Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that develops in your skin. It can affect any part of your body, including your groin area. Even though it can infect your groin, it does not spread directly through sexual activity.

While cellulitis is a common infection, complications from it are not common. But when complications do occur, they can be serious. If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of your body and cause serious health complications.

Read on to learn more about the likelihood of developing cellulitis in your groin, its symptoms, and how you might treat it.

The most common cause of cellulitis is Group A Streptococcus bacteria. While anyone can develop cellulitis, scientists don’t fully understand why some people get it. They think the bacteria may enter wounds or other openings in the skin.

As such, you may be at a higher risk of developing cellulitis if you have certain conditions or injuries. These include:

One case study explains the development of cellulitis in someone who had received treatment for cervical cancer. The person later experienced vaginal bleeding after sexual activity. They also had inflammation in their abdomen and left leg.

Researchers explain that cellulitis in the groin after cancer treatment may be due to reduced lymphatic circulation. Lymph is a fluid that moves through your body and helps you fight off infections.

They also raise concerns about possible recurring cellulitis following sex.

There are also cases of cellulitis affecting the penis, but this is very rare. A 2022 study reported a case where cellulitis developed after sexual activity. A 2021 case study also observed cellulitis after sexual activity, but it was likely a complication from a recent penile enhancement procedure.

Cellulitis vs. abscess

Cellulitis and abscesses are both common infections that affect your skin.

Cellulitis causes swelling, pain, and color changes in the affected area.

A skin abscess appears as a pus-related lesion under your skin. It may develop as a symptom of cellulitis.

Both occur when bacteria enters an open cut or wound in your skin. But while cellulitis always requires treatment, a skin abscess may not always need antibiotics.

A doctor can help determine what type of skin infection you may have in your groin area and what treatment may be necessary.

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Cellulitis may appear on any area of your skin, causing:

  • red, brown, or purple rash, depending on your natural skin tone
  • warmth
  • swelling
  • pain
  • tenderness
  • pitting, similar to that of an orange
  • blisters

You may also develop a fever and chills in response to the infection. Swollen, painful lymph nodes are also common with cellulitis.

Cellulitis is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But there have been reports of people developing cellulitis after sexual activity. In such cases, cellulitis may cause swollen lymph nodes around your genitals, painful genitals, and inflammation that may spread from the area.

While not common, cellulitis may lead to serious complications, such as infections in your:

  • bloodstream
  • bones
  • heart and heart valves
  • joints

When to see a doctor

See a doctor if you’re concerned about a possible skin infection in your groin area or if you’re experiencing possible symptoms of cellulitis.

If you’re currently taking antibiotics for cellulitis and symptoms don’t improve in 2 to 3 days, see a doctor. Seek emergency medical care if any redness in your groin area spreads rapidly or if you have a rash and start to develop a fever or chills.

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Cellulitis most commonly develops in the legs and feet, though it’s possible to experience this infection in any area of your body. As such, it’s important to know that having a skin infection doesn’t automatically mean you have cellulitis.

Cellulitis in the groin area also differs from STIs. Common symptoms of an STI include:

  • burning or itching around the genitals
  • penile or vaginal discharge
  • hip pain
  • sores or bumps
  • painful, burning urination
  • having to urinate more often

Still, the only way to know for sure if you have cellulitis or another type of infection is to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

The standard treatment for cellulitis anywhere in your body is oral antibiotics. These help kill the bacteria that are causing the infection.

You can also help manage cellulitis in your groin area by washing any minor injuries, cuts, and blisters with soap and water. Cover these areas with bandages until they’ve completely healed. Avoid going in pools, hot tubs, or any natural bodies of water if you have an open wound.

Finally, while it’s unlikely that cellulitis may directly spread through sex, you may consider avoiding any sexual activity if you or a partner has any wounds in the groin area.

How long does it take to recover from cellulitis?

You may start to feel better within 1 to 2 days after starting treatment for cellulitis. Full recovery usually occurs in 7 to 10 days.

Take your full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if you feel better. This will help prevent a repeat infection and prevent antibiotic resistance from developing.

Will cellulitis go away on its own?

No. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that requires treatment, usually with oral antibiotics. In the case of a more serious skin infection, you may need intravenous (IV) antibiotics at a hospital. The earlier you treat cellulitis, the better the outcome.

It’s important to seek treatment, as the infection can spread without it. This can cause serious complications, such as sepsis and hospitalization.

Know that even if you’ve had cellulitis before, you can develop it again.

Is cellulitis contagious?

Unlike other types of bacterial infections, cellulitis is not usually contagious. This is because it affects deeper layers of your skin. This means that you’re unlikely to get cellulitis from another person.

But since cellulitis may develop in open wounds and other types of injuries, it’s important to protect these areas of your skin. This includes your groin area. You can help prevent cellulitis by washing any open wounds and protecting them with bandages as they heal.

Can you get cellulitis from having sex?

Cellulitis doesn’t usually spread from one person to another. But until experts know more, you may consider avoiding having sex if you or your partner is recovering from any open wounds or skin infections in the groin area.

Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that can develop anywhere you have an open wound. While it usually affects the lower limbs, it’s still possible to get cellulitis around your groin.

If you’re experiencing any unusual rash, swelling, or pain in the groin or any other area of your body, consider talking with a doctor right away. If they identify cellulitis, they can prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection and prevent related complications.

Cellulitis isn’t usually contagious. Still, a few case studies have raised questions about possibly getting infected after having sex due to other factors. To help protect yourself and any partners, avoid sexual activity if you have any wounds or active infections in your groin area.