Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Cellulitis is a type of skin condition, with approximately 2.5 percent of people diagnosed each year. Men and people between the age of 45 and 64 years old have a higher incidence rate. If you’ve been suffering from cellulitis and its painful symptoms, you’ll be pleased to find out there’s help in the form of medical marijuana.
Cellulitis is a common type of bacterial infection of the skin. It may first come as a swollen, red area that feels tender and hot to the touch. The swelling and redness spread rapidly in many cases. Cellulitis can also be painful.
In many cases, cellulitis affects your lower leg’s skin. However, this infection can occur anywhere on your face or body. It typically affects your skin’s surface, but it can also impact underlying tissues as well. It can even spread to your bloodstream and lymph nodes.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cellulitis makes up four to seven percent of hospital admissions and one to 14 percent of emergency room visits among specific populations such as intravenous drug users, HIV patients, and Medicare patients.
If left untreated, cellulitis can become life-threatening. If you experience any cellulitis symptoms, you should see your doctor right away.
While the condition can occur in any location of your body, some specific areas are more predisposed to cellulitis, and it can be classified based off the area it affects. Some types of cellulitis are:
Individuals tend to get cellulitis more often on their legs, arms, hands, and feet. This is known as cellulitis of the extremities.
Periorbital cellulitis also goes by the name pre-septal cellulitis. It’s an infection affecting the eye, especially the skin around the eye or the eyelid. While you can get it at any age, it’s more common in children, particularly newborns who are 18 months old or younger.
Periorbital cellulitis typically occurs due to an injury, scratch, bug bite or abrasive trauma around the eye, allowing bacteria to get inside the wound. Sometimes it can develop because of sinusitis.
If you experience swelling, pain and tenderness accompanied by redness on your lips, tongue, and face, there’s a good chance you could be experiencing facial cellulitis. Certain conditions can put you at risk for facial cellulitis, including:
Breast cellulitis, as it sounds, affects the breast. Some individuals have a greater risk of developing this type of cellulitis, such as those with a lumpectomy history or breast cancer patients.
Many individuals don’t know what this type of cellulitis is, because it’s not as common as periorbital cellulitis. But, it’s more dangerous. Individuals are more predisposed to orbital cellulitis who experience:
Another risk factor is sinusitis. Around three percent of individuals with sinusitis will develop orbital cellulitis and about 70 percent of those who have orbital cellulitis also have sinusitis.
Perianal cellulitis typically occurs in children and males tend to develop it more than females. An anal orifice infection around your anus, bloody stool, and painful bowel movements characterize perianal cellulitis.
It can be a challenge for doctors to diagnose perianal cellulitis since its symptoms mimic those of other ailments like pinworm infection, psoriasis, yeast infection, and inflammatory bowel disease. It may also cause symptoms similar to child abuse victim’s injuries.
Cellulitis develops when bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, enter through a break or crack in your skin. Incidents of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a more serious staph infection, are also increasing.
Bacteria are most likely to get into skin areas where you’ve had recent:
Cellulitis can also develop from animal bites. Bacteria may also enter through areas of flaky, swollen or dry skin.
Before you see any noticeable skin changes, you may experience:
Cellulitis generally appears on the neck and head of children and the legs and arms of adults.
In some cases, cellulitis may spread throughout your body and enter your bloodstream and lymph nodes. It may also enter into deeper tissue layers in rare cases.
Some potential complications you could experience are:
1. A blood infection: You could end up with a blood infection such as sepsis or septicemia when your body’s immune system works overtime to fight infection.
2. A bone infection: Also referred to as osteomyelitis, this is inflammation and infection of the bone marrow or bone. It can occur if a fungal or bacterial infection gets into your bone tissue from your bloodstream through surgery or injury.
3. Lymph vessel inflammation: Also referred to as lymphangitis, lymph vessel inflammation usually develops from an acute streptococcal skin infection. It can also develop due to a staphylococcal infection, although not as often. The infection results in your lymph vessels becoming inflamed. It could indicate your skin infection is becoming worse. Repeated cellulitis episodes are associated with lymphedema.
4. Gangrene, or tissue death: Gangrene is the death of skin and soft tissue in your body because of oxygen starvation. It can lead to amputation or even be fatal if not treated quickly.
You have ways to prevent cellulitis. If you have a crack or break in your skin, make sure you clean it right away and then apply an antibiotic ointment to it regularly.
Use a bandage to cover up your wound and change the dressing daily. Keep an eye on your wounds for drainage, redness or pain, which could indicate an infection.
Individuals with preexisting conditions or poor circulation have a higher risk of cellulitis and should take additional precautions like:
The two primary conventional treatments for cellulitis include using home remedies and taking antibiotics.
You can try these steps to help with the swelling and pain:
Treatment options for cellulitis typically include an oral antibiotic prescription. Prompt antibiotic treatment can keep the bacterial infection from rapidly spreading and getting into your bloodstream and internal organs. Doctors recommend antibiotics, such as cephalexin or dicloxacillin, to fight against both staphylococci and streptococci.
