Sometimes known as St. Anthonys fire, erysipelas is an acute skin infection which usually involves the lymphatic system, which is your bodys infection drainage system through the veins. The rash that this infection causes is quite a bright red, which accounts for the fire nickname that was bestowed upon it years ago. Before antibiotics were invented, this erysipelas was a dreaded disease, particularly in the toddlers and infants. Doctors consider this skin infection a form of cellulitis.
Superficial Skin Condition
The cause of erysipelas aka St, Anthonys fire, is usually from Group A Streptococcus bacteria although other forms of streptococcus and even staphylococcus can be contributors to this skin infection. Typically, erysipelas is preceded by some type of wound such as a cut, scrape or abrasion which opens the skin to infection. Occasionally, there may be no broken skin preceding the skin infection.
Emergence of the Skin Infection
The face is a popular area in which erysipelas presents itself although these days you can also find it on the legs and lower extremities. Wherever your lymphatic system is blocked is typically where the skin infection occurs. You will typically display a few symptoms several hours before this fiery rash occurs, typically anywhere from 8 to 48 hours. These symptoms include chills, fever, general malaise and vomiting.
When the rash presents itself, it is red, swollen and fiery looking that feels warm to the touch. This rash has borders which are clearly delineated and the appearance is that pebbly smoothness, like an orange peel.
Typically the appearance of this distinct rash is enough for a doctor to diagnose erysipelas but a blood culture may be taken to rule out other conditions like sepsis. Occasionally, skin lesions or blisters may form at the rash site as well.
It is important to note that when this skin infection occurs on the body, it is typically on just one side of the face or extremities. A bilateral appearance, meaning occurring on both sides, while not rare, just doesnt occur that often.
Treatment of St. Anthonys Fire
The use of antibiotics is the best course of action in treating erysipelas aka St. Anthonys Fire. Typical antibiotics used may be erythromycin, penicillin or one of the cephalosporins. In rare cases where the erysipelas is not responding to the oral antibiotics or the condition turns septic, antibiotics given intravenously at the hospital are required.
As many as 30% of the cases of erysipelas will experience one or more recurrences, simply because the lymphatic and immune systems were previously compromised leaving the person still susceptible to illness. Of course, when the lymphatic system is involved, the first case of erysipelas is laying the foundation for more episodes.
Those people with recurrences may have to stay on a course of daily low-dose antibiotics to prevent this skin infection from cropping up again. In rare cases, the erysipelas can turn into sepsis which is an infection of the blood which could then travel to the organs of the body. It is important to catch erysipelas in its early stages to avoid the rare but serious side effect of the skin infection.