Diabetes: Treating Severe Foot Infections

Poorly controlled diabetes and its complications make it hard for the body to heal. Even minor foot problems can turn into bad infections. If not treated, they can lead to loss of a foot. Sometimes they can even become life-threatening. Quick care by your healthcare provider is needed to protect your foot.

Closeup of healthcare provider examining man's foot.

Get treatment

Sometimes, infections can spread through the feet and up the leg. To treat a bad infection, you may need to stay in the hospital. There, you may get antibiotics through an IV. You may also be sent to a healthcare provider who specializes in caring for infections. If the infection is a serious risk to your health, you may need surgery.

The goals of surgery

Surgery is done to remove the infection and protect your foot or leg. Your surgeon may take a small amount of dead tissue from the infected area. Sometimes, he or she may need to remove toes or larger amounts of tissue. You may have surgery in a hospital or wound care facility. You may need X-rays or other tests. These may be done to see if underlying bone is also infected.

The length of your stay depends on the surgery and how well you’re healing. While you are healing, you will likely need to limit activity for a while. You may also have visits from a home care nurse. Be sure to follow all instructions and see your healthcare provider for checkups.

Wound care

These tips may help you care for your wound:

  • Regular wound care after surgery helps keep your foot free of infection. It also aids healing.

  • Change your dressing every 6 hours, or as your healthcare provider tells you.

  • You may need IV antibiotics to help control the infection. Other medicines may be used to help your foot heal quicker. Take the medicines as prescribed.

  • Do what you can to keep your blood sugar within your target range. This will also help wound healing. The physical and emotional stress of a wound may cause changes in your blood sugar. If you have trouble with blood sugar control, call your healthcare provider.

  • A home care nurse may help with your dressings or IV antibiotics at home.

  • If needed, your provider may send you to a wound care facility. They specialize in treating ulcers and infections that are hard to heal. You may also be given antibiotics or other medicines that help fight infection. You will also learn how to care for the wound at home.

  • You may be told to keep your foot raised as much as possible. Swelling slows wound healing. You may also be told to not put weight on the foot.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2018
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