Those white lines on your tummy and thighs aren’t cellulitis

You can live a long and happy life with cellulite. On the other hand, cellulitis, if not treated, can be life-threatening.

Myupchar October 30, 2019 13:31:29 IST
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Those white lines on your tummy and thighs aren’t cellulitis
  • Deposits of fat cells under the skin of the pelvis, thighs, or abdomen is called cellulite

  • Cellulitis is a pus-forming bacterial infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue

  • If not treated, cellulitis can spread into the entire body and cause sepsis, which is a life-threatening disease

If you have white lines of fat running up your thighs and down your tummy, take solace in the fact that you are not alone - up to 80% of women get them after puberty. Take comfort, also, in the fact that cellulite is harmless.

Deposits of fat cells under the skin of the pelvis, thighs, or abdomen is called cellulite.

Those white lines on your tummy and thighs arent cellulitis

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Cellulitis, on the other hand, is a pus-forming bacterial infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue. In some cases, cellulitis can occur along with infection by a flesh-eating bacteria.

Despite their differences, cellulite and cellulitis are often confused with each other. This happens because they sound so similar. And why they sound similar has everything to do with established rules in science for naming health conditions based on the body part they affect and their symptoms.

For example, the “itis” in cellulitis, tonsilitis, spondylitis and arthritis refers to inflammation. Both cellulite and cellulitis affect the skin and the layers immediately below it. This, however, is where the similarity ends.

The prognosis: You can live a long and happy life with cellulite. On the other hand, cellulitis, if not treated, can be life-threatening. 

What is cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a bacterial inflammation (infection). It is usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus and several other species of Streptococcus.

It can occur in any part of the body. The classic symptoms include redness of skin (rubor), pain (dolor), swelling (tumor), and calor which means the affected area becomes hot. 

Patients commonly experience pain in the groin before any symptoms develop on the skin.

In otherwise healthy people, cellulitis may cause redness of the skin (erythema) in a localised area, rapidly spreading erythema or sudden sepsis (life-threatening bacterial infection in the blood). In people with an underlying condition like diabetes, the disease can progress faster and the symptoms can be more severe.

What else?

In some cases, cellulitis can be accompanied by necrotizing fascitis - a life-threatening infection by flesh-eating bacteria. This bacteria can enter the body through ulcers, an injury site, inflammation or cutaneous mycosis (fungal infection of the skin). Your doctor may be able to determine how you got the infection through a physical examination.

In severe cases of cellulitis, patients can experience skin breaks, bullae (large-sized blisters) or areas of necrotic or dying tissue.

Can it be prevented?

Cellulitis cannot always be prevented but the risks of getting the disease can be minimised.

1. Most skin infections start in the fingernails. Wash your hands for at least one minute each time you go to the loo and trim your nails regularly.

2. If you’ve broken skin while playing or cooking or shaving, keep the wound clean by washing daily with soap and water or antiseptic. Cover the wound with a gauze dressing every day and watch for signs of infection. 

3. People living with diabetes or any disease that affects the blood circulation are more prone to get the infection. They should protect themselves from getting scratched or bitten.

How can it be treated?

If you have any abscesses, furuncles (painful boil) or carbuncles (cluster of painful boils), visit your doctor to have those collections removed and drained. Your doctor may recommend an antibiotic if there are signs of infection in the blood.

If there are no systemic signs of an infection, your doctor might prescribe just oral antimicrobial therapy or pills.

For obese people as well as those with peripheral vascular disease (restricted blood flow to the arms and/or legs) or venous insufficiency (veins are unable to send blood from the legs back to the heart), the doctor may advise intravenous or IV therapy initially - the same antibiotic drugs are given through IV drip so they work faster.

In case of deep or necrotising infection, your doctor may advise urgent surgical inspection and the removal of infected and dead tissue (debridement).

When does it become life-threatening?

If not treated, cellulitis can spread into the entire body and cause sepsis, which is a life-threatening disease.

Seek immediate medical help if you have any of the following symptoms along with redness of skin:

  • Very high temperature
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin with purple patches
  • Dizziness or feeling faint, confused or disoriented

In some cases, patients can lose consciousness and become unresponsive. In this scenario, they should be rushed to the hospital or the nearest clinic.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Cellulitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.

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