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The most appropriate treatment for a leg infection depends on the particular type of infection. Some affect a person’s skin cells while others may involve the bone or lymph nodes. If a person suspects he has an infected leg, he should see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Some seemingly minor infections can become severe if left untreated or if they’re treated with the wrong types of medication.
One type of infection that may affect a person’s leg is called cellulitis. This infection involves the cells right below the skin’s surface, causing inflammation in the affected area. It develops when the skin is broken, such as because of a cut, broken blister or animal bite. The broken skin allows bacteria to enter the body, which leads to the infection. There are many types of bacteria that cause cellulitis, but those in the strep family are the most common.
Oral antibiotics are usually used to treat a cellulitis leg infection and usually cure it within a week or so. A patient may return to his doctor after about a week to check whether it has gone away entirely. In a severe case, a person may need to be hospitalized and treated with intravenous antibiotics.
Osteomyelitis is another condition that can affect a person’s leg. This infection is caused by bacteria, often Staphylococcus aureus, that get into a person’s bone. This may happen when bacteria travel through a person’s blood, or enter into bone tissue via a bone fracture. A person with this condition may feel extreme pain and fatigue. He may develop a fever and chills and feel nauseous. Often, swelling and redness is evident in the area located above the bone.
When osteomyelitis is the cause of a leg infection, it can be hard to treat. Doctors may have to remove a sample from the bone to determine which bacteria caused it and then hospitalize the patient for the administering of intravenous antibiotics. Sometimes doctors have to perform surgery to drain pus from the affected bone tissue. Even after the initial hospitalization, a patient may be required to take oral antibiotics at home in an effort to ensure the leg infection is truly gone.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is another type of infection that may affect a person's leg. Caused by a strain of staph and resistant to antibiotics, MRSA starts out as small, reddened bumps that eventually turn into a deep, inflamed, puss-filled section of the skin. Given time, this infection can penetrate the bone, bloodstream, and vital organs as well. Doctors treat this potentially fatal staph infection with very potent antibiotics to which it has not yet grown resistant. When an MRSA leg infection only affects the skin, such as during its early stages, a doctor may simply drain the abscess rather than administering antibiotics.