Dr. Ajay Mohan (AIIMS)MBBS

November 13, 2020

November 13, 2020


Erysipelas is a skin infection that is caused by bacteria on the upper-most layer of the skin. It is similar to cellulitis except in one way: cellulitis affects the lower layers of the skin. A person with erysipelas usually notices large, raised patches of skin that turn red and shiny.

Earlier, it was believed that erysipelas occurred only on the face. However, it can occur on other parts of the body including the torso and limbs, too. In fact, an estimated 80% of all cases of erysipelas occur on the legs.

The treatment of erysipelas involves antibiotics; usually penicillin-based medicines. If you are allergic to penicillin, ask your doctor for an alternative like erythromycin.

Once you've had erysipelas, you have a one in three chance of getting it again. It is important to see a doctor each time you get the bacterial infection, and not self-medicate.

Continue reading to find out more about the symptoms, causes and treatments available for erysipelas.

Symptoms of erysipelas

Some common symptoms of erysipelas include: 

  • Red, shiny patches on the skin that have a very clear boundary
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Raised patches of swollen skin (Read more: Skin rash)
  • Pain in the affected area
  • A general feeling of being unwell
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Causes of erysipelas

Erysipelas is often caused by Group A streptococcus bacteria. It is the same bacteria which causes strep throat. Under normal circumstances, these bacteria live on the surface of the skin without causing any harm. However, when the streptococcus enters the skin through cuts or sores, it may result in erysipelas.

It also becomes possible for the microbes to enter the skin through surgical wounds or animal/ insect bites. People who are above the age of 60 and young children between the ages of two and four years are more susceptible to the condition. However, anyone with compromised immunity or a weak immune system can get erysipelas. Other causes include:

Diagnosis of erysipelas

In most cases, diagnosis of erysipelas is done by the doctor in the first instance through a physical examination. The doctor is likely to ask you about your symptoms, medical history—particularly information about injuries or surgeries may help him/her confirm the diagnosis. Most often, further testing is not needed, except in case of systemic infections, in which case a blood test may be ordered.

Treatment of erysipelas

To limit the chance of any further complication, it is important to treat the infection right away. In most cases of erysipelas, oral antibiotics that often contain penicillin are given for 7-14 days. In more severe cases, antibiotics may be given intravenously.

In very rare cases where the disease has progressed rapidly, the healthy tissues die. To remove this dead tissue, a surgical operation may be needed.

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Prognosis for erysipela

Erysipelas gets better in a week for most people. The condition can be prevented by keeping the skin clean and moisturized, especially in case of wounds or conditions such as eczema. In some people, erysipelas may keep coming back. This will require long term antibiotic treatment to prevent any further complications.


  1. Pär-inge Bergkvist, Karin Sjöbeck. (1997) Antibiotic and Prednisolone Therapy of Erysipelas: A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo-controlled Study. Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases 29:4, pages 377-382.
  2. Fatma Jendoubi, Manfred Rohde, Jörg Christoph Prinz. Intracellular Streptococcal Uptake and Persistence: A Potential Cause of Erysipelas Recurrence. Frontiers in Medicine 6
  3. Hayatu Umar, FemiAkindotun Akintomide, Aliyu Abdullahi, Jamila Muhammed, AbubakarSadiq Maiyaki. Blistering erysipelas in a black patient Sahel Medical Journal 23:3, pages 195
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