Infections within the foot and ankle are caused as a result of bacterial growth. The initial infection typically presents itself somewhere in the skin, whether through a dirty cut or a puncture wound. In Diabetics, things like a blister, callous, or other more trivial things may lead to an infection due to the lack of sensation, or neuropathy. In more mild cases, the skin may turn red and a small amount of superficial drainage may be noted. If left untreated, infections (especially depending on the bacterial organism present) may lead to very severe and even life-threatening situations. Again, the patient group most susceptible to these issues are Diabetics. The main reason why Diabetics are such a high risk group is that lack of sensation or neuropathy. While someone with a more normal sensation will have pain or some degree of discomfort, Diabetics generally have a diminished level of pain. Without pain, your body may not realize that anything is out of the ordinary, so a milder infection may not be detected until it turns into a wound or more severe infection. If left untreated, more simple skin infections can lead to ulcerations, bone infections (osteomyelitis), or in some cases Sepsis/Septic shock (which is a shut down of all your vital organs).
While much of the above examples are on the extreme side, we pride ourselves on good patient education especially for Diabetics so none of those items will ever be a reality. Our approach to infections begin with a bacterial culture, which will allow us to properly tailor an antibiotic to the specific infection. The treatment varies on a case by case basis, but having an infection means that we must work as quickly as possible to stop any further spread of the bacteria. It also means that in some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary for any deeper infections. In even more extreme cases, an amputation may be necessary as a last ditch effort to stop the spread of the infection (if it has spread to the bone).
Obviously, we hope that we would never need to use any of the more extreme measures. If you suspect you may have an infection, the best thing you can do is to get in touch with us ASAP so we can evaluate you and begin a treatment plan.