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Erysipelas of the face due to invasive Streptococcus
|Classification and external resources|
|Specialty||Dermatology, infectious disease|
Erysipelas (/ɛrɨˈsɪpələs/; Greek ἐρυσίπελας— "red skin"; also known as "ignis sacer", "holy fire", and "St. Anthony's fire" in some countries) is an acute infection typically with a skin rash, usually on any of the legs and toes, face, arms, and fingers. It is an infection of the upper dermis and superficial lymphatics, usually caused by beta-hemolytic group A Streptococcus bacteria on scratches or otherwise infected areas. Erysipelas is more superficial than cellulitis, and is typically more raised and demarcated.
Signs and symptoms
Affected individuals typically develop symptoms including high fevers, shaking, chills, fatigue, headaches, vomiting, and general illness within 48 hours of the initial infection. The erythematous skin lesion enlarges rapidly and has a sharply demarcated, raised edge. It appears as a red, swollen, warm, and painful rash, similar in consistency to an orange peel. More severe infections can result in vesicles (pox or insect bite-like marks), blisters, and petechiae (small purple or red spots), with possible skin necrosis (death). Lymph nodes may be swollen, and lymphedema may occur. Occasionally, a red streak extending to the lymph node can be seen.
The infection may occur on any part of the skin including the face, arms, fingers, legs, and toes; it tends to favour the extremities. Fat tissue is most susceptible to infection, and facial areas typically around the eyes, ears, and cheeks. Repeated infection of the extremities can lead to chronic swelling (lymphangitis).
Most cases of erysipelas are due to Streptococcus pyogenes (also known as beta-hemolytic group A streptococci), although non-group A streptococci can also be the causative agent. Beta-hemolytic, non-group A streptococci include Streptococcus agalactiae, also known as group B strep or GBS. Historically, the face was most affected; today, the legs are affected most often. The rash is due to an exotoxin, not the Streptococcus bacteria, and is found in areas where no symptoms are present - e.g. the infection may be in the nasopharynx, but the rash is found usually on the face and arms.
Erysipelas infections can enter the skin through minor trauma, insect bites, dog bites, eczema, athlete's foot, surgical incisions and ulcers, and often originate from streptococci bacteria in the subject's own nasal passages. Infection sets in after a small scratch or abrasion spreads resulting in toxaemia.
Erysipelas does not affect subcutaneous tissue. It does not release pus, only serum or serous fluid. Subcutaneous edema may lead the physician to misdiagnose it as cellulitis, but the style of the rash is much more well circumscribed and sharply marginated than the rash of cellulitis.
This disease is most common among the elderly, infants, and children. People with immune deficiency, diabetes, alcoholism, skin ulceration, fungal infections, and impaired lymphatic drainage (e.g., after mastectomy, pelvic surgery, bypass grafting) are also at increased risk.
This disease is diagnosed mainly by the appearance of well-demarcated rash and inflammation. Blood cultures are unreliable for diagnosis of the disease, but may be used to test for sepsis. Erysipelas must be differentiated from herpes zoster, angioedema, contact dermatitis, and diffuse inflammatory carcinoma of the breast.
Erysipelas can be distinguished from cellulitis by its raised advancing edges and sharp borders. Elevation of the antistreptolysin O titer occurs after around 10 days of illness.
Depending on the severity, treatment involves either oral or intravenous antibiotics, using penicillins, clindamycin, or erythromycin. While illness symptoms resolve in a day or two, the skin may take weeks to return to normal.
Because of the risk of reinfection, prophylactic antibiotics are sometimes used after resolution of the initial condition. However, this approach does not always stop reinfection.
The disease prognosis includes:
- Spread of infection to other areas of body can occur through the bloodstream (bacteremia), including septic arthritis. Glomerulonephritis can follow an episode of streptococcal erysipelas or other skin infection, but not rheumatic fever.
- Recurrence of infection: Erysipelas can recur in 18–30% of cases even after antibiotic treatment.
- Lymphatic damage
- Necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as "flesh-eating" bacterial infection, is a potentially deadly exacerbation of the infection if it spreads to deeper tissue.
- John of the Cross, Spanish saint and priest (d. 1591)
- Father Solanus Casey, American Capuchin priest declared "venerable" by the Roman Catholic Church (d. 1957)
- Samuel Augustus Ward, Victorian gentleman, organist, composer, teacher, businessman (d. 1903)
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- Mary Lyon, women's education pioneer (d. 1849)
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- Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, 6th Earl of Angus (circa 1489 – 22 January 1557) was a Scottish nobleman active during the reigns of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots.
- Pope Gregory XVI (1765-1846)
- George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (26 June 1866 – 5 April 1923) was an English aristocrat best known as the financial backer of the search for and the excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. His death led to the story of the "Curse of Tutankhamun", the "Mummy's Curse".
- John Brown, personal servant and companion to Queen Victoria (d. 1883)
- Miller Huggins, baseball player and manager (d. 1929)
- Charles Lamb, English writer and essayist (d. 1834)
- Marcus Clarke, Australian journalist, poet, playwright and novelist, who wrote "For the Term of His Natural Life", died age 35 (d. 1881) 
- Pat Killen, a hard-hitting heavyweight boxer of John L Sullivan's era, died at age 29 while in hiding in Chicago from police after assaulting two men. (d. Oct 10 1891)
- Michiel de Ruyter, Dutch admiral during the Anglo-Dutch wars, contracted erysipelas from injuries sustained from a cannonball. (d. 1676)
Erysipelas is also the name given to an infection in animals caused by the bacterium Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. E. rhusiopathiae can also infect humans, but in that case the infection is known as erysipeloid.
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- Australian Variety Theatre Archive • http://ozvta.com/practitioners-other-a-l/
- Entry on Geni.com (Dutch language). Retrieved 10 June 2015.
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