?

Erysipelas or cellulitis can strike anyone. If you have compromised immune function, you may be more susceptible to infection. Individuals who inject drugs regularly may also be more susceptible to these illnesses.

Lymphedema and other disorders that cause chronic edema (swelling) likely to raise your risk of cellulitis. You might also be more vulnerable if you've had a cardiac bypass that required the use of a healthy vein transplanted from your leg.

Cellulitis and erysipelas are two infections that can occasionally arise from getting tattoos or body piercings.

You are also more likely to have both infections if you have a skin disease that involves blisters or sores, particularly if you break or scratch your skin. The following are a few typical skin disorders that can result in cellulitis or erysipelas infections:
  • eczema
  • psoriasis
  • athlete’s foot
  • chicken pox
  • getting a splinter or another object embedded in your skin
  • insect bites
  • burns
  • shingles
  • acne
  • scabies

What are the symptoms of cellulitis and erysipelas?

Usually affecting the lower legs or feet, erysipelas affects the upper layers of skin. It can appear on the face as well. The skin that is affected usually looks glossy, discoloured, and puffy. Additionally, the impacted skin may feel sensitive or unpleasant to the touch.

An erysipelas infection typically has distinct boundaries. Blisters or streaks that extend beyond the borders may be visible if the infection grows or worsens. Also possible is a fever.

Cellulitis can appear anywhere on the body, however, it usually affects the lower limbs and feet Trusted Source. Your complexion appears dark red or purple as a result of this infection. A cellulitis infection has ill-defined, pliable borders, in contrast to erysipelas.

Cellulitis can produce pus because it damages the skin's inner layers. Swelling and pain are frequent. Although less frequent, fever can still happen.

How does treatment differ between cellulitis and erysipelas?

Antibiotic medications are used to treat erysipelas and cellulitis, respectively. Oral antibiotics may be prescribed by a medical expert if your disease is minor. In more serious cases, they might provide intravenous (IV) antibiotics to you in a hospital setting.

If the cellulitis is severe, a medical expert could also suggest external antibacterial bandages.

A doctor's prescription for antibiotics may vary depending on the kind of bacteria causing the ailment. Since group A Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria cause the majority of cellulitis and erysipelas infections, doctors frequently prescribe drugs that are efficient against both kinds of bacteria, including:
  • penicillin
  • clindamycin
  • cephalosporins, including cephalexin
  • dicloxacillin
A medical practitioner may draw a ring around the infection to observe if it spreads beyond that boundary to assess whether the antibiotic is effective. If so, a different antibiotic or course of treatment might be tried.

Surgery may be necessary in rare cases of cellulitis that has progressed far into the skin to remove pus and dead tissue.

Erysipelas vs. cellulitis vs. necrotizing fasciitis

Bacterial infections cause erysipelas, cellulitis, and necrotizing fasciitis. Cellulitis and erysipelas are prevalent. Rarely occurs necrotizing fasciitis.

Cellulitis and erysipelas both have mild to moderate symptoms. Treatment for these illnesses is necessary to prevent complications such as gangrene and sepsis. They usually do not, however, pose a threat to life.

On the other hand, necrotizing fasciitis, also referred to as flesh-eating bacteria, has the potential to escalate rapidly into a fatal illness.

When to contact a doctor

Antibiotics are necessary for the resolution of cellulitis and erysipelas. Serious consequences could arise if treatment is not received.

Inform a medical expert if you experience any of the signs of either condition. If symptoms develop or spread, such as discomfort, discolouration, or swelling, get medical attention right away.

What is the prognosis for those who have erysipelas as opposed to cellulitis?

Cellulitis and erysipelas usually go away with treatment. It is typical for either illness to recur, though.

Inform a medical practitioner if you have a history of cellulitis or erysipelas and observe a recurrence of symptoms. Oral antibiotics may be sufficient to control either illness in the majority of instances.


Skin infections caused by bacteria include cellulitis and erysipelas. Cellulitis impacts the dermal layers of the organism. The outer layer is affected by erysipelas.

IV or oral antibiotics are used to treat both diseases.


Is erysipelas curable?

With treatment, the outcome is good

How long can erysipelas last?

some weeks

Can erysipelas come back?

Some people get erysipelas again and again.

Can I walk with cellulitis?

Possible walk a short distance every hour

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