An infection is defined as the invasion of the body and the body’s tissues by a foreign organism that reproduces and causes disease. Not all infections result in serious disease. However, any potential infection of the body should be guarded against, as some infections can be potentially life-threatening.
Infections can often be prevented through maintaining good health and hygiene. Most healthy individuals can fight off minor infections through the body’s defenses. When a person suffers from a co-existing health condition such as heart disease or diabetes, it can become much more difficult for the body’s natural defenses to fight off the infection and restore the body to normal function.
There are several common types of infections:
- Bacterial Infection – The introduction of pathogenic bacteria into the body. While most bacteria are not harmful, and can even be beneficial, pathogenic bacteria cause infectious disease.
- Viral Infections – More than 5,000 types of viruses have been identified. Viral infections can be more difficult to treat than bacteria, often taking weeks and months for the body to completely recover.
- Fungal Infection – Fungus live all around us all the time. Most of the time the fungus has no negative affect. Fungal infections occur when fungus take over a part of the body and the immune system is unable to fight the infection off. Fungal infections commonly occur on the skin and often require medical intervention to be cured.
Infections can result in disease or cause complications to existing injuries. For example, if a person cuts their foot, it can be painful and take several days to weeks to heal. If that same person gets an infection in the cut on their foot, the cut becomes much worse, the pain is greatly increased, and healing can take two or three times as long.
Foot injuries are painful. We rely on our feet for mobility and use them all day, every day. When a foot injury occurs, we are immediately aware of just how dependent we are on our feet and how important their reliability is. Foot injuries that lead to infection can keep us off our feet and in pain for weeks or months as our body tries to heal.
Modern footwear creates a prime opportunity for foot infections, both fungal and bacterial, to develop. Socks and shoes keep our feet warm, dark, and generally moist, an ideal environment for fungi and bacteria to multiply.
Common Foot Infections
There are two types of common foot infections: bacterial and fungal. Bacterial infections are generally complications of existing injuries, such as a cut or blister on the foot. Fungal infections occur when the fungi that exist around us all the time finds an opportunity to multiply and overwhelm the body’s immune system in an area, taking over that part of the body and creating a painful or uncomfortable condition.
Fungal infections on the foot are common and require intervention to heal. Tight-fitting shoes create a warm, moist environment where fungi can grow out rapidly and invade the skin of the feet with conditions like athletes foot and toenail fungus. Fungal foot infections can be treated through a variety of methods, from creams to laser therapy, depending on the severity and resistance of the infection.
Bacterial infections are also quite common, as bacteria exist everywhere and in every part of the world. Walking barefoot increases the chances of a small cut or blister on the foot becoming infected with bacteria. Wounds that become infected are more painful and require increased time to heal.
Infected Blister on Foot
Blisters are small pockets of fluid that build up as a reaction to friction. Often, blisters on the feet are caused by shoes that are too tight or do not fit properly. If the friction is alleviated in time, the blister will protect the damaged area and heal within a few days. If the friction continues, however, the blister may burst and become an open wound, with raw skin exposed below where the blister formed.
Blisters should not be picked or “popped” once they’ve formed. The fluid-filled sac is protecting the damaged area and the body will reabsorb the fluid and heal the blister over several days. Once a blister is pricked, however, the skin is broken and bacteria can find its way into the damaged area, causing the injury to become more painful and require increased healing time.
If a blister does burst and bacteria is able to infect the area, you may experience increased swelling and pain, see some foul-smelling discharge, and find that the damaged area appears to grow larger as the bacteria multiply and tries to invade the surrounding, healthy tissues.
An infected blister should be treated with a warm water soak and antibiotics to prevent further spread of the bacteria. Soaking the infected foot in hot salt water will relieve some of the pain and swelling and help clean the foot. Once the injury is clean and dry, apply a topical antibiotic and cover the area with a dry, loose, cotton bandage. Covering the bandage with a clean, dry sock can help keep the bandage in place and prevent the wound from becoming dirty again.
