When someone has cellulitis, they may notice a reduction in symptoms. Signs that cellulitis is healing include reduced skin discoloration, less pain, decreased heat, and more.

In addition, an area that a doctor has marked on the skin to monitor the spread of infection may decrease in size.

Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection affecting over 14 million people in the United States annually. A break in the skin can cause bacteria to enter deeper skin tissues, resulting in inflammation.

The main sign of cellulitis is discolored skin that is swollen, warm, painful, or tender to the touch. A person’s skin may also develop blisters or appear pitted, similar to an orange peel. Additionally, some people may develop a fever and chills.

Doctors treat cellulitis with antibiotics, which they administer orally or intravenously, depending on the severity of the infection.

This article explores signs that cellulitis is healing, explaining what someone should look for. In addition, it discusses recovery timelines, tips for recovery, and when someone should speak with a doctor.

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A person with cellulitis may notice that their symptoms reduce or start to get better as they heal. Therefore, signs that the condition is healing may include the following:

  • less skin discoloration
  • less pain
  • reduced swelling
  • decreased heat

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that when someone has cellulitis, the affected area of skin may look pitted like an orange peel or develop blisters. As the condition starts to heal, the skin may return to its typical appearance without blisters.

Additionally, experts explain that doctors diagnose cellulitis according to the presence of spreading inflammation in the deep tissues within the skin. Healthcare professionals may highlight the affected area of a person’s skin with a marker to monitor the spread of any infection.

As cellulitis starts to heal, a person may notice that the inflammation stops spreading and that the area the doctor has marked out begins to reduce in size.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that most people with cellulitis take oral antibiotics for 7–14 days and should see an improvement in their symptoms within 24–48 hours. However, if the infection is severe, individuals may need to stay in the hospital for a week or more to receive antibiotics intravenously.

The AAD highlights the following recovery tips for someone at home:

  • Care for the wound by covering the skin and changing dressings as a healthcare professional advises.
  • Take time to rest and allow the body to heal to prevent complications.
  • Elevate the body part with cellulitis, if possible, to reduce swelling.
  • Make sure healthcare professionals are aware of other skin conditions that may have caused the cellulitis, such as athlete’s foot, and follow any treatment instructions for those conditions.

If someone experiences inflammation and other symptoms of cellulitis on their skin, they need to consult a doctor who can establish the exact cause. Cellulitis can result from anything that causes a break in the skin or makes the body more susceptible to bacteria, including:

Cellulitis most commonly results from infection with group A Streptococcus, a type of bacteria. The CDC explains that doctors typically diagnose the condition by looking at the skin during a physical examination, so they do not usually require blood or other laboratory tests.

A person with cellulitis needs antibiotics to treat the condition. People with cellulitis typically receive oral antibiotics, but doctors may administer them intravenously if the infection is severe. A person should take the whole course of antibiotics as a healthcare professional advises.

Cellulitis complications

The CDC also notes that sometimes people experience complications from cellulitis, although this is uncommon. Serious infections resulting from cellulitis include:

  • bacteremia, a type of blood infection
  • osteomyelitis, an infection and inflammation of the bone
  • endocarditis, a rare condition that involves inflammation of the heart lining, heart muscles, and heart valves
  • thrombophlebitis, the inflammation of a vein due to a blood clot
  • septic arthritis, which involves a sudden, severe infection of a joint

Additionally, health experts advise that someone with cellulitis may develop sepsis or necrotizing fasciitis — a rare bacterial infection — in rare instances. As such, these individuals require urgent admission to the hospital and a doctor’s assessment.

The AAD notes that anyone with cellulitis has a higher risk of getting it again, so someone should look out for signs and contact their doctor if they notice them.

Experts estimate that cellulitis has an 8–20% recurrence rate. They suggest that doctors consider antimicrobial therapy for individuals who experience three to four episodes of cellulitis per year and that they address predisposing factors. This involves doctors administering antibiotics to prevent infection before it occurs.

People can speak with a doctor if they think their cellulitis may be worsening or if they experience a recurrence of the infection.

Cellulitis causes various skin symptoms, including swelling, redness or discoloration, and pain. Doctors may mark out an area of skin that has developed cellulitis to monitor a person’s recovery.

As cellulitis heals, the spread of infection in the skin ceases, and a person may notice the area of inflammation reducing in size. They may also experience less pain or tenderness and decreased redness in the area.

People with cellulitis usually require oral antibiotics and may start to notice an improvement in symptoms in 1–2 days. However, the condition can lead to more severe complications, such as sepsis, infection, and inflammation in other body areas, such as the heart or bones.

If a doctor suspects the infection has spread, they may require a person to stay in the hospital to assess them and administer intravenous antibiotics.

People can speak with a doctor for further information about cellulitis on an individual basis.