Most common foot infections come from being in contact with dirt, fungus, and bacteria on the floor. Other infections can result from an injury that does not heal properly or a circulatory problem, which is often tied to diabetes.
Fungus (Athlete’s Foot): Foot fungus may be contracted in public places such as locker rooms and showers by coming into contact with a wet surface. It can also occur when the feet are moist and come in contact with fungus. Fungus tends to grow between the toes and can spread to infect the entire bottom of the foot and nails. The skin will appear cratered and flaky and will have a foul odor.
When the fungus infects the nails, it is called onychomycosis. The nail will appear yellow or white, thick, and possibly flaky.
Bacterial Foot Infections: When the surface of the foot has a crack or break, a bacterial foot infection is more easily able to enter the skin. A common way to contract an infection is from having a break in the skin caused by an ingrown toenail. Older people, people with diabetes, and people with compromised immune systems are more prone to contracting bacterial infections. An infection will appear red, swollen, and painful. It may fill with fluid and be pussy.
Erythrasma: This condition resembles athlete’s foot but is caused by a bacteria. It will start out being pink and then become brown and flaky.
Abscess: When a bacterial infection advances to become a large pocket of puss, it is called an abscess. Puncture wounds are often the cause as they allow deeper penetration of the bacteria. As with other infections, the symptoms include swelling, warmth, and pain.
Cellulitis: Cellulitis also begins as a bacterial infection and then spreads. It will appear as red streaks extending from the foot. Cellulitis can become life threatening if it infects the lymph nodes and spreads throughout the body. The patient may suffer from high fever, chills, and body aches.
Mild bacterial foot infections can be treated at home. The more severe, particularly in diabetic patients, must be treated by a physician.
Athlete’s foot can usually be remedied with over the counter sprays and creams.
Toenail fungus can occasionally be cured with over the counter topical antifungal treatments that are applied around the nailbed or an oral treatment prescribed by your doctor. More advanced cases can be treated in a podiatrist’s office with noveon laser.
An abscess may require draining by a physician, followed by oral antibiotics and analgesics.
Erythrasma may be treated with a topical cream and/or oral antibiotic.
Cellulitis must be treated by a physician and is considered an emergency in the event red streaks appear. The severity of the case will determine whether the patient may be treated with oral antibiotics or hospitalized and administered intravenous fluids and antibiotics.
A simple way to prevent future foot infections caused by contact with pathogens is to keep feet clean and dry, avoid going barefoot in public areas and wear comfortable footwear that allows the foot to breathe. Taking care of cuts and punctures immediately by cleaning the feet and applying antibiotic ointment can help to prevent bacterial infection.