Toe redness quiz
Take a quiz to find out what's causing your redness.
Wondering why your toes are red? You may have an underlying skin condition like a fungal infection, cellulitis, or an allergic reaction. Other causes of a red, inflamed toes include trauma from an injury to the foot or arthritis. Read below for more information on causes and treatment options.
8 most common causes
10 causes of toe redness
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Skin infection of the foot
An infection of the skin of the foot is almost always either fungal or bacterial. A fungal infection of the foot is called tinea pedis, or athlete's foot. It is caused by different types of dermatophyte fungus and is commonly found in damp places such as showers or locker room floors. A bacterial infection anywhere on the skin is called cellulitis if it extends under the skin. It can develop after a break in the skin allows bacteria to enter and begin growing. These bacteria are most often either Streptococcus or Staphylococcus, which are found throughout the environment.
Most susceptible are diabetic patients, since high blood sugar interferes with healing and wounds can easily become chronic and/or deeply infected. Diagnosis is made through physical examination by a medical provider.
Treatment for either a fungal or bacterial infection involves keeping the skin dry and clean at all times. A fungal infection is treated with topical and/or oral antifungal medications, while a bacterial infection will be treated with topical and/or antibiotic medications.
Top Symptoms: fever, foot pain, foot redness, warm red foot swelling, swollen ankle
Symptoms that always occur with skin infection of the foot: foot redness, foot pain, area of skin redness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Broken toes are very common and caused by either something falling on the toe (crush injury) or a stubbing of the toe situation.
You should see your primary care doctor or an urgent care in the next day. X-rays would be taken to determine if it's a fracture or a bad bruise (toe contusion). Treatment is simple, just putting the toe in the right place and taping it to its healthy neighbor toe.
Top Symptoms: constant foot pain, toe injury, toe pain from an injury
Symptoms that always occur with toe fracture: toe injury, toe pain from an injury, constant foot pain
Symptoms that never occur with toe fracture: toe dislocation, toe injury with broken skin
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Toe contusion (bruise) is the damage of the blood vessels (veins and capillaries) that return blood from your tissues back to the heart. The blood pools there and turns blue or purple. It's typically caused by a bump, hit, or fall.
You can safely treat this at home with rest (no exercise), ice (10-20 minutes at a time), compression (via tape or a wrap), and elevation (putting your feet up. Over-the-counter pain medications can also be used if the pain is really bothering you.
Top Symptoms: constant foot pain, toe injury, toe pain from an injury, swollen toes, toe bruise(s)
Symptoms that always occur with toe bruise: toe pain from an injury, toe injury, constant foot pain
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of the joints, causing them to become thickened and painful. It can also affect other parts of the body such as the heart, lungs, eyes, and circulatory system.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means the body's immune system turns against itself for unknown reasons.
Most at risk are women from ages 30-60. Other risk factors are family history, smoking, and obesity.
Early symptom include warm, swollen, stiff, painful joints, especially the fingers and toes; fatigue; and fever. Usually, the same joints on both sides of the body are affected.
If untreated, irreversible joint damage and deformity can occur, with other complications. Early diagnosis can allow preventive treatment to begin as soon as possible.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination; blood tests; and x-ray, CT scan, or MRI.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but the disease can be managed to improve quality of life. Treatment includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; steroids; anti-rheumatic drugs; physical therapy; and sometimes surgery to repair the joints.
Psoriatic arthritis is a complication of psoriasis, which causes the skin to become thickened, red, and scaly. Arthritis may appear before or after the psoriasis appears.
Both conditions are autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself, and are thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors.
Most susceptible are people from 30 to 50 years of age with a family history of the disease and who already have psoriasis.
Symptoms include the joints on one or both sides of the body becoming painful, swollen, and hot; swelling and deformity of the fingers and toes; pitted, flaking fingernails; foot pain in the heels and soles; and joint pain in the low back pain.
It is important to seek treatment, as psoriatic arthritis can permanently damage the joints, eyes, and heart.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination, x-rays, and MRI. Blood tests and joint fluid tests can confirm psoriatic arthritis.
Treatment includes over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; anti-rheumatic medication; immunosuppressants; and steroid injections for the joints. Surgery to replace damaged joints may also be tried.
