What is Erysipelas

Erysipelas is a superficial bacterial skin infection that usually occurs due to bacterial entry through skin barrier. It is commonly confused with cellulitis while the difference is that cellulitis occurs in elderly people and erysipelas is seen in young children as well as elderly. The treatment of both remains the same, the infection spreads quite quickly so seeking medical advice for both the cases is a must. Erysipelas affects the lymphatic system and is also termed as St. Anthony’s Fire which truly describes the intensity of rashes.

Erysipelas causes

The most common reason for this skin infection is Streptococcus bacteria which are also called as Group A Streptococcus. At times other bacteria can also be the reason for it like Staphylococcus bacteria. In some cases erysipelas leads to enticing wound causing abrasion and trauma. The cracks in the skin can lead to fiery infection but in most of the cases no skin damage can be detected. The break in the skin can be really small from an insect bite, injection or just a scratch. Various other risk factors include skin sores, ulcers, or drainage problem through lymph system or veins.

Erysipelas symptoms

Visible rashes are the common symptoms to Erysipelas. Earlier it was seen only on the face but these days it can be found at the lower extremities as well. It generally occurs in the places where lymphatic system is blocked. The symptom might precede the look of rashes within hours. Some common signs are:

  • Blisters
  • Anorexia
  • Fever, chills and vomiting
  • Painful, swollen, very red, and patchy skin beneath the sores (lesion)
  • Raised border at skin lesion
  • Erysipelas lesions on the face, cheeks and the nose

Treatment of Erysipelas

Ideally skin biopsies and blood tests are not helpful in the diagnosis of this disease. In earlier days, saline injection was injected on the edge of the rashes to remove bacteria. But today the bacteria are generally not found and so the method is no more in use. In case of fatigue and fever it becomes important to test the blood and rule out the chances of sepsis.

Antibiotics are used to cute Erysipelas, some common antibiotics used are penicillin, cephalosporins, dicloxacillin, erythromycin and clindamycin. Oral antibiotics are more than enough to treat this skin disease but in case of sepsis needs to be administered with 1V(intravenous line) antibiotic. You get to see the results within few weeks and peeling is one of the common signs but it is nothing to worry about. However, if not cured in time, it can lead to certain complications as the bacteria might travel into the body through blood. This is termed as bacteremia which can cause infection in the bones, joints and heart valve. Some other complications are septic shock and the recurrence of the disease.


It is a must to get in touch with your professional health care provider if you notice skin lesion and that appears like erysipelas. The only prevention is to maintain a healthy skin, avoid dry skin, scrapes and cuts.