Cellulitis on Foot: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Pictures

Feet, we either seem to love them or hate them, they can even be the subject of popular fetishes. Siegmund Freud postulated that the foot fetish was centred around the fact that toes can mimic mini penises, perhaps a flight of fancy but feet are listed in the top ten of most popular fetishes. Loving your feet is important as cleanliness; good sanitation is pivotal in keeping foot problems and maladies at bay.

Why do people seem to either love or hate their feet?

There seems to be a real societal taboo about feet, with the majority coming down on the side of thinking they are disgusting and to be hidden away. But why is this?

Joking aside, a dislike of feet can hugely contribute to poor podiatric health and the prevalence of nasty bacterial and fungal infections. In a religious context, going barefoot is seen in the Christian tradition to demonstrate penitence and in the Buddhist faith, treading the pathway to virtuousness. But in Western civilisations, socks and shoes are the done thing.

Bacteria on the feet

The feet are a perfect environmental haven for nasties to grow. Dark, moist crevices and corners are ideal conditions, factor in sweaty socks and closed non-leather shoes and they will multiply like wildfire. Funnily enough, socks can actually offer an advantage, a little counterintuitive, as they soak up perspiration but only if changed daily. A proliferation of bacteria ingests dead skin cells and naturally occurring oils. Developing colonisation engenders organic acids, these are the villains when it comes to smelly feet! Some people can harbour a bacteria called Kyetococcus Sedentarius which deliver compounds of volatile sulphur. Remember the joys of stink bombs at school? That is the exact smell of rotten eggs which may emanate from your socks leading to a reluctance to remove them and a self-perpetuating vicious circle.

Foot conditions

There are numerous fungal and bacterial infections of the foot even in those who keep their little piggies super clean. This is because of the general level of bugs on feet, the anatomical design which encourages corners and hiding places and our propensity to keep them covered up. Customarily, the body’s natural immune system overcomes problems but poor personal freshness or an injury or wound, whether deliberate or accidental, can give rise to complications.

Cellulitis of the Foot

Athlete’s Foot – Tinea Pedis – which is a persistent fungal infection affecting both the delicate softened skin between the toes and the toenails is probably top of most people’s awareness list. But cellulitis of the foot is pretty frequent too. It can begin in a low key, harmless way but has the potential to flourish into something quite sinister, transitioning from a localised infection to systemic blood poisoning. Invariably caused by a tiny tear in the skin not even be visible to the naked eye, it is easy to perceive why a disorder like Athlete’s Foot can act as a precursor to a cellulitis infection. Ingrowing toenails (Onychocryptosis) is another predictable primary leading to secondary cellulitis infections, also Psoriasis and Eczema which compromise the integrity of the skin structure leading to tiny cracks and lesions.

Vulnerability and Predisposing Factors

Some people excluding those who don’t wash frequently enough who are clearly at higher risk will be more in peril of cellulitis of the foot. These include those with compromised circulation to the extremities so diabetes sufferers who typically have poor blood flow to the limbs and feet. Also those with inadequate immune function which may be due to deliberate drug intervention for another pre-existing disease or, simply age-related.

Symptoms of Cellulitis in the Foot

Red, inflamed skin which is warm to the touch, not subsiding even when footwear and socks are removed. There will be some pain and it may feel as if there is a pulse within the swelling as the infection takes hold. If there is a spot or pimple or small skin tear, this can leak accumulated pus. It is important not to confuse the symptoms of cellulitis in the foot with Erythrasma, a condition caused by the bacteria, Corynebacterium Minutissimum, most likely to target those with obesity issues or who are diabetic. The folds of skin between fleshy toes are prime targets. Initially, the skin takes on a pink hue but quickly separates itself from cellulitis as the skin becomes brown and scaly and starts to flake. Your doctor can differentiate between the two using a Wood’s lamp which sheds ultraviolet light under which the bacteria takes on a fluorescent pinkish hue.

What is the treatment for foot cellulitis?

Caught early, foot cellulitis responds very well to a treatment of oral medication, usually penicillin based, and sometimes topical antibiotic cream.

Home remedies really support this treatment. Use a shallow basin or spa to soak the foot in cool, clean water to help relieve swelling and inflammation drying thoroughly afterwards with a clean towel.

Practise good foot habits

Keep your feet scrupulously clean with daily bathing, increasing if you undertake a vigorous sporting activity or experience exceptionally hot weather. Change socks every day and try to wear different shoes each day which allow them to fully dry out. An old trick is to stuff small balls of newspaper into shoes or boots which help absorb moisture from sweat or heavy rain.

Try not to wear plastic against your skin as this is not breathable even on cool days. Consider the style of shoe too. Those fabulous stilettos are to die for but worn regularly, squash toes together cause friction and abrasion, a hotbed for naughty microbes.

Pictures of foot cellulitis

To help you with that inevitable internet diagnosis, here are some pictures of cellulitis in the foot plus some other conditions like a foot ulcer for the purposes of comparison.



Article References:

  1. https://metro.co.uk/2017/10/05/exploring-the-uks-top-10-most-popular-fetishes-6978762/
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-avoid-smelly-feet/
  3. https://www.verywellhealth.com/bacterial-infections-of-the-feet-and-toes-1337758
  4. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/214222-treatment
  5. https://naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17888632-love-your-feet