Q. I am diabetic and have a toe infection. How to treat it?

Answered by
Dr. Ajit V
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on Jan 21, 2020

Hello doctor,

I am a 55-year-old male with diabetes. I am in relatively good health, but I do have an infected toe. I need antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Please help.

Dr. Ajit V

Diabetology General Surgery


Welcome to icliniq.com.

It is great to know that you are generally in good shape, except for the infected toe.

It is important to know if the infection started on its own or due to an injury? If there is an ulcer on the sole side of the toe? Duration of the infection? If the toe is swollen, and red? If there is pus, and importantly are you in pain?

Scenario 1: Now, if the infection has started on its own, if it had started on the side of the nail bed (paronychia) and of short duration, then it is relatively straightforward. You need antibiotics to cover the most common bacteria causing superficial skin infection (Penicillin family) and anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling and pain (Diclofenac group).

Scenario 2: If you had an ulcer on the underside of the toe, and that has lead to an infection of the toe itself, then it is something that needs specialist consultation, for involvement of infection of the toe bone and the extent of the infection has to be assessed. And if in need of powerful antibiotics, oral or IV may have to be considered, apart from the drainage of pus, clearing of dead tissue from infection site and dressing of the wound.

If you do not feel pain, then it is ominous, because, the extent of infection can be far greater than you think, and it needs a surgical consultation at your nearby hospital.

Finally, if there had been an ulcer, pressure-relieving footwear might have to be considered to prevent the recurrence of ulcers.

I hope this helps.

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