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Erysipelas

Traced back to the Middle Ages, erysipelas is a superficial, bacterial skin infection that usually extends into the lymphatic system. Also called St. Anthony’s Fire for the Egyptian healer who most successfully treated the infection, erysipelas appears as a painful, raised red rash. At one time, erysipelas appeared most often on the face, but now it often develops on the lower extremities.

Causes
Often arising from a small break in the skin, erysipelas is caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria. Both children and adults can contract erysipelas, but infants and the elderly fall into the highest risk groups.

Symptoms
Patients who develop erysipelas often have symptoms such as:

  • Blisters
  • Chills, fever and shaking
  • Painful, swollen and red skin rash that feels warm
  • Skin lesion with a raised border
  • Sores on the cheeks and bridge of the nose

Treatments
Usually, erysipelas responds well to oral or intravenous antibiotics. Your doctor will probably recommend a 10 to 14 day course. Although you will notice some improvement immediately, your skin may take several weeks to return to normal.

Prevention
People with weakened immune systems or those with diabetes should be careful to avoid getting erysipelas.

  • Keep minor cuts, burns or scrapes clean
  • Promptly disinfect any skin abrasions
  • A long-term antibiotic treatment is recommended to stop reoccurrences

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