Facial Cellulitis

Facial cellulitis picture
Facial cellulitis picture

What is Facial Cellulitis?

The word cellulitis simply means inflammation of the cells. It comes from the Latin word cellula, meaning small cell, along with the medical suffix -itis referring to inflammation.

Although the name of this condition makes no reference to the location of the affected cells, it is invariably used to describe inflammation of the deeper layers of the skin often along with the subcutaneous tissue beneath. In the case of facial cellulitis, the skin of the face is affected. Any part of the skin can be affected but there is a general tendency for the areas around the eyes, the nose and the cheeks to be implicated.

Symptoms of Facial Cellulitis

Areas affected by facial cellulitis will be red, hot, swollen and painful. The glands of the neck may also be swollen and painful. The swollen skin often exhibits a characteristic “orange-peel” appearance with enlarged pores being visible. Pus or blood-filled blisters may be present and in severe cases, abscesses may develop. This is a painful and unpleasant condition and it can potentially give rise to a systemic life-threatening infection known as septicemia, sepsis or blood-poisoning. A high temperature of over 38 degrees Celsius may be recorded indicating a systemic infection and this may be accompanied by other symptoms such as shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea or vomiting. Any serious symptoms such as these should leave no doubt that this is a medical emergency requiring urgent medical attention without delay.

Apart from these systemic symptoms, localised symptoms can also be extremely serious and cellulitis around the eyes can potentially cause permanent damage. The eyelids may appear shiny red and they may be swollen to such an extent that the eyes are shut. Infections of tissues in this area are also capable of spreading to the brain resulting in meningitis. Needless to say, all severe facial cellulitis symptoms constitute a medical emergency.

Facial Cellulitis ICD-10 Code

Diagnostic codes are used mainly for use in medical billing and insurance. Under the current ICD-10 system, facial cellulitis is listed under the code LO3.211 although more specific codes may also be applicable where a specific part of the face is affected.

Facial Cellulitis Causes

In almost all cases, facial cellulitis is due to a bacterial infection. Many commonly encountered bacteria can give rise to the condition most of which are normally present on the surface of the skin. Various strains of streptococcus and staphylococcus bacteria are frequently implicated as can be the Haemophilus influenza B (HIB) bacterium. Bacteria are of course plants and, like all plants, if the conditions are suitable, they will grow and multiply. This causes no problems on the skin surface and any minor incursions into the skin normally result in the formation of spots which subsequently erupt on the skin surface.

However, in the case of cellulitis, the bacterial growth occurs deep within the skin or in the subcutaneous layer where it damages the cells as it spreads. As the skin normally provides an impenetrable layer against such events, this condition can only arise where the skin’s natural defences have been breached. Some form of break in the skin will have occurred providing an access point for the bacteria. This could be as simple as a graze or cut or due to an insect bite or sting, an animal bite, or even due to dry cracked skin as often occurs with eczema. Burns also leave the skin open to infections of this type.

There are also various factors known to increase the risk of developing such infections and although these factors do not directly cause cellulitis, they should be taken into consideration in order to minimise the possibilities of cellulitis infections. Obesity greatly increases the risks of skin infections and persons with circulatory problems, including diabetes, are also at risk. A depressed immune system such as in the case of HIV infections or those receiving immunosuppressant drugs such as chemotherapy are susceptible to this and many other types of infections. Pre-existing infections of the teeth, middle ear, upper respiratory tract or any lymphatic problems add to the risks and the administration of injected drugs is also a risk factor. Unfortunately, anyone who has previously suffered from cellulitis has an approximately 30% chance of experiencing a recurrence. Upper respiratory tract or any lymphatic problems add to the risks and the administration of injected drugs is also a risk factor.

Facial Cellulitis Treatment

Facial cellulitis is a serious condition always requiring medical help. Provided it is caught relatively early, treatment by antibiotics is usually highly effective. In simple cases, tablets are often adequate but in more severe cases, such as those involving hospitalisation, the antibiotics are most likely to be administered intravenously in the first instance, probably changing to oral dosage later in the treatment.

This is a condition which often occurs suddenly and rapidly becomes a medical emergency. Because of this, medical practitioners may initially prescribe a fairly general wide-ranging antibiotic effective against the most likely causative bacteria with the drug being changed later when the results of bacterial cultures reveal the exact strain responsible allowing for a more specific targeted response. In cases where the infection has progressed to become systemic, specialised treatment will be necessary in order to support the functions of the body’s organs while the infection is being dealt with. This will be carried out in a specialised hospital unit. Surgical intervention is rarely required but occasionally facial abscesses will require the services of specialist surgeons in order to minimise the risks of systemic infections.

Facial Cellulitis Prognosis

The use of antibiotics against cellulitis is normally highly effective and a full and complete recovery is to be expected. Occasionally there may be a recurrence after a short period of time in which case a longer course of antibiotics is usually required in order to ensure that the infection is completely eradicated. There is no reason why any recurrence should occur but obviously, if a patient has any of the risk factors detailed above, their susceptibility remains the same as it was prior to the initial infection. It is important therefore to ensure that any risk factors are suitably controlled to minimise any possibility of reinfection.

Facial Cellulitis Complications

The major complication of any form of cellulitis is the risk of a major systemic infection which can be life-threatening. It should be noted however that some other complications may arise. The first is that some types of bacterial infections are resistant to many antibiotics making treatment very difficult and some are particularly aggressive, the so-called necrotizing bacteria which actually kill the nearby cells. These infections are often frighteningly referred to as “flesh-eating bacteria”. Another possible complication which may arise, particularly after repeated episodes of cellulitis, is the impairment of the lymphatic system in the area resulting in a build-up of fluid and swelling.

Facial Cellulitis on the Lip

Facial cellulitis is most commonly seen on the cheeks, nose and near the eyes but can occur on any part of the face including inside the oral cavity and on the lips. In these particularly sensitive areas, it can be extremely painful and cause marked swelling.

Is Cellulite a Form of Cellulitis?

Despite the similarity of the names, there is no connection between cellulite and cellulitis other than the fact that they both affect the skin. The former is a non-medical term for the uneven appearance of subcutaneous fat deposits. It has absolutely no medical significance and is simply a perfectly normal variation of skin type.

Facial Cellulitis pictures