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Infection can develop after an injury or wound to the skin. Signs of infection may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the affected area.
  • Red streaks extending from the affected area.
  • Pus draining from the area.
  • Fever.

Inflammation develops as a normal protective response of the immune system when body tissue is irritated for whatever reason. When tissue is irritated, the immune system increases blood flow to the area. This causes localized swelling, warmth, and redness. The swelling may put pressure on nerve endings which may cause pain in the area. Inflammation may occur in joints or extremities. Inflammation may occur with overuse of a body area or with minor injuries. Symptoms of inflammation may be present in conditions such as bursitis, arthritis, or tendinitis.

It may be hard to tell the difference between inflammation or an infection, so be sure to evaluate any other symptoms that are present.

Pain and swelling that occur without an injury and with redness, red streaking, tenderness, heat, fever, or pus may be caused by an infection. Infections can occur without a known injury to the affected area.

  • Pain, swelling, redness, and warmth that develop suddenly in a big toe joint may be caused by gout.
  • Other conditions or diseases that may cause inflammation include:
    • Arthritis or rheumatic diseases.
    • Retrocalcaneal bursitis and tendinitis, which can occur from overuse injuries.

Minor infections may go away on their own or with home treatment measures. These include:

  • A fungal infection (athlete's foot).
  • A viral infection from a plantar wart wound.

More serious infections should be evaluated by your health professional. These include:

  • Skin infection (cellulitis).
  • A pus-filled pocket (abscess) just under the skin surface or deep in tissue.
  • Joint infection (septic arthritis).
  • Bursa infection (septic bursitis).
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis).
  • An infection of the entire body (sepsis).

People who have diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or an impaired immune system are more likely to develop a toe or foot infection or have complications from an infection.

Mild inflammation or minor infections usually will clear up on their own.

Prompt medical treatment of an infection can prevent serious complications.


By: Healthwise Staff Current as of: June 4, 2014
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine

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