When a Discolored Toenail is a Sign of Bacterial Toenail Infection And Its Time To See The Doctor.
Texans love to free their feet. Flip-flops, sandals, slides, open-toed cowboy boots, going barefoot in every venue, for any occasion, in all seasons.
Freedom from structured footwear may be more comfortable but exposing your feet indiscriminately to the elements can set you up as a host to some nasty bacteria.
Toe pain from bacterial toenail infection occurs when your toenail is traumatized from a contusion (a bruise under the nail on the nail bed), repeated trauma to the nail from chronic fungal infection or a crush injury causes a break in the nail or skin. All of these conditions allow bacteria to enter cracks or tears in the skin and cause inflammation.
Bacterial infection can lead to an abscess under the nail causing toenail discoloration of green, yellow or brown. Further complications from an untreated bacterial infection include more serious bone infection.
You need to know when toe pain and a discolored toenail is a sign of serious bacterial toenail infection that should be treated urgently. Know what you should expect from your physician to successfully treat it and the medical complications that can develop from delaying care.
Bacterial Toenail Infection Signs and Symptoms
- Redness around the nail
- Swelling and pain
- Purulent green, yellow, brown or white drainage underneath the nail
- Lymphangitis (red streaks) heading away from your toenail base to the tip of your toe
- Your toenail may become loose or fall off
Treatment for Bacterial Toenail Infection
Chronic bacterial toenail infection either doesn't get better right away or it keeps coming back. It can't be treated with anti-fungal creams, over the counter treatment or home remedy. Antibiotics must be taken to cure the infection. The antibiotic treatment can be topical, taken orally or in serious cases, where the infection has spread to the bone, IV antibiotics may be required.
You should expect treatment to include:
- a culture of the drainage sent to a licensed, certified lab so that a definitive diagnosis can be made of the type of bacterial infection.
- lab results of the type of bacteria causing the infection and the type of antibiotic it is sensitive to should guide prescription of antibiotic medication to begin treatment.
- Your physician should also x-ray your affected toe(s) to make sure there are no signs of bone infection. If bone infection is present then a bone biopsy should be done to see what type of bacterial infection is growing in the bone. The infected bone should either be debrided surgically or you should expect a course of IV antibiotics to treat the bone infection.
- Most of this treatment can be handled in a clinic office setting or as an outpatient procedure.
Medical Complications from Untreated Bacterial Toenail Infection
All infections that result in cellulitis (bone infection) are potentially threatening to the viability of the toe. Some bacteria are more resistant than others, but it doesn't change the workup or the treatment process of dealing with a soft tissue or bone infection.
Bacterial infections can spread rapidly. Without proper treatment you may lose your nail permanently. In extreme cases of deep infection reaching the bone, if the infection is not treated quickly, and with the right antibiotics, you run the risk of amputation. If you have diabetes, there is a risk of bacterial infection spreading to deeper tissues and bones or into the bloodstream and other parts of the body that can result in loss of fingers, toes or limbs.
Be sure to contact your doctor when:
- treatment doesn't help your symptoms
- you have fever or chills
- red streaks appear on your skin running from the infected area on your toe up your foot
- you have joint or muscle pain
Taking action quickly with the right medical professional is key to faster healing and recovery.