What is toe cellulite?

Toe cellulitis, or foot cellulitis, is a bacterial infection of the tissues just below the skin. Infected parts of the toe can include skin membranes, muscles, or connective tissues. Most cases of cellulitis are caused by strep or staph bacteria, commonly known as strep or staph, but can be caused by many different types of bacteria. Healthy, intact skin generally prevents bacteria from entering the body. Any breaks in the skin, such as minor cuts, surgical wounds, and insect or animal bites, can allow bacteria to enter the skin tissues and potentially cause infection.

Symptoms of toe cellulitis may include redness or swelling, pain or tenderness, or an increased temperature of the skin in the immediate area. It is also common for redness and swelling to increase, making the skin appear stretched or shiny. Additional signs of cellulitis may include fever, chills, and a feeling of unusual tiredness or fatigue. Most cases of toe cellulitis are mild, but can become serious very quickly if left untreated.

Treatment for toe cellulitis may include cleaning the injured area, elevating the foot, and applying a warm, wet compress. In more advanced cases, a doctor might consider prescribing oral antibiotics to kill the invading bacteria. Over-the-counter pain relievers are usually effective at treating pain, but a doctor may prescribe prescription pain relievers for serious infections. In mild to moderate cases, toe cellulitis will usually resolve after 7 to 10 days of treatment. Other underlying medical conditions or a delay in seeking treatment can increase the severity of the condition and prolong recovery.

An underlying condition that can contribute to complications is diabetes. Diabetics often suffer from decreased circulation to the lower extremities and are at increased risk of foot infections. For this reason, diabetics are often encouraged to take extra precautions to protect their feet from injury. People with conditions such as diabetes and atherosclerosis are often advised to seek medical treatment for foot injuries as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment play an important role in preventing serious complications of cellulitis, regardless of underlying medical conditions.

The most severe form of cellulitis is known as necrotizing fasciitis, also called flesh-eating bacteria. Although rare, necrotizing fasciitis is a serious and life-threatening infection. Treatment often includes the use of powerful intravenous (IV) antibiotics and surgical removal of infected or dead tissue. If the infection cannot be controlled with these measures, amputation may be considered when the infection is contained in one limb. It is not uncommon for victims of necrotizing fasciitis to require cosmetic surgery, skin grafts, or other forms of cosmetic surgery after recovering from necrotizing fasciitis.

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