Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by group A streptococcus or staphylococcus aureus bacteria, usually entering the body through a cut, sore, wound or insect bite. Cases of cellulitis that do not start with a break in the skin are sometimes seen in older adults, particularly those with diabetes or weakened immune systems.
Because untreated cellulitis can spread to the lymph nodes or blood if not treated by antibiotics, the infection has a fatal potential. Symptoms include redness of the affected area, swelling, pain and warmth. Fever, chills and swollen glands may appear as the infection worsens and spreads from the point of entry.
Often causing crippling discomfort, foot cellulitis is a common condition characterized by warmth, swelling, tenderness and redness in the affected area. Points of bacterial entry include cuts, scratches, ulcers, heel fissures, burns, surgical incisions or areas of skin damage caused by such conditions like athlete’s foot or eczema.
People with early cases of foot cellulitis may notice red spots or small boils that can burst and spread infection further. Red streaking leading away from the infected area is a common symptom and a sure sign that you need to head to the doctor as soon as possible. Ankles and shins may also become sore and reddened as infection spreads.
Foot cellulitis can appear as a secondary infection to several other skin conditions, including eczema, rash, insect bite or athlete’s foot. Because athlete’s foot in particular causes flaking, cracking and other breaks on the skin, it’s particularly important to treat it immediately with antifungals to prevent development of foot cellulitis.
Symptoms of foot cellulitis may also mimic those of a more serious condition called thrombophlebitis, which is caused by a blood clot in a vein and may require treatment with anticoagulants.
Prevention and Treatment
Foot cellulitis is normally treated by a variety of antibiotics given either orally or intravenously, and should be dealt with immediately and aggressively. However, often foot cellulitis can be avoided altogether by taking a few basic preventive steps. Wash any wound thoroughly with soap and water, apply topical antibiotic cream and cover with a bandage, replacing frequently.
If you notice any pain, redness or streaking, see your doctor immediately.
Other Common Foot Problems
Though mostly hidden away in shoes, our feet are our foundation and it’s important to take the best care possible of these vital extremities. Foot problems are many and varied, often caused by our shoes themselves, a damp, dark environment which can pinch, irritate and constrict the foot in ways that damage bone, skin or tendons.
Following are some of the most common foot maladies and treatments.
Fungal infections, including athlete’s foot, are commonplace because our feet spend so much time trapped in shoes where the warm, moist surroundings are a perfect breeding ground for fungal bacteria.
Symptoms of fungal foot infections are dry skin, blisters, itching, flaking, redness and peeling. Treatment should begin immediately, as waiting can make the condition more difficult to cure and may also lead to a return of the stubborn infection.
To avoid athlete’s foot and similar ailments, keep feet clean and dry, particularly between the toes, change socks or stockings often, and dust feet with foot powder after showering.
Painful and unsightly, warts are skin growths caused by viruses and have an unfortunate tendency to spread. Occasionally, over-the-counter medicine are effective in dissolving them, but more often a doctor will need to remove the wart with burning, freezing or surgery.
Often hereditary, bunions develop when the joints of the big toe no longer align as they should and become swollen and tender, often making walking painful or difficult. A bunion will commonly appear as a conspicuous bump on the outside of the big toe area. For less severe cases, the discomfort of bunions may be alleviated by wearing shoes that are wide at the toe and instep, taping the foot or wearing special cushioning pads.
Orthotic devices, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections are some of the treatment options for people with foot bunions. In very severe cases, surgery may be needed to re-align the toe joint.
Sometimes quite painful, spurs are calcium growths in the form of bony protrusions caused by muscle strain in the feet, and common causes are poorly fitting shoes, long periods of standing and being overweight.
Various shoe inserts including padded cups and supports are usually recommended for spurs, while other treatment options include anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise and cortisone injections. Surgery is usually a last resort.
Heel spurs develop from abnormal growths on the heel bone and are often associated with a painful inflammation of the foot’s connective tissue called plantar fasciitis.
Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses are accumulations of thickened, hardened dead skin cells that develop from pressure and friction caused by shoes. Your doctor may recommend finding better fitting footwear or using special pad inserts. Over-the-counter remedies are made of acids that destroy the affected tissue.
However, though these annoying growths may seem easy to treat yourself, it’s advisable to see your doctor in case they are symptoms of a more complex underlying cause, such as diabetes or poor circulation. If less invasive treatments do not work, surgery is sometimes advisable.
A common affliction in big toes, ingrown toenails are caused when a piece of nail breaks the skin, causing growth to continue under the skin. A doctor can easily remove the bit of nail growing into the skin, allowing the toe to heal. The best way to avoiding ingrown toenails is by cutting the nail straight across and level with the tip of the toe.
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