Infections of the foot come in many shapes and forms. Most infections are thought of having a bacterial origin, but infections can be commonly due to viruses, fungus, and parasites as well as bacteria. Even bacterial infections are subgrouped as aerobic(oxygen requiring) and anaerobic(not requiring oxygen. The infection maybe systemic(throughout the body via bloodstream) or localized to the tissue. Common localized infections in the toenails are ingrown toenails, paronychia, and onychomycosis. Common skin infections are tinea pedis or cellulitis. A joint may become infected causing infectious arthritis and a bone may become infected causing osteomyelitis. A patient with diabetes is more prevalent to have an infection of the foot due to multifactorial problems such as a lessened immunesystem and decreased bloodflow.
Further discussion with Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatment will be focused on Bacterial Infections.
Symptoms of an infection are typically redness, swelling, temperature increase, and pain. Not every symptom is always present and infections can be present without any of the signs present at all, especially if the infection is systemic(traveling throughout the body via blood).
Causes are greatly varied, although there is usually some mode of entrance into the body. Surgery, puncture wounds, ingrown toenails and ulcers provide a great mode of entrance for an infecting organism to enter the body directly. A hematogenous spread of an infection is one in which the organism is within the body, but travels through the blood stream to infect another area of the body. A good example could be someone just having dental work where an organism enters the bloodstream at the area of a tooth to invade another area, for example the foot.
Prevention can be taken by wearing proper clothing and shoes for the occasion. Walking barefoot in a forest would surely be a good way to get a puncture wound and to pick up an infection. Some infections are difficult to prevent, but early treatment can make greatly improve the situation.
Podiatric Care varies depending on the location, severity, and infecting organism. Sometimes a clinical evaluation and observation is all that is needed. Laboratory test, x-rays, and wound cultures are frequently taken to aid in the diagnosis of the infecting organism and to evaluate spread of the infection. Cultures test for aerobic and anaerobic bacterial organisms by swabbing an area with infection and then growing the organism on a culture media in the laboratory. The actual cultures can take days to grow out. A gram stain can be used for a quicker early result showing some characteristics of the organism like if they are a gram positive or gram negative organism. This may aid your physician in determining appropriate antibiotics. As more specific information becomes available using the cultures in the laboratory your physician may change the antibiotic to a more appropriate antibiotic than first thought. In-patient surgical admission can be needed for appropriate care of an infection. Some antibiotics need administored more frequently and through an intravenous (IV)line
Surgery is frequently performed for an infection. This surgical debridement maybe performed in the office, surgery center, or as admitted to the hospital. A debridement is a surgery performed on a wound to remove all necrotic (dying) tissue so that viable (living) tissue can remain. Infections commonly travel through deep spaces and fascial planes. Wet or gas gangrene can travel through the foot causing serious damage or leading to amputation. A simple infection can spread to become a life or limb threatening infection if left untreated. If you think you may have an infection please consult your Podiatrist or other health care practioner without delay.