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Prairie Path Foot & Ankle Clinic

What you need to know about bacterial infections in the foot

Bacteria is ubiquitious, which means, it is everywhere.  When there is a break in the skin such as trauma or something as simple as an ingrown nail, the bacteria is introduced into the foot causing a bacterial infection. A bacterial infection is treated with oral antibiotics, and often may need a concurrent procedure to treat the cause of the infection.  In more serious cases, you may need an admission to the hospital for IV antibiotics.  This first step is to have the problem checked out to determine the cause and start a treatment plan. The most common in staphylococcus aureus, or staph, but other bacteria can also affect you. 

Can I get a bacterial infection between my toes? Whenever you have itching or peeling between your toes, it actually may be athlete's foot, or tinea pedis.  This is a fungal infection that is treated differently than a bacterial infection.  However, this fungal infection can cause a break in skin which causes the baceria to enter the skin, causing a seondary bacterial infection.  This is why it is so important to treat athlete's foot in a timely manner, and also the reason why discomfort, pain, and redness may not be relieved by an over the counter anti fungal medicine.  It is also very important to have this condition examined because the infection can spread to the rest of skin and travel up the foot, and if this is the case, it may enter the bloodstream and you may need to be hospitalized. 

When is an ingrown toenail considered an infection?  When your nail grows into the skin instead of outwardly, you may be at risk for an infected ingrown nail.  When the nail grows into the skin, this causes a break in the skin.  It may be ever so so small, but nevertheless an opening for bacteria to enter the skin.  This is accompanied by pain, redness, and swelling.  There may also be drainage which may be yelowish and thick, which if it is a true bacterial infection, would be considered puss.  

What is an abscess?  When the bacteria collects in an area and starts producing puss, the collection of puss in an enclosed area is referred to as an abscess. If it near an ingrown toenail or near the surface of the skin, it can appear elevated with a whitish or reddish discoloration, and it is surrounded by redness.  It is often painful to touch, and may appear on the surface as a bug bite, but if you think it may be an infection, be sure to have it examined sooner than later.  

What about cellulitis? It is possible for bacteria to enter the skin and stay along the skin surface, instead of going deeper and causing an abscess.  The skin may appear red like a rash that is spreading, and it may have its origin from a break in skin that you can see, or it may have no known origin and just appears on the foot or the leg.  This type of bacterial infection needs to have prompt medical attention.  

If you have any questions about your foot, and not sure if it could be a bacterial infection, a fungal infection, or an infection at all, the best advice is to have it checked.  If it is truly an infection, the doctors at Prairie Path Foot and Ankle Clinic can come up with a treatment plan.