Foot infections are painful disorders that can stem from basic foot injuries. These infections are initially characterized by swelling and tenderness, but symptoms can become much worse when ignored. Foot cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection, can result in or stem from fungal toenail infections, athlete’s foot, and plantar warts.
Most skin infections can be treated through antibiotics but left untreated, infections can ultimately lead to hospitalization. This is why it’s important to see a podiatrist when you’re experiencing any foot abnormalities. They can diagnose the problem and address it before it becomes a serious issue.
Foot infections often form after wounds or injuries to the foot. Some of the common injuries and wounds that lead to infection are:
- Skin cracks
- Puncture wounds
- Foreign objects in the skin
- Ingrown nails
Both foot and ankle infections can form due to other infections already in the body. Those with diabetic foot complications frequently have foot infections and should monitor their condition closely. Seek professional treatment for suspected infections right away to avoid serious repercussions such as amputation.
Signs and symptoms of foot infections may include the following:
- Change in skin color
- The rise in skin temperature
- Swelling and pain
- Open wounds that are slow to heal
- Breaks or dryness in the skin
Checking your feet daily is incredibly important in catching a potential problem as early as possible to help prevent infection.
Inspect your feet every day especially between the toes and the sole for:
- Other signs of abnormality
Mostly the symptoms of foot infections are quite evidently visible and the doctor can easily distinguish what type of foot infection you have by looking at your foot. The diagnosis of diabetic foot infection is based on the presence of at least two classic findings of inflammation or purulence. Magnetic resonance imaging is the most accurate imaging study in early osteomyelitis.
Some foot infections can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medication. If you have a bacterial infection, antibiotics will typically do the trick, especially if you visit the doctor at the first signs of infection. However, there are a few more severe treatments that may be necessary if the infection is allowed to spread.
- Excision: This can be an effective treatment if the infection has not spread but was not treated or disinfected in a timely manner. Surgical excision of all dead and infected skin and bone can prevent full amputation and infection spread. In less severe cases, this treatment consists of draining the pus and removing all necrotic and infected tissue.
- Amputation: This treatment is necessary if an infection becomes gangrenous. Amputation can stop the infection from spreading to other parts of the body, but it dramatically changes a person’s life.
- Vacuum-assisted closure: This type of therapy is common for diabetic foot infections that do not heal on their own. The procedure helps the wound heal. During a vacuum-assisted closure, a device decreases air pressure around the wound, which can help it heal more quickly.
When To See A Doctor?
If your infection causes swelling, heat, a foul smell, and makes walking difficult, you will need to see a doctor for an antibiotic medication. However, if you have more serious symptoms, you should seek emergency medical treatment. This includes any of the following experiences.
- Red Streaks: Red streaks, or a slow-moving red line, can indicate infectious lymphangitis. This condition occurs when the infection invades the lymphatic system or bloodstream. This can quickly cause infection throughout the body and requires a doctor’s help immediately.
- Fever and Chills: This can indicate that the infection has spread. Seek emergency medical help immediately.
- Crackling Noise: This is a symptom-specific to gangrene or localized body tissue decomposition. This symptom is typically accompanied by severe discoloration, swelling, and a foul odor. In many cases, gangrenous appendages must be amputated.