In patients with diabetes, any foot infection is potentially serious. Diabetic foot infections range in severity from minor skin infections to infections that reach the bone, resulting in amputation. Types of infection include cellulitis, abscesses, septic arthritis, tendinitis, and osteomyelitis. Foot infections are among the most common and serious complications of diabetes mellitus. They are associated with increased frequency and length of hospitalization and risk of amputation of the toes, foot, or parts of the leg. The good news, however, is that removing risk factors, visiting your podiatrist regularly, and prompt diagnosis and treatment can prevent severe symptoms.

Considering the frequency of foot infections in diabetic patients, aggressive management with antibiotics is critical for health. The Infectious Diseases Society of America urges people with diabetes and their doctors to manage diabetes through antibiotic medicines.

People with diabetes have a 25% chance of developing a foot ulcer – and about half of these ulcers will become infected. These infections often result in hospitalization, or even amputation. Antibiotic treatment can significantly decrease your chances of amputation and hospitalization. Furthermore, proper antibiotic management of foot infections reduces complications from diabetes. Even if a patient is hospitalized due to a foot infection resulting from diabetes, doctors can quickly transition them to outpatient treatment by prescribing antibiotics. Identifying if you are high risk for infection is the first step to finding the right treatment.

Several antibiotics have been shown to be effective, but your podiatrist will need to assess your particular ulcer to determine if treatment is right for you. Antibiotic therapy should not be used for foot ulcers without signs of infection because it does not enhance healing or prevent infection.

If you have diabetes, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations – and if you haven’t already consulted with a podiatrist, do so. With neuropathy and other symptoms associated with diabetes, you may not even be aware you have a foot infection. The sooner you are diagnosed and treated, the more likely antibiotics and less radical treatments can alleviate your symptoms.