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(ĕrəsĭp`ələs), acute infection of the skin characterized by a sharply demarcated, shiny red swelling, accompanied by high fever and a feeling of general illness. The causative agent is the hemolytic streptococcus, which often enters the body through a break in the skin. Erysipelas affects the skin of the face so frequently that when it strikes other parts of the body, it may often be misdiagnosed. Bacteremia (blood poisoning) and pneumonia are the most common complications. Erysipelas is a highly contagious disease that was formerly dangerous to life; however, it can now be quickly controlled by antibiotic therapy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an infectious disease caused by hemolytic streptococci and characterized by the development of acute inflammatory changes in the skin and cutaneous mucosa and lymphatic vessels. The disease is related to both the invasion of the causative agent and individual predisposition, or allergy, to hemolytic streptococci. There are two types of erysipelas: primary and secondary. In primary erysipelas infection occurs as a result of the invasion of a streptococcus into a microtrauma, scratch, or abrasion; in secondary erysipelas infection develops as a complication of a local purulent process, such as a furuncle or infected wound.

Erysipelatous inflammation is marked by the local serous edema of the tissues with the accompanying enlargement of the capillary lattice and congestion in the capillaries; this condition, known as the erythematous form of erysipelas, causes the skin to swell and redden. The accumulation of a large quantity of edematous fluid may cause the external layer of the skin to exfoliate, leading to the formation of bullas; this is the bullous form of erysipelas. Suppuration of the bullous areas of the skin results in the development of phlegmonous erysipelas. The development of the necrosis of tissue in weakened diseased individuals results in gangrenous, or necrotic, erysipelas.

The general symptoms of erysipelas are a sudden rise in body temperature to 40°–41°C, chills, weakness, headache, and vomiting. With excessive intoxication, consciousness may be impaired. Sections of edematous and reddened skin with distinct and irregularly shaped boundaries are found predominantly on the face or lower extremities and cause a burning and bulging pain. Adjacent lymph nodes become enlarged and painful. The disease lasts one to two weeks, after which the body temperature rapidly returns to normal and the general condition of the individual improves. The edema and the skin reddening disappear more slowly.

Frequently relapses occur, leading to chronic changes in tissues and functional disturbances. Severe complications of erysipelas include the spread of the infectious process from the skin to adjacent tissues and the transfer of the causative agent by way of the blood to other organs and tissues, resulting in the development of a general infection.

Treatment is usually conducted in a hospital and includes the use of local physiotherapeutic procedures, the administration of antibiotics and sulfanilamide preparations, and the observance of a bed regimen and rest for the affected extremities. Preventive measures include the early and comprehensive treatment of microtraumas, abrasions, and excoriations.


Gal’perin, E. A., and R. R. Ryskind. Rozha. Moscow, 1966. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


An acute, infectious bacterial disease caused by Streptococcus pyogenes and characterized by inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


an acute streptococcal infectious disease of the skin, characterized by fever, headache, vomiting, and purplish raised lesions, esp on the face
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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The lesions resemble erysipelas or cellulitis and the differential diagnosis can be difficult.
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He also described a history of repeated outbreaks of erysipelas in the right leg 5 years prior to this presentation, for which he had multiple hospital admissions and received treatment with intravenous antibiotics, whose names he could not recollect.
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At 16 years of age, after erysipelas, the edema of the lower limbs worsened and clinically identifiable lymphedema of the right arm was observed, especially the hands, so she sought the Clinica Godoy for treatment.
(18) We don't know which illness he contracted, but it could well have been erysipelas, a bacterial infection that attacks the upper layers of the skin and was common on passenger ships.