Fungal foot infection, cellulitis and diabetes: a review

Diabet Med. 2009 May;26(5):548-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2009.02722.x.


Aims: To review the current evidence for the presence of fungal foot infection (tinea pedis and toenail onychomycosis) as a risk factor for the development of cellulitis within the lower limb, particularly for those individuals with diabetes.

Methods: A structured review of medline, embase and cinahl databases was undertaken to identify publications investigating fungal foot infection as a risk factor for the development of cellulitis.

Results: Sixteen studies were identified. Eight studies adopted a case-control methodology, with the remainder being cross-sectional surveys. The majority of studies established the presence of tinea infection by clinical rather than established microbiological methods. Although the majority of papers suggested a link, only two case-control studies employed microbiological diagnosis to demonstrate that fungal foot infection was a risk for the development of lower limb cellulitis, particularly when infection was located between the toes. There were insufficient data to suggest that fungal foot infection posed an increased risk to patients with diabetes.

Conclusion: There is some evidence to suggest that fungal infection of the foot is a factor in the development of lower limb cellulitis, but further robust research is needed to confirm these findings and quantify the risk that fungi pose, particularly to the diabetic foot. Meanwhile, improved surveillance and treatment of tinea infections on the foot by healthcare professionals should be encouraged to reduce potential complications.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cellulitis / complications*
  • Diabetic Foot / complications*
  • Foot Dermatoses / complications*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Tinea / complications*