Bacterial Foot Infections
Cuts and blisters on feet are prime opportunities for a foot infection to develop. A cut or blister can be painful when wearing shoes, tempting a person to go barefoot for comfort. Walking barefoot with a cut or open blister on your foot, however, is an invitation for a bacterial infection of the foot to occur.
When bacteria enter the body through a cut or raw blister, an infection can occur. Symptoms of an infection of the foot include:
- Redness – The infected area will generally change in color, getting redder than the surrounding skin.
- Warmth – The infection will often cause the infected area to be inflamed. This inflammation will result in the infected area being warmer to the touch than the surrounding tissues.
- Swelling – Inflammation results in a swollen look around the infected area.
- Puss – Green or yellow puss may discharge from the infected area.
- Foul Smell – Infection often has a foul smell.
- Pain – The pain of the original injury is greatly increased by the presence of the infection.
- Difficulty Walking – A foot infection can make the foot extremely tender and make walking very painful or even impossible.
If you are experiencing a bacterial infection in your foot, you may be to treat it at home with a hot water soak and topical antibiotics. If the wound seems to be growing larger or if it develops red streaks that run from the wound and up the foot or leg, seek medical attention, as oral antibiotics may be required.
Ingrown Toenail Infections
Ingrown toenails are a common problem in adults and teens where the edge of the toenail digs into the skin of the toe and the toenail grows into the flesh of the toe. The condition is painful and can become more painful if left untreated. Infections are common in ingrown toenails, exacerbating an already painful condition.
An ingrown toenail can be caused by cutting the toenail too short or cutting it in a rounded fashion that allows the corners of the toenail to grow into the skin at the side of the nail bed. Cutting toenails straight across in a flat line with the corners left slightly longer than the middle of the toenail is the best way to prevent ingrown toenails from occurring.
Often, ingrown toenails can be treated at home with hot water soaks and home treatments.
- Hot Water Soaks -For a minor ingrown toenail, soaking the foot in hot water and Epsom salts will relieve some of the pain and swelling.
- Dental Floss or Cotton Ball Under The Nail - After soaking, please a small bit of dry gauze or waxed dental floss under the toenail to lift the toenail up and prevent it from continuing to press into the skin around the toe.
- Antibiotic Ointment -Antibiotic ointment can help prevent infection where the toenail has broken the skin.
- Wear Roomy Shoes –Choosing shoes that allow your toes plenty of room to maintain their natural position will help prevent further pressure on the ingrown toenail and permit healing.
- Pain Relief – Over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are appropriate for pain and inflammation from ingrown toenails.
When to See a Doctor For Ingrown Toenails
If your ingrown toenail is not responding to at-home treatments or is continuing to worsen, you should see a podiatrist. You should also see a podiatrist if you get ingrown toenails on a regular basis and self-care and prevention don’t seem to help. Your podiatrist can treat the ingrown toenail by removing it and treat the damaged tissue that the ingrown toenail has created. If necessary, he can also remove part of the nail and nail bed to prevent the condition from returning.
Fungal Foot Infection
Fungal infections of the foot are extremely common and include athletes foot, also called tinea pedis, is caused by the fungus Trichophyton. Trichophyton is a common fungus often found on common surfaces like floors. The fungus also lives on clothing and inside of shoes.
As long as the skin is dry and clean, the Trichophyton fungus is harmless and will not reproduce. Athlete’s foot begins when sweaty feet are confined in tight-fitting shoes for long periods, allowing the fungus an opportunity to grow and infect the skin. Athlete’s foot is also referred to as tinea pedis or ringworm of the foot.
Tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot, appears as a red, itchy rash that generally begins between the toes and then spreads over the skin of the entire foot. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is closely related to other fungal infections, like ringworm and jock itch. Athlete’s foot can be treated with over-the-counter medications but sometimes a prescription is required to fully rid a person of athlete’s foot.
