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Understanding Soft Tissue Infection

 

Causes


Skin infections, also called cellulitis, are caused when bacteria enters a cut, tear, or scrape on your skin. It can occur when your finger or hand is cut or crushed, such as being shut in a door or window.

Symptoms


Signs and symptoms of soft tissue infection include redness, swelling, pain, or draining green or yellow pus. If the infection is not treated it can spread to the rest of the body system and make you ill. Infection can also spread to the bone. Bone infection is called osteomyelitis and can cause bone loss. Bone loss can affect function or cause deformity.

Who May Be Affected?


Anyone at any age can get a soft tissue infection (cellulitis). The skin cut, tear, or scrape might not have been noticed when it happened. It can happen from what seems to be a “clean” injury.

Diagnosis


Diagnosis is made by physical exam. There is usually pain. If the redness and swelling are at a finger, then x-ray might be ordered to rule out infection in the bone. MRI or blood work is not usually needed to make the diagnosis. There is often no fever or other symptom.

Treatment


We usually start with basic soap and water washing, at least daily. We want you to check the wound or injured area every day for worsening redness, swelling, or pus. Sometimes we will recommend putting hydrogen peroxide on the wound with a Q-tip or cotton ball 2 or 3 times a day. If the infection persists despite these treatments, your provider may recommend an oral antibiotic. Antibiotics need to be taken as instructed in order to work properly. They should not be stopped early unless a health care provider recommends it. Antibiotic treatment might be for 5 to 10 days. One might be prescribed for several weeks for some infections. Your provider will want you to follow up closely, such as every 1-2 weeks until the infection is resolved. If signs and symptoms of infection increase you should contact your health care provider sooner than your scheduled appointment.

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