What is Erysipelas?

Erysipelas is a bacterial infection that impacts the upper layers of the skin. It shares similarities with cellulitis, and distinguishing between the two can sometimes be challenging. Cellulitis, however, affects the deeper skin layers, including fat and underlying tissues. Typically, they are treated similarly because of their similarity.


This condition manifests as rapidly spreading red patches on the skin, which are raised, smooth, and warm to the touch. They are usually tender when touched.


If you observe these symptoms, it is advisable to consult a doctor promptly, as timely treatment is essential to prevent complications if it is indeed erysipelas. You may also experience additional symptoms like fever, which will be discussed later.


The most common cause of this infection is the Streptococcus aureus bacteria, frequently affecting the lower legs or the face. While it is more prevalent among the elderly and young children, it can affect individuals of any age.


Treatment usually involves antibiotics and is generally adequate. However, it is crucial to seek treatment promptly to prevent the infection from spreading throughout the body, as this can pose life-threatening risks.


Typically, the bacterial infection enters the body through breaks in the skin. Skin conditions such as eczema or athlete's foot can increase the risk, but even minor scratches or insect bites on the skin's surface can lead to the development of erysipelas.

What are the Symptoms of Erysipelas?

The symptoms of erysipelas include:


  • Shiny skin

  • Generally feeling unwell

  • Swollen glands

  • A high fever and chills

  • Headache

  • Red patches on the skin that quickly enlarge, blister, and become tender and warm to the touch.

How is Erysipelas Diagnosed?

If you suspect you have erysipelas, it's crucial to promptly seek medical attention by consulting with a doctor. Skin infections can lead to severe complications and must be treated accordingly.


Our medical professionals can diagnose your skin condition through a video consultation. During this consultation, the doctor will request to see the affected area and inquire about your symptoms.


The doctor will specifically be looking for indications of swollen and reddened skin areas. Additionally, they will inquire about recent infections or minor injuries, such as scratches or insect bites, that you may have experienced.


You might be referred for further assessments or tests as deemed necessary in certain situations.

What is the Treatment for Erysipelas?

Erysipelas is typically treated with oral antibiotics, and when caught early, noticeable improvement should occur within a few days. Hospital treatment may be necessary in more severe cases or if oral antibiotics prove ineffective, potentially involving intravenous antibiotic administration.


Penicillin is the most commonly prescribed antibiotic for erysipelas, so it is essential to inform the doctor if you have any allergies.


Alongside antibiotics, pain relievers can be taken to alleviate discomfort. It may be necessary to consider alternative medications if antibiotics fail to treat erysipelas. Elevating the affected area above the body, such as keeping a leg elevated if it's affected, can help reduce swelling. This may need to be maintained for several days until the swelling subsides. Applying moisturizer to the affected area can aid in skin healing and prevent excessive dryness.


For individuals experiencing recurrent erysipelas episodes, prolonged antibiotic treatment may be necessary to prevent future recurrences. In the same way, if the infection is caused by an athlete's foot or another condition, both must be treated to avoid further infections. The specific treatment approach will vary based on the underlying condition.


While antibiotics effectively treat bacterial infections, the visible effects on the skin may take some time to heal completely, but the affected skin area will eventually return to normal.


Without treatment, erysipelas can lead to severe complications, including:


  • Formation of abscesses in the infected area.

  • Infections in joints and bones.

  • Infection of heart valves if bacteria enter the bloodstream.

  • Gangrene.

  • Blood poisoning (septicaemia) is a life-threatening condition where the infection spreads through the bloodstream.

How Can Mobi Doctor Assist You?

With Mobi Doctor, you can have an online consultation with a doctor using any device, whether at home, at work, or on the go. Our doctors can assess your skin condition through a video consultation, listen to your symptoms, and recommend the appropriate treatment to help you recover as swiftly as possible.


You can consult with a doctor about your skin concern at a time that's convenient for you. Our doctors are accessible seven days a week and can provide guidance, diagnosis, and necessary treatment. They can also refer you to a dermatologist if further investigation or specialized treatment is needed.

Erysipelas Causes

Erysipelas occurs when the Streptococcus bacteria infect the skin. These bacteria can exist on the skin without causing issues. However, when the skin is compromised or has a break, the bacteria can infiltrate the underlying tissues beneath the skin's surface, known as subcutaneous tissue, leading to this condition.


Several factors can damage or break your skin:


  • Psoriasis

  • Open wounds, such as after an operation

  • Another condition which damages the skin

  • Insect bites

  • Skin ulcers

  • Eczema


In addition, you are more likely to develop the condition if you:


  • Experience swollen legs, which may be linked to another medical condition or being overweight.

  • Have a history of cellulitis.

  • Exhibit elevated blood sugar levels resulting from poorly managed diabetes.

  • Are pregnant.

  • Use intravenous drugs.

  • Are in an elderly or very young age group.

  • Have a compromised or weakened immune system.