Foot infections may occur after trauma to the foot or loss of tissue because of contamination from foreign material and/or bacteria or fungus. Infections can occur in healthy individuals as well as in those whose health is compromised. Common foot infections include:
Diabetic foot infection is one of the common complications of uncontrolled diabetes. Increased blood sugar levels can damage nerves and blood vessels, leading to loss of sensation and reduced blood flow to the feet. As a result of losing sensation to pain, heat or cold, foot injuries may be ignored and can worsen without intervention. The reduced blood supply also does not facilitate normal healing. Even minor wounds can result in ulcers and eventually gangrene that may sometimes necessitate amputation.
Athlete’s foot: This is an infection of the feet caused by fungus that occurs after exposure to warm moist environments such as sweaty shoes, locker rooms and swimming pools. The skin between the toes appears red, cracked or peeled, and may be itchy.
Gangrene: This condition is characterized by the death of tissues from decreased blood supply and exposure to infection, and is a frequent complication of diabetes. Immediate treatment with removal of the dead tissue is important to prevent the spread of infection, which can be life-threatening.
Cellulitis: This is a bacterial infection that starts in the skin and can spread rapidly to other parts of the body, lymph nodes and bloodstream. Left untreated, it can become life-threatening. Cellulitis most commonly occurs in the lower parts of the leg within small cuts or puncture wounds after surgery, or may be associated with dermatitis, diabetic ulcers or athlete’s foot.
Osteomyelitis: This is a rare bacterial infection that can occur in the bones of the foot, especially when your immune system is weakened or compromised by certain conditions such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, or after bone surgery. Infection may spread to the bone from overlying skin or from soft tissue infections through the blood supply.