Cellulitis (sel-u-LIE-tis) is a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender. It can spread rapidly to other parts of the body. Cellulitis isn't usually spread from person to person.

Skin on lower legs is most commonly affected, though cellulitis can occur anywhere on your body or face. Cellulitis might affect only your skin's surface. Or it might also affect tissues underlying your skin and can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream.

Left untreated, the spreading infection can rapidly turn life-threatening. It's important to seek immediate medical attention if cellulitis symptoms occur.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Possible signs and symptoms of cellulitis, which usually occur on one side of the body, include:

  • Red area of skin that tends to expand
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Warmth
  • Fever
  • Red spots
  • Blisters
  • Skin dimpling

When to see a doctor

It's important to identify and treat cellulitis early because the condition can spread rapidly throughout your body.

Seek emergency care if:

  • You have a red, swollen, tender rash or a rash that's changing rapidly
  • You have a fever

See your doctor, preferably that day, if:

  • You have a rash that's red, swollen, tender and warm — and it's expanding — but without fever

© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use