Is this how I will die?
July 29, 2019 8:29 PM   Subscribe

You’re not my doctor, but before I see one tomorrow, what do you think this splotch/bite/infection is on my leg?

I’ve had ingrown hairs before but they’ve been bumpier and without the skin colored red. I think this happened between two nights ago and last night and hasn’t changed other than there was a small white spot in the middle last night that burst sometime today. It doesn’t itch and is a little more sensitive than surrounding skin when tapped but not painful. I was north of Grand Rapids when it happened, which isn’t where I live, so a bite from something new to me is quite possible.

I’m diabetic so, again, will be attending to this promptly with the professionals. I haven’t hit on the right search terms to get similar images.

Photos (nothing too gross, but definitely closeups of red skin.)
posted by michaelh to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
Mildly infected pimple/ingrown hair. I've had them before and they go away on their own, but as a diabetic you must be more careful. Go to the doctor to be sure, but be at ease.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:43 PM on July 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

I understand from the entomologist author of *Never Home Alone* that spiders basically never bite (even when poked with a giant plastic finger, as in a particular study that attempted to provoke spiders into biting), and that most "spider bites" are actually staph/MRSA skin infections. Not to say this is what is happening to you, but apparently it's very common and therefore worth ruling out before casting aspersions on our arachnid friends.
posted by Atrahasis at 8:45 PM on July 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

Draw a circle around the edge of it now with Sharpie. Then you know if it spreads.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:41 PM on July 29, 2019 [12 favorites]

You are unlikely to die of this (if it was fast-moving, you'd know it by now), though you should go to the ER if you start seeing rapid expansion of the spot or a "streak" of infection moving up or down your leg, have an alarming increase in swelling and/or overnight, or have pain or tingling in your foot.

Given that you are diabetic, it's likely your doctor will err on the side of caution and start you on antibiotics, and will probably give you specific advice about how to clean and care for the wound over the next couple of weeks. Write down the instructions and follow them.

It is probably an infection, though that red patch doesn't look like classic hair-follicle-staph (shins are weird, though, because there's no subcutaneous fat, so you might not get the classic boil-type wound). Be extra careful about not touching it with unwashed hands and also about touching **anything else** except soap after touching it. Staph spreads, and it especially likes soft delicate skin like groin and face.

It would not be terrible to mark the boundaries with sharpie tonight, and then you will be able to absolutely confirm rather than just guess when you see the doctor tomorrow whether it has gotten better or worse.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:09 PM on July 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

My domestic partner gets covered in those when he doesn't get a chance to shower enough. They always heal without treatment. He is a diabetic and in his case they appear to be bacteria living on his nutrient rich skin environment. (Diabetic skin is sweeter or something.) It also helps to stabilize his blood sugar and get him moving and expose the red spot to the environment. Changing his bed sheets and making him get out of bed also helps. He gets them on his back and doesn't know they are there sometimes. Occasionally he scratches them until they bleed and then they either heal faster, or get nastier for awhile before they heal.

When he gets a more serious infection on his feet, until he can get antibiotics I have him soak in comfortably hot water turned into a saturated solution with either epsom salts or plain salt. If the spot is inconveniently located for soaking, a poultice helps to draw out the inflammation. The logic is heat to increase circulation, plus something that upsets the environment the bacteria is living in, without being dangerous in anyway for you. One thing that works well for a poultice is a used tea bag the moment it it fished from the cup. Placed slightly dribbly wet as hot as you can comfortably stand, on a spot like this it won't do any harm but can hasten healing. The tea is slightly astringent which is good, but can leave you with temporarily tea-stained skin. Your sore would do fine with a soak in epsom salts, hot compresses or poultices, but isn't screaming for treatment.

Our family doctor has approved these treatments. She says he wouldn't need the antibiotics for the more serious infections he gets, because we are controlling any infection well, but because he is diabetic she wants him to have them anyway. This patch of inflammation likely does not merit antibiotics, but your doctor tomorrow is the one to decide. Do watch it and if it starts to change rapidly head in to emerg, just in case. Otherwise get to your doctor as planned but use your opportunity at the appointment to bring up any other little matters that might be mildly worrying you while you are there, as this one to me looks like it's not a full five minute consult.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:04 AM on July 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

My son had something like this on his chest last fall. Here is a picture (we marked the edges to see if it was getting bigger). It ended up being a MRSA infection that required three rounds of antibiotics and eventually lancing and squeezing all the gunk out (it kept getting bigger and uh, more full of pus, it was really gross -- this is pic from the night we discovered it). I'd go to the doctor and have them look at it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:46 AM on July 30, 2019

Thanks, everyone. I had it looked at and followed their and your suggestions to watch the size and report concerning developments. Thankfully it didn’t expand and it faded away after a couple of days.
posted by michaelh at 10:43 PM on August 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

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