Foot Fungus Treatment
Dr. Jeffery Kleis is a podiatrist in Costa Mesa. Dr. Kleis has more than 25 years of experience in treating all manner of foot and ankle conditions. Dr. Kleis can evaluate your athlete’s foot and prescribe a course of treatment that will treat the condition and restore healthy feet.
To consult with Dr. Kleis, schedule an appointment today by calling (714) 760-4944 or schedule an appointment online.
Toenail Fungus Infections
Toenail fungus is a common condition, especially among athletes, older individuals, and people with compromised immune systems. Up to 10% of the population is estimated to suffer from toenail fungus infections. This condition is so common because the microbes that cause the infection are all around us all the time. When we wear tight fighting shoes that trap sweat and moisture next to our skin, we help to create an environment where fungus can take hold of our feet and toenails.
Treatment for Toenail Fungus
There are several different treatments for men and women suffering from toenail fungus. Oral medications are extremely effective in clearing fungal infections but have been shown to have moderate to severe side effects including diarrhea, upset stomach, rashes, liver damage, and even heart failure. Many patients with other health problems aren’t candidates for oral medication because of the serious nature of the possible side effects.
Topical treatments for toenail fungus do not have side effects but can be less effective than oral medications in clearing up the infection. Topical treatments have to penetrate the nail in order to attack the fungi living beneath the nail surface. If the topical medications aren’t able to penetrate the toenail, the fungus won’t be eliminated.
Laser treatments for toenail fungus are shown to be most effective with the least chance of side effects. Patients in poor health are still candidates for laser toenail treatments, as the laser treatment doesn’t require any anesthetic or carry any side effects. Laser treatments are fast and effective, leaving patients with clearer nails with zero recovery time.
Laser Nail Fungus Treatment
Dr. Kleis uses three different lasers in his office to remove toenail fungus. The Cutera Genesis Plus and the Q-Clear lasers allow Dr. Kleis to use different light wavelengths to penetrate the nail and kill a wider spectrum of organisms within the nail. The cool laser treatment employed by the LunaLaser application has been proven effective for treating onychomycosis, or toenail fungus, in four separate clinical trials. The laser targets the fungus and stimulates new, clear nail growth using a dual diode delivery mechanism that targets only the infected tissues. The treatments are painless and don’t take more than a half-hour in the physician’s office.
Most patients experience improvement in the appearance of their toenails after a single laser treatment. Removing toenail fungus with lasers is pain-free and doesn’t require any recovery time.
For an evaluation of your onychomycosis and to see if you are a candidate for laser treatment for toenail fungus, visit Dr. Kleis. Schedule a consultation today by calling (714) 760-4944 or (866) 333-8710.
Diabetic Foot Infection
Because of the damage that diabetes can cause to the circulation system and the nervous system, it is extremely important that individuals with diabetes take extra care of their feet and immediately tend to any concerns. One of the potential effects of diabetes is a weakened immune system rendering the body unable to effectively fight off infections. Additionally, the disease often leads to serious problems with the feet.
One common way that diabetics encounter foot problems is due to a damaged nervous system. Weakened nervous systems are not able to effectively convey messages from the feet, leading to an inability for the patient to feel the feet. This also impairs normal sweat secretion and oil production in the feet, leading to an abnormal pressure on the feet during walking and skin problems that often result in sores.
Due to the suppression of the immune response in diabetics, the body is often unable to heal these wounds. If left untreated bacterial infections can lead to gangrene, which may require amputation to ensure that the infection does not spread to other parts of the body.
If you suffer from diabetes, you must ensure foot health by working with your doctor to reduce the likelihood of infection and quickly treat any infection that arises. Dr. Kleis has more than 25 years of experience working with patients from all walks of life, including patients with diabetes. He can help you craft a foot healthcare plan that will keep your feet healthy and happy for years to come.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you protect your feet for a lifetime. Call (714) 760-4944