Your feet are continuously exposed to microorganisms that have the potential to cause an infection. Proper foot hygiene, combined with the body’s immune system, can help you fight off most of these pathogens. However, there are different scenarios where an infectious agent does enter your body and take hold.

Athlete’s foot (Tinea Pedis) and toenail fungus (Onychomycosis) are common fungal infections that affect the foot. Athlete’s foot causes an itchy, red, flaky rash on top of the foot or between the toes. Toenail fungus lives underneath the toenail, and causes it to thicken, flake, become discolored, or even separate from the nail bed. These types of infections are highly contagious. They can be contracted through direct contact with an infected person, or by indirect contact with an infected surface or object.

Bacterial microorganisms can occur when cuts or cracks in the skin allow the pathogen to enter the body. This is particularly common in diabetics who are prone to developing foot wounds but have diminished healing capabilities. Ingrown toenails can also lead to bacterial infections as well as eczema, and even severe sunburn. These types of bacterial infections may cause the surrounding skin to become swollen, painful and red. There may be a yellowish/greenish discharge (pus) that collects in an abscess. Erythrasma is another type of bacterial infection that thrives in folds of the skin and between the toes and causes patchy, scaly skin.

Other types of foot infections include plantar warts on the sole of the feet which are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Also, in rare cases, blisters may become infected and fill with pus (rather than clear fluid).

It is important to seek prompt treatment for any foot infection that causes you to have a fever or chills, pain, warmth at the site, redness, an abscess filled with pus or fluid, bleeding from the infected area, or a foul smell emanating from your foot.

Treating an infection promptly will avoid more serious complications from arising, such as cellulitis which is a potentially life-threatening infection that can spread into the bloodstream and lymph nodes.

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