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How Should I Treat a Leg Infection?

Oral antibiotics can be used to effectively treat many types of leg infections.
Some leg infections require the treatment of a health care physician before they will clear up.
If you suspect a cut on your leg is infected, see a doctor who can prescribe antibiotics or medicated creams.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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The most appropriate treatment for a leg infection depends on the particular type of infection. Some affect a person’s skin cells while others may involve the bone or lymph nodes. If a person suspects he has an infected leg, he should see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment recommendation. Some seemingly minor infections can become severe if left untreated or if they’re treated with the wrong types of medication.

One type of infection that may affect a person’s leg is called cellulitis. This infection involves the cells right below the skin’s surface, causing inflammation in the affected area. It develops when the skin is broken, such as because of a cut, broken blister or animal bite. The broken skin allows bacteria to enter the body, which leads to the infection. There are many types of bacteria that cause cellulitis, but those in the strep family are the most common.

Oral antibiotics are usually used to treat a cellulitis leg infection and usually cure it within a week or so. A patient may return to his doctor after about a week to check whether it has gone away entirely. In a severe case, a person may need to be hospitalized and treated with intravenous antibiotics.

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Osteomyelitis is another condition that can affect a person’s leg. This infection is caused by bacteria, often Staphylococcus aureus, that get into a person’s bone. This may happen when bacteria travel through a person’s blood, or enter into bone tissue via a bone fracture. A person with this condition may feel extreme pain and fatigue. He may develop a fever and chills and feel nauseous. Often, swelling and redness is evident in the area located above the bone.

When osteomyelitis is the cause of a leg infection, it can be hard to treat. Doctors may have to remove a sample from the bone to determine which bacteria caused it and then hospitalize the patient for the administering of intravenous antibiotics. Sometimes doctors have to perform surgery to drain pus from the affected bone tissue. Even after the initial hospitalization, a patient may be required to take oral antibiotics at home in an effort to ensure the leg infection is truly gone.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is another type of infection that may affect a person's leg. Caused by a strain of staph and resistant to antibiotics, MRSA starts out as small, reddened bumps that eventually turn into a deep, inflamed, puss-filled section of the skin. Given time, this infection can penetrate the bone, bloodstream, and vital organs as well. Doctors treat this potentially fatal staph infection with very potent antibiotics to which it has not yet grown resistant. When an MRSA leg infection only affects the skin, such as during its early stages, a doctor may simply drain the abscess rather than administering antibiotics.

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Discuss this Article

anon924973
Post 7

I've had four cellulitis infections in my right leg, and one in my left. For the one in my right leg, I've been through three rounds of oral antibiotics, and then a shot of some antibiotic, then to the ER for IV antibiotics.

Finally, at my last doctor's appointment, I was put on another round of Cipro (oral antibiotics). It's not healing too well. Slowly.

I have been a type 1 diabetic. for nearly 30 years now. This is becoming a rather bothersome problem. My legs are scarred up from these cellulitis infections, to the point I don't wear shorts anymore during the summer. --Aaron

anon342737
Post 6

One night, I fell on my knee and it got infected. I went to the hospital and they said the infection was in my blood. They did X-rays and said it hadn't travel to my bone, but three months later, here I am again with another infection on the same leg, just in a different place. Is that normal? Please help. I'm so worried.

anon250639
Post 5

My dad has a leg infection, and his left calf is red, and whenever he walks, it hurts so bad. He can hardly walk to the bathroom. What should we do?

lovealot
Post 4

@andee - I guess we all tend to try to treat some medical conditions we get,on our own. I'm happy that your cellulitis didn't go too deep. Taking antibiotics helps you get well sooner, it relieves pain, and heals the skin.

If you have other health problems, like fluid build-up, diabetes, or frequent fungal infections, you need to take special care because cellulitis can come back. I wouldn't wish this condition on anyone.

B707
Post 3

@honeybees - I'm glad that the second round of antibiotics took care of your infection. That would have been harsh if you'd had to go to the hospital for IV treatments.

How did you get the infection? Did you get a cut on your leg or did it come through your blood? Those strep and staph germs are really nasty.

I'm going to look close at any cut I get on my leg, or any red swollen areas, and get to the doctor right away.

honeybees
Post 2

I don't usually have any problems when I take antibiotics, but I had an infection in one of my legs a while back and it took a long time for it to heal.

It was also diagnosed as cellulitis of the legs, but the first round of antibiotics did not clear it up. Thankfully, the second antibiotic that was prescribed finally cleared up the infection.

My doctor said that if that had not worked, I would have had to had antibiotics through an IV in the hospital, and I didn't want to have to go that route.

andee
Post 1

I had an area on my leg that was red, painful and swollen. I treated it myself for a few days with an antibiotic cream, thinking it would go away after awhile, but it started to spread and look worse. It did not get any better, so I finally went to the doctor.

She told me I had a cellulitis infection in my leg, and this type of infection goes deeper into the skin than just a minor surface infection.

After taking some antibiotics it finally cleared up in about 10 days and you couldn't even tell where it had been.

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