as Chris Banting was undressing for bed, he was surprised when his
wife Helen pointed out to him that the back of his right calf was
a worrying scarlet colour.
‘It was strange
because I wasn’t in any discomfort at all,’ says Chris, 62.
‘If you have
an infection, you think you’d be in pain or running a temperature,
but I felt fine.’
It was November
2007 and the busiest time of the year in his job as a charity fundraising
manager, but he decided it was something he should get checked out.
In fact, Chris
was suffering from cellulitis – a serious bacterial infection of
the bacteria can spread through the body and cause potentially fatal
blood poisoning or an infection of the muscle, bone or heart valve.
people are hospitalised with it every year.
– not to be confused with cellulite – affects the deep layer of
skin known as the dermis, and sometimes the layer of fat and soft
it causes the skin to become sore, red and swollen.
Though it commonly
affects the lower legs, it can occur on any part of the body.
Dr Nick Lowe,
consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation,
explains that we all have bacteria living on our skin.
doesn’t cause any harm, but if the skin is damaged by an ulcer,
cut, graze or insect bite, or even if it is simply cracked through
conditions such as eczema, the bacteria can get in, causing an infection.
or ingrown toenails can also be a source.
happens, the infected area becomes inflamed, tender, red and often
hot,’ says Dr Lowe.
‘It may also
blister. The infection is usually accompanied by symptoms of feeling
generally unwell, including fever and nausea.’
weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable, as their bodies
lack the strength to fight off the infection.
factors include diabetes, as it often causes poor blood supply to
the skin, which may lead to ulcers that can serve as an entry point
can also make you more prone to cellulitis, as this may cause the
skin to crack.
A severe case
of cracked heels could make you more vulnerable, too. As can lymphoedema
– a condition that causes swelling in a part of the body because
of fluid build-up under the skin.