Diabetes and Feet – Cellulitis


Foot Care for Cellulitis in Diabetes

Without proper foot hygiene and care, people with diabetes are prone to diabetic foot infections. Foot amputations due to infections are many times higher in people with diabetes than in non-diabetics. It is for this reason that infections like cellulitis have to be treated aggressively in order to avoid foot amputation.

What is Cellulitis?

It is a bacterial infection that affects the skin and the tissue beneath the skin. It affects all layers of the skin and spreads to the tissue beneath it. Cellulitis can occur when there are cracks on skin, and when there are skin ulcers on the feet. It is caused due to a bacteria called staphylococcus.

Symptoms of Cellulitis

  • Skin Redness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness and pain
  • Feeling of warmth on the affected area
  • Fever

Though cellulitis can occur in any part of the body, people with diabetes are prone to get cellulitis in the feet. Since the infection causing cellulitis can spread into the bloodstream, it is very important to provide aggressive treatment and care.

Cellulitis – Risk Factors

  • Crack or break on the skin exposing the inner layers
  • Chronic leg edema
  • Other fungal infections like Athlete’s foot
  • Conditions like psoriasis and eczema
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Cellulitis is diagnosed by physically examining the affected area, and conducting tests like white blood cell count, and erythrocyte sedimentation ratio. Treatment options include antibiotics, and corticosteroids.

Diabetes and Cellulitis

For people with diabetes, cellulitis is caused due to a delayed diagnosis or improper treatment of diabetic foot infection. In this condition, there is a high risk of foot amputation. It is necessary that there is early diagnosis of the condition and prompt treatment.

People with diabetic neuropathy, chronic high blood sugar levels, and other joint diseases are at a high risk of developing cellulitis. It is for this reason people with diabetes need periodical foot examinations, especially of the fourth and fifth toes as they are more prone to infection.

Improperly treated diabetic foot ulcers are also a major risk factor for cellulitis. Diabetes reduces immunity. Added to that, due to poor blood flow in the foot, medications do not reach the affected area making it hard to treat the ulcer. This leads to higher risks of bacterial infection.

It is important that diabetic foot ulcers get proper wound care so that the chances of infection are reduced. Wounds have to be cleaned, dressed, and treated with topical antibiotics in order to prevent infection.

All diabetic foot infections including mild, moderate, and severe need to be treated with antibiotics and wound care. However, severe cellulitis needs intravenous antibiotic injections and hospitalization. If not managed properly, it leads to foot amputation.

How to Prevent Cellulitis

  • Examine feet daily for any changes on the skin including redness, cracks in the skin etc.
  • Wash feet twice daily and apply moisturizer
  • Never use blades or other instruments for nail cutting. Use only safety clippers
  • Never walk barefoot
  • Wear proper fitting diabetes shoes and footwear
  • Wear absorbent socks. Apply antifungal powder before wearing them
  • Quit smoking as it can worsen diabetic neuropathy
  • Reach target blood sugar levels and HbA1c
  • Get regular feet examinations with a podiatrist
  • Consult your diabetes doctor, and a podiatrist if you see any redness, or if you have any cuts on your skin