What Is the Treatment for Toe Cellulitis?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2019
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Toe cellulitis is an infection of the skin and underlying tissues of the toes caused by microorganisms, usually bacteria that enter the body. Once an infection is present, the body calls upon its natural defense mechanism, a process called inflammation, which causes the area to become red and swollen. Treatment revolves around aiding the body to fight the forward progression of the invading microorganisms; and can include antibiotic medications and ointments, protecting the area from further infection, and debriding any damaged tissue.

The skin is the body’s natural barricade that guards against infection processes from entering the body. When bacteria is able to enter the body through a break of the skin’s continuity as seen with a cut or crack, the body calls upon the inflammation process to trigger the healing process. Inflammation also helps combat against the expansion of the infection from reaching into the surrounding tissue or other areas of the body. A contaminate such as the bacteria that crosses into the blood, for example, is a condition called septicemia.


Septicemia can be triggered through the infection process caused by toe cellulitis. This condition, where the blood becomes infected, can threaten the body’s overall health and can result in death. Toe cellulitis may also spread into the lymph nodes. Once the infection reaches the lymph nodes it may damage these specialized tissues and impede on the body’s ability to flush away wastes. This can lead to a chronic swelling of the affected area.

Though the symptoms can range from being be mild in nature with minimal skin discoloration and swelling, to severe with moderate swelling, tenderness, pain and possible fever, it is important to take precautions to avoid the infection from spreading. Since the infection process resulting from toe cellulitis can spread rapidly, treatment includes medications such as antibiotics to help kill the microorganisms. The duration of using oral medications is dependent upon the nature and severity of the infection. When the use of oral medications is ineffective, intravenous antibiotics may be necessary.

Other ways to combat the discomfort and swelling associated with toe cellulitis include elevating the affected foot and applying an antibiotic ointment to the open area of skin to also help fight infection. Keeping the wound covered prevents other microorganisms from entering through the break in the skin. In severe cases where the infection has damaged the skin, removal of the dead tissue through a process called debridement, may be necessary to allow healthy skin to heal and regenerate.


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