Non-specific foot rash
A rash is an area of irritated or swollen skin. Often, rashes are unidentifiable and some variation of normal. For example, scratching one's arm causes it to turn red (which is caused by mast cells releasing chemicals into the local area), but that's completely normal.
At this time, you do not need treatment for this rash. If it worsens, you may need to consult a physician.
Top Symptoms: foot redness
Symptoms that always occur with non-specific foot rash: foot redness
Urgency: Wait and watch
Nail infection (paronychia)
Paronychia is an infection of the skin of the fingers or toes, at the place where the skin folds down to meet the nail.
Acute, or sudden onset, paronychia is caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. The organism can gain entry if the nail is cracked, broken, bitten, or trimmed too closely.
Chronic, or ongoing, paronychia is caused by a fungus. Anyone whose work requires their hands to be wet much of the time is susceptible.
People with diabetes or a weakened immune system are more susceptible to nail infections.
Symptoms include sore, reddened, swollen skin around the nail, sometimes with pus collecting under the skin.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes skin culture to identify the organism involved.
Treatment for acute paronychia involves having a medical provider clean the wounded nail and drain any infection, and sometimes provide a course of antibiotics.
Treatment for the chronic form involves keeping the skin dry and using an antifungal medication on the affected nail.
Top Symptoms: spontaneous finger pain, fingernail pain, fingernail swelling
Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit
Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint. The big toe is often affected, but it can also happen in other joints. Sometimes, the joint gets hot and red. Gout is caused by uric acid crystals. Risk factors for gout include obesity, eating a lot of meat, drinking beer, age (older), sex (male), and family history.
You should see a healthcare professional to see if uric acid crystals have accumulated in the joint. Gout can be diagnosed based on symptoms, but it's also common to take a sample of joint fluid for testing. A physician can give you a prescription for anti-inflammatory medications and/ or pain medications. There are also medications to stop your body from making too much uric acid. Sometimes, a shot in the joint can help with symptoms also.
Top Symptoms: swollen toes
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body but is most common on the feet, lower legs, and face.
The condition can develop if Staphylococcus bacteria enter broken skin through a cut, scrape, or existing skin infection such as impetigo or eczema.
Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system, as from corticosteroids or chemotherapy, or with impaired circulation from diabetes or any vascular disease.
Symptoms arise somewhat gradually and include sore, reddened skin.
If not treated, the infection can become severe, form pus, and destroy the tissue around it. In rare cases, the infection can cause blood poisoning or meningitis.
Symptoms of severe pain, fever, cold sweats, and fast heartbeat should be seen immediately by a medical provider.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
Treatment consists of antibiotics, keeping the wound clean, and sometimes surgery to remove any dead tissue. Cellulitis often recurs, so it is important to treat any underlying conditions and improve the immune system with rest and good nutrition.
Top Symptoms: fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain
Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis: facial redness, area of skin redness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Athlete's foot (tinea pedis)
Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection of the feet and/or toes. Warm, moist environments and community showering are common causes of this type of infection.
Over-the-counter treatments are quite effective at treating athlete's foot. They can come in the form of sprays, ointments, or even oral antifungals. Consider replacing shower footwear and bleaching any bathroom floors.
Top Symptoms: foot redness, foot/toe itch, foot skin changes, spontaneous foot pain, peeling between the toes
Symptoms that always occur with athlete's foot (tinea pedis): foot redness
Symptoms that never occur with athlete's foot (tinea pedis): toe injury
Questions your doctor may ask about toe redness
- Do you have a rash?
- Is the red area flaky and rough to the touch?
- Did your symptoms start after you were exposed to glues, fragrances, preservatives, hair dyes, soaps, detergents, or other common household chemicals?
- Do you work in cosmetology or hairdressing?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Toe redness symptom checker statistics
People who have experienced toe redness have also experienced:
- 20% Swollen Toes
- 16% Toe Pain
- 15% Big Toe Pain
People who have experienced toe redness were most often matched with:
- 80% Skin Infection Of The Foot
- 20% Athlete'S Foot (Tinea Pedis)
People who have experienced toe redness had symptoms persist for:
- 30% Less than a week
- 28% Less than a day
- 25% Over a month
Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.
Was this article helpful?