Foot infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and, in rare cases, even parasites. Infections occur when the germs that enter the body overwhelm the body’s natural defense mechanisms and begin multiplying. Without proper treatment, serious complications can occur, and severe infections can even result in a need for a toe, foot or lower limb amputation. Some of the most common types of foot infections include:
Sometimes, a seemingly minor condition like an ingrown toenail can turn into a very serious infection. People with diabetes are also more prone to infections and complications with healing that can substantially increase the risk of an amputation. Infections are also more common among people with weakened immune systems.
Most infections are associated with some degree of pain or tenderness, especially in the tissue surrounding the infection site. Swelling, redness, and warmth over the site can also occur. Depending on where the infection is located, mobility can also be affected.
That depends on the type of pathogen and the extent of the infection. Ideally, any infection should receive professional treatment as early as possible to prevent serious complications. Treatment in the early stages of an infection typically includes topical or oral antibiotics (or both) as well as drainage of any pus. In some cases, warm compresses or soaking the foot or toe in warm water can help relieve inflammation and swelling. More extensive infections may require excision of dead tissue or surgical intervention to remove diseased tissue and to prevent the infection from spreading.
One of the best ways to prevent infection is to avoid injuring the feet and ankles by wearing footwear that provides ample room and plenty of support. Gently wash any minor injuries, including blisters or cracked heels, and thoroughly dry them before changing into clean socks. And be sure to seek medical attention at the first sign of infection to prevent serious complications.