Cellulitis is a common form of bacterial skin infection that often targets the feet, toes, and lower extremities. It can be an uncomfortable and potentially painful condition with redness and swelling. Podiatrists play an integral role in diagnosing and treating skin conditions like cellulitis. They’re adept at identifying subtle signs of the disease that may otherwise be overlooked as minor issues. That’s why it’s important to have a thorough understanding of cellulitis and know when to consult a specialist.
What is Cellulitis?
Cellulitis affects soft tissue around the toes and feet, and the associated redness can feel hot and tender to the touch. It can affect one or both feet.
Unfortunately, this bacterial infection tends to spread quickly to the skin of the lower legs, and possibly other areas of the body, too. If not treated effectively, cellulitis could potentially result in sepsis, a body-wide reaction to infection affecting the bloodstream, bones, and internal organs.
Typical Symptoms of Cellulitis
Some patients describe cellulitis as a kind of “red streaking” that runs up the foot and leg. A foot or leg with cellulitis is quite painful, possibly making it difficult to walk comfortably. More common symptoms of cellulitis include:
- Extreme redness
- Swelling around the affected area
- The sensation of warmth
- Pain and tenderness in the lower leg
- Leaking or oozing pus
- Fevers, chills, or sweating
- Stiffness in the joints
- Sudden rashes on the feet and legs
- Nausea and vomiting
If you notice a red-tinted patch of skin that’s warm to the touch, book an appointment with the Fixing Feet Institute to get it checked out. This could be a sign of localized cellulitis.
Common Causes of Cellulitis
Cellulitis is triggered by the invasion of certain types of bacteria. The two most common types of bacteria that cause cellulitis are streptococcus and staphylococcus. This is in contrast to fungal nail infections, which are caused by the growth of fungus in and around the toenails.
Poor hygiene is a major risk factor. Streptococcus and staphylococcus invade the body through damaged areas of the skin, especially areas that are cracking and peeling. Other possible points of entry include wounds, cuts, infected toenails, and insect bites. This is why it’s so important to care for the nails and skin and also keep your feet clean and dry.
Cellulitis affects people of all ages, including young people who may otherwise be in great health. However, individuals with diabetes or weak immune systems may be more prone to cellulitic episodes. Mixed infections with more than one organism can cause cellulitis too.
Possible Treatment Options for Skin Infections
The most common treatment plan for cellulitis is a topical antibiotic, which helps rid the body of invasive bacteria. If the cellulitis spreads over a larger area, your podiatrist may suggest an oral antibiotic. The next step up involves IV antibiotics.
Before prescribing antibiotic treatment for localized cellulitis, your podiatrist will first care for the area to reduce the risk of further infection and promote healing, such as:
- Cleaning and treating any open wounds
- Draining abscesses
- Removing dead tissue
It’s unlikely surgery will be necessary. You can further reduce cellulitis symptoms such as pain and swelling with leg elevation and ice packs.To prevent future cellulitic episodes, use moisturizing lotions, keep toenails neatly trimmed, and wear sandals in the locker room. Be sure to clean breaks in the skin with soap and water. Apply antibiotic creams or ointments to reduce the risk of infection.