Seventy per cent of the minor skin breaks in diabetes patients can turn into cellulitis — a bacterial infection that spreads to the entire body and blood stream causing threat to life, doctors have said.
According to them, cellulitis becomes dangerous because it destroys tissues and even leads the bacteria spreading through bloodstream to all parts of the body.
“It can be caused by many types of bacteria including streptoccus, staphylococcus and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), but very occasionally a fungus is responsible too. If it becomes entirely body affected, it becomes life threatening,” said Meena Chhabra of the city-based Chhabra Diabetes Clinic.
She said the reason diabetics are more prone to cellulitis is because they have a poor immune system which with time becomes poorer and even minor skin breaks in the legs causes foot ulcers.
“During Diabetes, this extra rise in the glucose can cause problems as poor control of blood glucose level allows bacteria to grow faster in the affected tissue once it enters the bloodstream. Therefore, it is not easy to treat cellulitis among diabetic patients,” said Chhabra.
According to the doctors, bacteria usually enters the body through the break (no matter what the size is) in the skin — in a few cases, the break in the skin may not be visible at all. Sometimes in cases where athlete’s foot is present or diabetics who already have some kind of foot infection, the break may be from the fungus in the foot.
“In such cases, the infection may develop from the bacteria that enters the break in the skin at the foot level and may travel to the lower leg. The area already has infection present and, therefore, it spreads very rapidly,” said Chhabra.
Talking about the treatment process for cellulitis among diabetes patients, Junaid Azim Khan, a diabeteologist with Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, said: “Cellulitis has to be treated early as its symptoms are very prominent. In just a few days, symptoms like swelling, redness, development of puss, tenderness of skin areas may aggravate.”
“Cellulitis may further lead to gangrene if left untreated. When this happens, the patient will have lesser or no choice at all than to let the foot be amputated. Cellulitis bacteria, if not addressed earlier, may become part of a patients’ bloodstream and may start affecting other internal organs.”
Suggesting antibiotic regimen as the only way to treat cellulitis, he said: “Usually, a series of antibiotics will be administered to the patient with diabetes. This happens because it takes a few weeks or sometimes months for the effects to be visible. Always follow the right prescription instructions in taking antibiotics or else the whole regimen plan will not show any results.
“Oral antibiotics will be given to patients whose infection has not spread to the bloodstream or lymph system, and if they do not have any medical problems. Otherwise, the medication may be administered intravenously or by injection,” he said.