Common Infections of the Feet

Here are the most common Infections that affect the foot:

Toenail Medical Issues

It’s doesn’t matter if you constantly wash your feet, they are still continuously contacting bacteria or other germs which could possibly cause an infection. The two usual suspects that cause infections are fungi and different kinds of bacteria. The majority of the time our immune system is able to keep any illness causing pathogens from harming us. But sometimes if you have a compromised immune system, a germ or bacteria is extremely strong, or you have a cut or other opening in your skin, the germs can gain access to the body easily and attack.

Indicators of an infection in the foot often times are minor and can without difficulty be taken care of without going to a doctor. Sometimes though you must get stronger treatments or even go to the hospital to take care of any complications that could seriously threaten your life.  Usually, you can follow several steps to keep from getting a foot infection.

Fungal Infections of the Feet

Fungal infections of the feet are something many people have seen, as it is common to get an infection of the toenail or feet due to unsanitary conditions at a spa or gym changing area. Fungal microorganisms are extremely strong and sometimes may even grow on unbroken skin. Feet, specially in between our  toes, offers a perfect situation for an infection. This lets fungi roots dig deep into the moist, soft tissue there. The only thing required for a fungal infection is for your feet to touch a wet surface that has been contaminated.

Fungal infections of the feet may be tenacious and extremely difficult to treat; however, they aren’t threatening to your life very often.

Plantar Warts

Plantar warts come from the human papillomavirus (HPV). Many times people catch these warts after walking around inside a public gymnasium, pool or shower without wearing the right shoes.

As irritating as this type of infection can be, normally they can be remedied through the use of medications you can buy over the counter and you can treat them without very much trouble.

Athlete’s Foot or Tinea Pedis

If you notice a red rash, itchiness, and flaking appearing in between your toes, you likely have a very common problem called athlete’s foot or tinea pedis. Fungi causing this grows in humid places like gymnasiums and spas, and they can also grow in shoes or socks that are sweaty. This condition is extremely infectious and it can be spread easily via floors, clothes or towels that have gotten contaminated.

Several kinds of fungi can cause Athlete’s foot, to include the fungi that causes ringworm. The majority of the times Athlete’s foot is recognized by its symptoms. IF you have a case that keeps coming back or is otherwise more serious, you may have to have skin scraping taken from your feet and looked at under a microscope. This test is called KOH.

Minor cases are easily taken care of by using over the counter creams or sprays that treat antifungal conditions. For a serious or long lasting fungal infection you may have to take some kind of oral medication like itraconazole or terbinafine 2 to 6 months.

Toenail Fungus  or Onychomycosis

Onychomycosis is a word that describes a fungal infection that characteristically grows very slowly under the toenails. Signs of it comprise a yellow or whitish colored nail, as well as flaking and thickening. In some cases the toenail comes loosened from your nail bed. This infection sometimes goes together with athlete’s foot. Usually anyone who has a weak immune system or suffers from peripheral vascular disease (as shown by having a compromised flow of blood to the extremities) can catch this disease easier.

A proper diagnosis is made via a visual exam supported by the results of the KOH test. Plus, a tissue sample can be taken from pieces of the toenail and used to grow a culture to assist in identifying the precise kind of fungal germs.

Onychomycosis is infamously hard to get rid of because the majority of topical treatments can’t pierce the tissue of the toenails. Usually you must take oral antifungal medications for the best results. You may need 6 month to a year for your affected toenails to grow back entirely. The top medication most doctors prescribe is terbinafine, but many times you must take another antifungal medication along with it called itraconazole.

Oral antifungal medicines could be required to treat fungal infections of the toenails.

Foot Infections Caused by Bacteria

Foot infections due to bacteria are not as common as those caused by fungi, but many times they are much more serious. These infections may sometimes go from a mere localized infection to one that goes septic and affects the entire body. The majority of these infections attack the body via a break or cut in your skin, which may have been due to a piercing wound.

