You can develop MRSA on the leg. These infections are common in people who have had surgery or been hospitalized. Many common antibiotics don’t work to treat MRSA and you may need to seek medical attention.

Originally discovered in healthcare settings, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is now a frequently diagnosed community-acquired infection, meaning you can be exposed to MRSA nearly anywhere. It’s also important to note that it doesn’t respond well to many common antibiotics.

MRSA infections often occur on the skin, but they can also develop in soft tissue and bones. Leg wounds can often develop in certain people, including those living with diabetes. A MRSA infection is one of the more common complications of these wounds.

This article discusses MRSA infections, including how they develop on your legs, what these infections might look like, and what you might consult your healthcare team about for treatment options.

MRSA infections can happen anywhere in the body. Some types of Staphylococcus bacteria live naturally on your skin without causing any problems.

However, a weakened immune system, open wounds, and other health conditions can help these bacteria overtake your body’s defenses and damage tissue.

Who is most at risk for these MRSA infections on the leg? Here are several groups:

  • people with diabetes-related leg ulcers
  • people who develop post-surgical infections and other hospital-acquired infections
  • people who have had recent surgery — or another type of hospital visit or stay — while they had open leg wounds

MRSA can also spread from one area to other areas of the body.

When MRSA enters bones, it can cause an infection called osteomyelitis that can spread quickly to other areas of the bones. MRSA can also spread via soft tissue. And when MRSA enters the bloodstream, it can cause a life threatening, body-wide infection called sepsis.

MRSA infections can take many forms. Infections that develop in your bloodstream or inside your bones might not be visible from the outside. When MRSA infection is visible on the skin, it usually has the following features:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • warm to the touch
  • pain or tenderness
  • pus or other drainage

You may also need to consider a MRSA infection if you have a wound that is not healing after medical treatment.

MRSA infections are resistant to many of the commonly used antibiotics, and the bacteria are very good at evolving. Antibiotics lose effectiveness against these infections over time, but the following antibiotics are still fairly effective at treating MRSA:

  • vancomycin
  • daptomycin
  • linezolid
  • Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (TMP-SMZ)
  • quinupristin-dalfopristin
  • clindamycin
  • tigecycline

You should seek medical treatment if you have a wound, sore, or lump on your leg that is not healing.

Another red flag is the presence of drainage or fever. A fever is usually a sign of a more widespread infection in your body and may be an early indicator that a MRSA infection is spreading to other areas of your body.

You will not be able to identify your infection as MRSA without testing. If you think you have a MRSA infection on your leg or anywhere else, make an appointment to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Prompt treatment can help prevent the infection from spreading to other areas and causing serious complications.

MRSA infections are common in people who have had surgery or been hospitalized for another medical reason. These infections can happen anywhere on the body — including the skin or inner tissues of the legs — and are very difficult to treat because many common antibiotics do not effectively work in treating them.

If you think you have a MRSA infection, or you’ve been treating a wound that is not healing or is getting worse, consult a doctor for additional testing and treatment.