Antibiotics can cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, stomach ache and more. Discuss all potential side effects with your doctor before you begin taking antibiotics.
Generally, symptoms and signs of cellulitis go away after several days. However, you could require hospitalization to receive intravenous antibiotics if:
You’ll need to take the antibiotics prescribed to you for as long as the doctor directs even if you start seeing improvement. Typically, you take antibiotics for five days to two weeks, but your doctor will let you know the length of time.
Most cellulitis responds to antibiotics within a few days, and there should be an improvement. However, there is a rare risk of the cellulitis spreading through your bloodstream and becoming more serious, or you requiring surgery to remove dead tissue or drain an abscess, which is rarer.
While antibiotics are often used to treat cellulitis, some bacteria are resistant to antibiotics and develop in part due to the medicines made for handling them. For instance, MRSA is a byproduct of the overuse of antibiotics, which bred a more dangerous and stronger form of the familiar staph bacteria. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MRSA causes more than 10,000 deaths every year.
A study in 2008 by a team of Italian and British researchers found cannabis could stop MRSA in its tracks.
Researchers tested five common cannabinoids from the marijuana plant against six different “clinically relevant” strains of MRSA, including epidemic MRSA strains involved in hospital outbreaks. The researchers found each of these cannabinoids showed strong activity against a whole range of bacteria.
Cannabinoids are substances in the cannabis plant having a whole range of medicinal properties — they reverse inflammation, fight cancer and are potent antioxidants. Now, researchers see them as powerful antibiotics.
Cannabis topicals are an ideal alternative for individuals looking for the medicinal and therapeutic benefits medical weed has to offer, but without experiencing the “high” feeling. They’re helpful for relieving common triggers and symptoms linked to chronic skin conditions such as cellulitis including the following:
Marijuana and cellulitis treatment effectively reduces chronic inflammation and inflammatory-related pain due to its two main cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both THC and CBD not only prevent and tackle inflammation, but they also show efficacy in minimizing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and release.
The journal Rheumatology published a study showing how medical pot helps fight inflammation. The study showed in individuals with arthritis, joint tissue CB2 receptors were present at an irregularly high rate. Medical marijuana activates these receptors, thereby fighting inflammation.
The best cannabis strains for inflammation include:
Medical marijuana can help alleviate swelling, itching and redness symptoms of inflammatory skin ailments like cellulitis create.
Medical weed has also been shown to help with skin symptoms like burning sensations.
Strains for itching and burning may include:
Cellulitis can cause tenderness and pain in the area affected. Marijuana is a potent painkiller and anti-inflammatory.
Cannabis-infused oils and creams are perfect for treating pain in targeted body areas. They’re also fast-acting. Once you apply them, the topical’s cannabinoids bind with your skin’s CB2 receptors, providing you with quick relief.
Good pain-fighting cannabis strains are:
Cannabinoids also contain antibacterial properties. From impetigo and boils to cellulitis, marijuana helps to offer relief for some bacterial skin infections. And, it doesn’t lead to an increasing issue of antibiotic resistance, unlike other antibiotics.
CBC-dominant strains should help with various types of inflammation and antibiotic-resistant infections.
Marijuana can provide hydration that people with acne often lack. The herb’s antibacterial properties help treat skin bacterial infection, a huge contributor to acne. One study found cannabinoids enhance the appearance of acne since they’re natural anti-inflammatories. They also help decrease active acne inflammation.
While it’s still unclear whether THC helps with acne, patients can benefit from CBD-rich strains. When you use CBD oil, you can control frequent acne breakouts.
Medical weed exerts a lot of its therapeutic and medicinal effects interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS also exists within the skin and therefore allows cannabinoids like CBD and THC to achieve antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects on wounds and burns.
Strains high in CBD have been shown to help with wound healing.
Like with any chronic disease, having to deal with the ongoing symptoms of cellulitis like pain, burning, inflammation and poor quality of life can lead to anxiety and depression. Luckily, medical marijuana has been shown to be highly effective in treating these conditions as well.
Some strains for anxiety you may want to give a try include:
Marijuana is a natural, holistic alternative to various treatments for many conditions. But, it comes with its own risk of side effects, like any medication. Some are:
Not everyone experiences these or other side effects of marijuana for cellulitis, so experiment with different consumption methods and strains.
Common ways of consuming medical pot are:
Again, experiment a little and see which method works best for you.
Cellulitis is a serious condition, and you shouldn’t have to suffer from its symptoms. If you are seeking relief from your symptoms and want to try a natural alternative to standard treatments, you may want to consider medical marijuana and cellulitis treatment.
Here at MarijuanaDoctors.com, we have an extensive list of cannabis doctors and dispensaries to help you start your medical marijuana journey. Let us help you begin your symptom relief treatment. Book your appointment with a cannabis doctor today.