Erysipelas

Erysipelas is an extremely discomforting skin condition that requires immediate treatment. Read and know what is Erysipelas as well as its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Erysipelas Definition

It is a kind of skin infection that is caused by bacterial microbes. It mainly affects the legs and arms of a person. It is a variant of Cellulitis, a type of infectious skin disease.

Erysipelas images
Picture 1 – Erysipelas
Source – wikimedia

This condition is also known by other names like :

  • Holy Fire
  • St. Anthony’s Fire
  • Ignis Sacer

The name of this disorder is Greek and stands for “Red Skin”.

The name of this disease is pronounced as “Er- ee – see – pay – las” or “Ir- ee – see – pay – las”. The part “las” is pronounced like in “last”.

Erysipelas Causes

As aforesaid, this disease is caused by an infection of bacterial microbes – mainly the Group A Streptococcal variety. This bacterial strain is infectious in nature and is transmitted from person to person through air, saliva, cough droplets, blood transfusions, fecal-oral route and sexual contact. The infection may also pass from mother to fetus.

Certain factors may increase the risk of getting this infection. These include

  • Cuts on the skin surface
  • Ulcers (skin sores)
  • Problems with lymphatic system or drainage through the veins

Generally, this condition is only caused by Erysipelas is the Streptococcus Pyogenes bacterium. Other causes of Erysipelas are

  • Streptococci B infection
  • Streptococci C infection
  • Streptococci G infection
  • Staphylococci infection

These microbes may enter through wounds on skin surface caused by injuries, ulcers and abrasions. They may also get into the body due to insect bites.

Erysipelas Symptoms

This disease is characterized by a number of discomforting symptoms. Some of these main symptoms of Erysipelas are

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Shaking
  • Chills
  • Bright red skin rashes having well-defined edges and an elevated border
  • Warm feeling under the lesion (sore)

The lesions are generally found to appear on the arms, legs or face. The sores may enlarge considerably and also spread to other areas. Blisters may also arise over the skin surface. In case of Facial Erysipelas, these lesions may arise over the nose bridge or on the cheeks.

In some cases, affected individuals may also complain of other discomforting symptoms like muscular pain, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, stiffness of the joints as well as a general ill-feeling.

Erysipelas Treatment

Patients suffering from this condition require antibiotic medications to clear up the infection. Penicillin is a common antibiotic used for this purpose. In acute cases, antibiotic drugs may need to be administered through an IV (Intravenous Line).

Rashes arising due to this condition are quite painful and may be accompanied by fever and chills. It is necessary to treat these rashes with proper medical cure once they are spotted. In the initial stages, cure involves administering oral penicillin or an antibiotic derived from penicillin for a period of 2 weeks. If a suffering person is found to be allergic to penicillin, he or she may be prescribed some new antibiotics as a substitute.

This disorder can spread quickly, especially to the joints. When the rashes on the legs or face are left untreated, people suffering from infection may need daily doses of antibiotics all through their life. Antibiotics are quite effective in keeping joint infections to a minimum. Generally, the symptoms of this infection are so painful and distinguished, that suffering individuals seek early treatment.

Individuals suffering recurring episodes of this disorder may require use of long-term antibiotics.

Swine Erysipelas

It is a form of this disease that only infects pigs. Erysipelas in pigs is mostly a result of infection caused by a bacterium that is known as Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae and found in most pig farms. Erysipelas in swine gives rise to fever, stillbirths, illness, stiffness of joints and other discomforts. If left untreated, they can also lead to death. Growing pigs are most susceptible to this disease.

Erysipelas and Cellulitis

As aforementioned, Erysipelas is a type of Cellulitis. However, while Erysipelas is characterized by an inflammation of the superficial (upper) skin layer, Cellulitis causes swelling of the skin as well as the tissues lying deep within. Erysipelas and Cellulitis are differentiated by the depth of inflammation.

Erysipelas Vs Cellulitis

Some of the main differences between these two infectious conditions are based on their clinical symptoms.

Erysipelas (Ignis Sacer) is characterized by sudden onset of fever. Generally, systemic abnormalities such as chills are also found to arise. Cellulitis is marked by a low grade fever that may arise less suddenly.

Ignis Sacer leads to grayish-brown color of the skin in dark-skinned individuals and bright red skin in people of Caucasian origin. Cellulitis leads to brownish-black skin in dark-skinned persons. Caucasian people have their skin turning dull red in appearance.

Ignis Sacer patients suffer from hot, tender plaques that have a shiny appearance as well as a clearly-defined border. These may spread to other parts of the skin. Cellulitis sufferers have lesions with a less well defined border that fade into the adjoining skin region.

Inflammation and pain are two main symptoms of Ignis Sacer whereas Cellulitis gives rise to inflammation and hotness in localized parts of the skin.

Is Erysipelas Contagious?

This is a highly contagious condition due to the fact that it is caused by bacterial infection. These can spread from physical contact or by touching the sputum, saliva or blood of an infected person. Family members of sufferers should take proper care before drying and washing the lesions arising due to this disease. The contagious disease may infect healthy people administering care to the sufferer.

Bullous Erysipelas

It is a form of Erysipelas that is caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. It is a severe disorder that results in formation of blisters. Fever, chills and nausea are some other symptoms of this disease. It is considered to be a rare condition

Erysipelas Pictures

Here are some erysipelas photos that will give you an idea about the physical appearance of rashes arising due to this disorder. You may find these pictures of Erysipelas quite useful for reference.

pictures of Erysipelas
Picture 2 – Erysipelas Image
Source – healthinplainenglish

photos of Erysipelas
Picture 3 – Erysipelas Foot
Source – healthinplainenglish

Erysipelas is a completely curable condition and leaves no trace whatsoever when properly treated. If you suspect yourself to be suffering from symptoms of this disease, do not delay treatment. Early cure will help you prevent future complications and achieve a faster resolution of this disorder.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001643/

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1052445-overview

http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/e/erysipelas/intro.htm

http://www.skincarenet.org/cellulitis-erysipelas.html

Published on August 24th 2011 by  under Skin, Hair and Nails.
Article was last reviewed on 24th August 2011.

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