Infections due to bacteria that appear under or next to the toenails often are caused by a toenail getting ingrown, which is called onychocryptosis. Things like eczema, bad sunburn or athlete’s foot sometimes offers the chance for the infection to start because it compromises the outer skin layers, which is known as the epidermis.

Though anyone can catch an infection of the feet due to bacteria, some types of folks have a higher chance of getting a complicated case, such as:


A kind of a bacterial infection recurrently misjudged as a fungal infection is erythrasma. This infection is due to a bacteria called Corynebacterium minutissimum. The majority of those who catch it have diabetes or are overweight. Like fungal infections, the bacteria that causes this infection mostly  begins growing inside skin folds like under the breasts, under the armpits, in between toes or in the groin areas. The infected areas are pink colored at first, however, they turn scaly and brown quickly as the skin begins flaking and shedding.

Erythrasma often times is discovered via an ultraviolet lamp called the Wood’s lamp. This light makes the culprit bacterium glow and appear a nearly fluorescent shade of coral-pink. The best treatment to get rid of it is by taking an antibiotic by mouth like erythromycin or azithromycin or by using a topical fusidic acid cream.

Abscesses of the Feet

If a foot infection caused by bacteria doesn’t clear up, the bacteria attacks the tissues and forms a pus pocket called an abscess. A foot abscess usually happens due to a puncture type wound (such as that caused by getting a pedicure that isn’t sterile) or due to an infected hair follicle. Though an abscess is like a boil, it involves a deeper layer of the body’s tissues.

Signs can be reddening, a warm feeling, swelling, discomfort and a raised bumpy area may suddenly burst out of the skin. You could run a low grade fever and generally feel achy and sore.  The main bacteria causing an abscess is S. aureus, but the ones that only attack the feet are the pyogenes Fusobacterium necrophorum and Arcanobacterium.

Abscesses many times can be discovered with a visual exam. If required, the doctor may do a bacterial culture to find out the exact stain of bacterium so as to prescribe the best antibiotic. The treatment to get rid of an abscess normally includes draining it and taking oral antibiotics or using topical antibiotic creams. You can take an over the counter medication such as acetaminophen for fever and discomfort.


Cellulitis is a possibly serious skin problem where a localized bacterial infection starts to spread out from the original area. Cellulitis characteristically begins with a tiny inflamed area and that spreads quickly to other tissues in the surrounding area. It also causes swelling, a feeling of warmth, discomfort and a characteristic series of red streaks that move in an upward direction from the feet.

These streaks are called lymphangitis. They indicate that this infection is heading into the lymph nodes. Should this occur, this infection can cause sepsis and become possibly threatening to the person’s life. If there is a high fever with chills and aches, then that means the infection has gotten serious.

Cellulitis is characteristically due to a cut in the skin, however, commonly those who have bad circulation of the blood or who suffer from diabetes are prone to it. The usual bacteria that cause it are  S. aureus and Streptococcus.

This infection is a dire medical emergency and it doesn’t matter if there is a fever. If red streaks are noticed moving up the foot, seek medical treatment immediately.

Simple cases of cellulitis can receive treatment by the person taking a broad spectrum antibiotic for two weeks. A more serious infection could mean a hospital stay and having to have intravenous antibiotics along with fluids.

Ways to Notice and Provide Treatment for Cellulitis

Preventing Cellulitis

You can prevent fungal infections of the feet if you keep your feet dry and clean and wash them daily using soap and water. Don’t go barefoot in a public location and don’t share shoes or clippers. Keep the toenails trimmed at all times and be sure to wear clean socks and footwear so you can stop the buildup of moisture. If you have feet that get sweaty all the time or they tend to develop fungal infections, start using an over the counter antifungal spray or powder for the feet.

You can prevent a bacterial infection of the feet if you keep your skin clean and damage free. If you get a cut or a scrape, wash it at once using soap and water, then put on a sterile Band-Aid. IF your feet tend to be dry or crack, be sure to use a petroleum jelly kind of cream for the feet so you can maintain softer skin.

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