What is Foot Cellulitis?

Mary McMahon

Foot cellulitis is a type of infection observed in the skin of the foot and associated with invasion by bacteria like staph. This infection can spread, with the bacteria traveling through the lymphatic system, and it may become a very serious medical problem. It is important to treat foot cellulitis early and aggressively to prevent complications. Cleaning injuries to the foot thoroughly and monitoring the foot for early signs of infection will help prevent the development of cellulitis.

Untreated foot cellulitis may necessitate amputation.
Untreated foot cellulitis may necessitate amputation.

Common causes of foot cellulitis are poorly cleaned cuts and abrasions, foot surgery, and poor hygiene, especially in people with poor circulation in the feet or compromised immune systems. The infection can develop into an abscess, potentially ulcerating all the way to the bones of the feet and causing extreme pain for the patient. If the infection is not treated, it may become necessary to amputate the limb if too much tissue death occurs or flesh eating bacteria invade the site.

A physician may prescribe a course of antibiotics for a patient with foot cellulitis.
A physician may prescribe a course of antibiotics for a patient with foot cellulitis.

Signs of foot cellulitis include redness, swelling, pain, and heat. Patients may notice radiating streaks of redness, betraying the presence of the bacteria in the lymphatic system. Treatment involves the administration of antibiotics, aggressively cleaning the foot, and allowing the patient to rest. In some cases, surgical debridement of the foot is needed to remove dead and damaged tissue. Dressings will be applied to the foot and need to be regularly changed to keep the foot as dry and healthy as possible.

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Monitoring the feet for early signs of infection may help prevent the development of foot cellulitis.
Monitoring the feet for early signs of infection may help prevent the development of foot cellulitis.

Any time the skin on the foot is broken, no matter how minor, the site should be flushed thoroughly with water and cleaned with mild soap. This will remove bacteria and other infectious organisms from the wound and reduce the risks of infection. If a cut or scrape on the foot starts to look inflamed, a doctor should be consulted for early treatment. Untreated foot cellulitis can lead to septicemia, a potentially fatal infection of the bloodstream, and may also be associated with conditions like bacterial endocarditis, where bacteria travel to the heart and invade the heart wall.

A foot surgery can lead to infection and foot cellulitis.
A foot surgery can lead to infection and foot cellulitis.

People with a history of foot cellulitis may experience some limping and difficulty walking in the initial stages of healing, until the swelling reduces and some of the pain resolves. People with immune and circulatory conditions who have experienced cellulitis should be very careful about foot care in the future, changing socks regularly, cleaning and drying the feet often, and checking for any signs of inflammation every day.

Foot cellulitis can spread with the bacteria traveling through the lymphatic system.
Foot cellulitis can spread with the bacteria traveling through the lymphatic system.
Sterile dressings should be applied to the foot if surgical debridement is necessary.
Sterile dressings should be applied to the foot if surgical debridement is necessary.
Swelling in the foot may be a sign of foot cellulitis.
Swelling in the foot may be a sign of foot cellulitis.

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