Cellulitis risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1], Associate Editor(s)-In-Chief: Aditya Govindavarjhulla, M.B.B.S.


The elderly, patients with impaired circulation to and drainage from the extremities, and those with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to contracting cellulitis.

Risk Factors

Common Risk Factors

Common risk factors for the development of the disease include:


The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to contracting cellulitis. [1]


Diabetics are more susceptible to cellulitis than the general population because of their impaired immune systems. Diabetics are especially prone to cellulitis in the feet because diabetes causes impaired blood circulation in the legs. This impaired circulation in the legs leads to the development of foot ulcers that commonly become infected. Cellulitis is also a common complication of obesity. [2] [3]


Immunosuppressive drugs, HIV, and other illnesses or infections that weaken the immune system are also factors that make infection more likely. In addition, chickenpox and shingles often result in broken blisters which can provide an entrance to the skin through which bacteria can enter.

History of Cellulitis

People who previously have had cellulitis are at risk of another flare up. Patients with a previous history of bacteremia were also found to be at significantly higher risk of recurrent bacteremia. [4]

Varicose Veins

Diseases that affect blood circulation in the legs and feet, such as chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins, are risk factors for developing cellulitis.

Skin Diseases

Skin disorders such as eczema and athlete's foot can result in breaks in the skin that serves as routes for bacterial infection.

Less Common Risk Factors

Other risk factors for the development of disease include:


Lymphedema, which causes swelling of the arms and legs, can also put an individual at risk for cellulitis. [5]


Cellulitis is extremely prevalent amongst dense populations sharing hygiene facilities and common living quarters.


  1. Quirke, M.; Ayoub, F.; McCabe, A.; Boland, F.; Smith, B.; O'Sullivan, R.; Wakai, A. (2017). "Risk factors for nonpurulent leg cellulitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis". British Journal of Dermatology. 177 (2): 382–394. doi:10.1111/bjd.15186. ISSN 0007-0963.
  2. Bjornsdottir, S.; Gottfredsson, M.; Thorisdottir, A. S.; Gunnarsson, G. B.; Rikardsdottir, H.; Kristjansson, M.; Hilmarsdottir, I. (2005). "Risk Factors for Acute Cellulitis of the Lower Limb: A Prospective Case-Control Study". Clinical Infectious Diseases. 41 (10): 1416–1422. doi:10.1086/497127. ISSN 1058-4838.
  3. Cox, N.H. (2006). "Oedema as a risk factor for multiple episodes of cellulitis/erysipelas of the lower leg: a series with community follow-up". British Journal of Dermatology. 155 (5): 947–950. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2006.07419.x. ISSN 0007-0963.
  4. Peralta, G.; Padrón, E.; Roiz, M. P.; Benito, I.; Garrido, J. C.; Talledo, F.; Rodríguez-Lera, M. J.; Ansorena, L.; Sánchez, M. B. (2006). "Risk factors for bacteremia in patients with limb cellulitis". European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases. 25 (10): 619–626. doi:10.1007/s10096-006-0186-z. ISSN 0934-9723.
  5. Dupuy, A.; Benchikhi, H.; Roujeau, J.-C.; Bernard, P.; Vaillant, L.; Chosidow, O.; Sassolas, B.; Guillaume, J.-C.; Grob, J.-J.; Bastuji-Garin, S. (1999). "Risk factors for erysipelas of the leg (cellulitis): case-control study". BMJ. 318 (7198): 1591–1594. doi:10.1136/bmj.318.7198.1591. ISSN 0959-8138.

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