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Diabetic Foot Infections Clinical Presentation

  • Author: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
 
Updated: Feb 23, 2016
 

History

As previously mentioned, local trauma and/or pressure (often in association with lack of sensation because of neuropathy), in addition to microvascular disease, may lead to a diabetic foot infection. However, patients may not necessarily have a history of trauma or have suffered a previous infection.

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Physical Examination

Cellulitis

Cellulitis may involve tender, erythematous, nonraised skin lesions on the lower extremity that may or may not be accompanied by lymphangitis. Lymphangitis suggests a group A streptococcal etiology. If bullae are present, S aureus is the most likely pathogen, but group A streptococci occasionally cause bullous lesions. No ulcer or wound exudate is present in patients with cellulitis.

Deep-skin and soft-tissue infections

Patients with deep-skin and soft-tissue infections may be acutely ill, with painful induration of the soft tissues in the extremity. These infections are particularly common in the thigh area, but they may be seen anywhere on the leg or foot. Wound discharge is usually not present.

In mixed infections that may involve anaerobes, crepitation may be noted over the afflicted area. Extreme pain and tenderness indicate the possibility of a compartment syndrome. Similarly, extreme pain may be an indication of infection with clostridial species (ie, gas gangrene). The tissues are not tense, and bullae may be present. If a discharge is present, it is often foul.

Acute osteomyelitis

Unless peripheral neuropathy is present, the patient has pain at the site of the involved bone. Usually, fever and regional adenopathy are absent.

Chronic osteomyelitis

In chronic osteomyelitis, the patient's temperature is usually less than 102°F. Discharge is commonly foul. No lymphangitis is observed, and pain may or may not be present, depending on the degree of peripheral neuropathy.

The deep, penetrating ulcers and deep sinus tracts (which are diagnostic of chronic osteomyelitis) are usually located between the toes or on the plantar surface of the foot. In patients with diabetes, chronic osteomyelitis usually does not occur on the medial malleoli, shins, or heels. (See the image below.)

Chronic diabetic ulceration with underlying osteom Chronic diabetic ulceration with underlying osteomyelitis. Plain film radiograph exhibiting cortical disruption at the medial aspect of the first MTP joint.
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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Michael Stuart Bronze, MD David Ross Boyd Professor and Chairman, Department of Medicine, Stewart G Wolf Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center; Master of the American College of Physicians; Fellow, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Michael Stuart Bronze, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Medical Association, Oklahoma State Medical Association, Southern Society for Clinical Investigation, Association of Professors of Medicine, American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Burke A Cunha, MD Professor of Medicine, State University of New York School of Medicine at Stony Brook; Chief, Infectious Disease Division, Winthrop-University Hospital

Burke A Cunha, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Richard B Brown, MD, FACP Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Baystate Medical Center; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine

Richard B Brown, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Society for Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Massachusetts Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP Professor of Endocrinology, Director of Training Program, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Strelitz Diabetes and Endocrine Disorders Institute, Department of Internal Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School

Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Physicians, American Diabetes Association, Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Charles S Levy, MD Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Section of Infectious Disease, George Washington University School of Medicine

Charles S Levy, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Medical Society of the District of Columbia

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

References
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Chronic diabetic ulceration with underlying osteomyelitis. Plain film radiograph exhibiting cortical disruption at the medial aspect of the first MTP joint.
 
 
 
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