Symptoms of a leg infection include redness, swelling, and pain. In addition, clear or bloody drainage can occur, as can itching and an increase in temperature over the infected area. If the localized infection is not adequately treated, a systemic infection may occur. When this happens, the patient may experience generalized weakness, fatigue, and fever. Medical evaluation and prompt treatment needs to be instituted to avoid major complications, such as damage to the kidneys, liver, or heart.
Certain medical conditions can predispose a person to a leg infection. People with diabetes may be more susceptible to soft tissue infections, including those of the leg. In certain individuals with diabetes, the healing process is less efficient than in those without the condition. Therefore, if a diabetic injures his foot or ankle, the injury may be resistant to treatment, increasing the risk for a leg infection. Sometimes diabetes alters sensitivity to pain, rendering the patient unaware of an injury or infection.
Treatment for infections includes oral antibiotics, and in some cases, topical antibiotics. Sometimes, if the leg infection is severe, the physician may need to perform a wound culture of the infection site to determine which type of bacterial organism is responsible for the infection. This medical test is called a "culture and sensitivity" test and it tells the physician what the offending organism is and which antibiotic will be sensitive to that organism. If an antibiotic is not sensitive to an organism, it will be ineffective in treating the infection.
Occasionally, depending on the type and severity of the infection, they physician may recommend the application of sterile dressings. These dressings typically need to be changed when they become soiled or when the application of the topical antibiotic ointment needs to be re-applied. If the patient does not feel comfortable changing his own wound dressing, he can return to his physician, who will change the dressing and evaluate the progress of wound healing.
Overcoming infections may including taking certain vitamins on a daily basis. Vitamin C is an antioxidant frequently prescribed to help heal wounds, especially in the elderly or in diabetics. Other ways of overcoming infections include getting adequate rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and following the physician's treatment plan. If, however, despite adequate treatment and medical follow-up, the infection still remains, the person may need to be hospitalized to receive a course of intravenous antibiotic therapy.