Lower Limb Infections | Tampa General Hospital

Lower Limb Infections 

There are a number of infections that commonly develop in the legs, ankles and feet.  

There are various types of infections that commonly affect the legs, ankles and feet, including: 

  • Athlete’s foot – This is a contagious fungal infection that often develops between the toes after wearing damp shoes or socks for a prolonged period of time. 
  • Cellulitis – This infection develops when bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin. Although cellulitis can affect skin throughout the entire body, it most commonly occurs on the lower legs. Osteomyelitis
  • This type of infection occurs within a bone. It may develop in the bone itself or spread to the bone from nearby tissue or through the bloodstream. 

Causes of Lower Limb Infections 

Causes will vary depending on the type of infection present. With that being said, it’s fairly common for lower limb infections to result from injuries such as: 

  • Abrasions 
  • Blisters 
  • Burns 
  • Cracked skin 
  • Cuts 
  • Ingrown nails 
  • Puncture wounds 
  • Ulcers 

Symptoms of Lower Limb Infections 

Symptoms of a lower limb infection will depend on the specific type of infection present, but will often include: 

  • Pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Tenderness 
  • Redness 
  • Warmth 
  • Itching 
  • Pus or other drainage 
  • Skin or toenail discoloration 
  • Skin dryness 
  • A foul-smelling odor 
  • Fever 
  • Fatigue 
  • Body aches 

Individuals with reduced sensation in their feet (such as those with diabetes) need to be especially mindful, since they may not notice certain symptoms right away. If you suspect that you might have a lower limb infection, it’s important to consult with a physician as soon as possible, since certain infections can become so severe that they could eventually require amputation if left untreated. 

Diagnosing Lower Limb Infections 

In certain cases—such as with cellulitis—physicians are able to diagnose lower limb infections simply by looking at the patient’s skin. Additional testing may sometimes be ordered to confirm the diagnosis, including: 

  • Biopsies 
  • Blood tests 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans 
  • X-rays 

Treatment for Lower Limb Infections 

The specialists at Tampa General Hospital are often able to treat lower limb infections with antibiotics, although certain types of infections may require surgery. Patients with osteomyelitis, for example, often undergo surgery to remove portions of bone that died as a result of the infection.