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Madura Foot: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Madura foot is the most common form of disease known as ‘Maduromycosis‘, an results from an infection which may ultimately cause severe deformity. More rarely, Maduromycosis affects other parts of the body.

Although the disease is uncommon in cooler climates, between two and ten new cases of Madura foot are reported every year in the UK, occurring mainly in people from tropical or sub-tropical countries.

Causes and Symptoms of Madura Foot.

Madura foot is caused by infection from a variety of fungi and other organisms called actinomycetes. These organisms, which are quite widespread in tropical and sub-tropical countries, do not depend on living creatures to survive, but live on decaying wood and other vegetation.

Madura foot infection
Image By: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY- SA 2.0

It is thought that the infection in man is set up by a penetrating wound, such as a prick by a thorn or splinter. This original injury usually goes unnoticed and it may be months or even years before the first sign of the disease—a small inflamed lump—appears.

The lump then breaks down and discharges bloody, grainy pus. And it is this pus, together with the fact that the infection, even if excessive, rarely causes pain, which helps a doctor confirm the diagnosis of Madura foot.

Microscopic examination of the grainy pus is very important as it can establish the exact cause of infection; depending on the infecting organism, the grains may be white, black or red. Identification of the organism may be made by occasional blood tests to find antibodies.

Treatment.

The danger of Madura foot is that it progresses through the foot, eating through muscles and tendons. And although there is very little pain involved, this continuing destructive process leaves a deformed and useless foot covered with fistulae (channels) discharging pus.

Outlook. 

The overall outlook of the disease depends on which sort of organism caused the infection. If it was a fungus, there is little in the way of effective treatment, and eventually it may be necessary to amputate the infected foot.

In the case of infection by actinomycetes, the outlook is considerably better. The sulfonamide group of drugs—drugs which were the first effective treatment for infection before penicillin—may well be effective.

Frequently Asked Questions.

1. I have heard that the organisms capable of causing Madura foot are fairly widespread in hot climates. I am a little worried as I am going to India for my holiday. Am I at risk of getting this nasty condition?

Madura foot is rarely found in anyone other than those people born and brought up in the tropics— and this is probably the result of lifestyle and the fact that they have a greater chance of coming in contact with an infecting organism than someone just visiting the country or living there for a short time.

However, to avoid the slight risk that does exist, make sure that you do not go about barefoot—except, of course, on the beach where there are unlikely to be thorns and splinters to set up wounds and so transmit the infection.

2. Can Madura foot spread to the rest of the body through the blood?

Since Madura foot seems to be a disease with a very powerful hold on the infected tissues, you might well suppose that it would spread quite easily through the blood. However, if this happens at all it is certainly very rare. It is an extremely slow-developing disease and it may be years before even the first sign, a small inflamed lump, appears.

3. Can you pass Madura foot on to other people via towels?

The infecting organism almost certainly needs to get into the system through a penetrating wound, such as a prick with a thorn or splinter. The infection which causes Madura foot cannot be passed from person to person, only through vegetation.

4. While on holiday in Scotland my son got a large splinter in his foot. Could this lead to Madura foot?

No, there is no need to worry. The organisms which cause Madura foot are found only in tropical and sub-tropical countries.

Takeaway.

Madura foot is a serious and extremely slow-developing tropical disease. Fortunately, it cannot be passed from person to person, and can usually be treated.

Written By- Nebadita - (M.sc in Applied Nutrition, Nutritionist)

Experienced in the field of nutrition, health, fitness, and more. She earned Master Degree from National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad and currently serving in the Eastern branch of ICMR. View author’s certificates.

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