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Common Foot Concerns and How to Care for Them

Your feet work hard every day. They support your weight as you walk, stand, exercise or dance, and can suffer as a result. From the stress placed on your muscles, joints and ligaments to the bacteria or fungi that can affect your nails and toes, several factors can lead to foot-specific health concerns.... Read More

Common Foot Concerns and How to Care for Them

Your feet work hard every day. They support your weight as you walk, stand, exercise or dance, and can suffer as a result. From the stress placed on your muscles, joints and ligaments to the bacteria or fungi that can affect your nails and toes, several factors can lead to foot-specific health concerns.

Review the list of common ailments below, and be sure to contact your doctor if you are concerned by any symptoms you may experience.

Bunions – Marked by an enlargement or protrusion on the edges of your feet – either near your big toe or your pinkie toe – bunions are frequently a result of joint misalignment. This ailment may lead to a swollen, tender and painful feeling when wearing many types of shoes. Although bunions are hereditary, certain health issues like neuromuscular disorders, trauma or arthritis increase their likelihood. To treat, doctors may recommend orthotic footwear, cushioning inserts, pain relievers and, in more extreme instances, surgery.

Corns and Calluses – You may notice that a hardened, thick skin accumulates at points regularly receiving pressure or over a bony area. When this type of skin forms on your foot’s bottom, experts call it a callus; on the top, it’s a corn. Over-the-counter products, including moleskin and medicated pads, can help to treat both concerns.

Neuroma – This benign growth between your third and fourth toes is, in fact, a pinched or swollen nerve or nerve tumor, often caused by poorly fitting shoes or trauma. Its presence creates a tingling, painful, burning, or numb sensation right at the area or on the ball of the foot. To correct the condition, doctors may prescribe shoe inserts, removal or cortisone injections.

Plantar Fasciitis – The tissue connecting your heel to the ball of the foot becomes inflamed, often as a result of stretching, a muscle imbalance, a bone deformity, obesity, or trauma. Custom shoe inserts and physical therapy help manage the condition.

Nail Fungus – Nail discoloration, thickening, scaling, and potential detachment from the nail bed characterize this chronic condition. Nails suffering from fungus are unpleasant to look at, and may cause pain or discomfort. Treatment depends upon the severity of the infection and may range from oral antifungal pills and medicated nail polish to laser therapy or even nail removal.

Athlete’s Foot – While not exclusive to athletes, the condition may be picked up from dressing rooms, hotels, locker rooms, showers or swimming pools. The fungus can flourish as you wear shoes, which create a dark, humid environment around your feet. Symptoms include an itching sensation and skin scaling, redness or blistering, which may extend from the toes across the bottom of your foot. Doctors usually treat athlete’s foot with antifungal pills or lotions.

Flat Foot or Fallen Arch – This ailment results from hyper-pronation potentially caused by heredity, arthritis, trauma or a musculoskeletal disorder. It is characterized by little or no arch along the bottom of your foot, and can place stress on other parts of your body, including the ankle, knee, hip and lower back. Doctors may advise pain relief medication, physical therapy, or orthotics to minimize discomfort caused by fallen arches.

Hammer Toe – A hammertoe occurs from a muscle and ligament imbalance around the toe joint which causes the toe to bend and become stuck in a claw-like position. Caused by arthritis, ill-fitting shoes or genetics, this problem often subsides with roomier footwear and some stretching or massage of the affected toe(s).

Plantar Warts – Occasionally mistaken for a corn or callus, plantar warts are caused by a viral infection of the soft tissue of your foot. This condition can be painful and may even bleed or spread. Treatment may begin with an over-the-counter salicylic acid solution, but in more severe cases, a doctor may have it surgically removed.

Achilles Tendonitis – Athletes who over-exert themselves or individuals who experienced a strain or sprain on the job may suffer from this issue, marked by irritation and inflammation near the heel bone. As a first line of defense, rest, ice, aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications provide some relief. However, medical attention may be needed if the condition becomes chronic.

Ingrown Toenails – When the edges of your toenails begin to grow into your skin rather than over it, the result can be a painful, inflamed toe. Several factors may contribute to the problem, including improperly cutting your toenails, shoe pressure, injury or a fungal infection. The concern may begin to improve with better toenail trimming or wider shoes.

Gout – A type of arthritis most commonly found in men, gout can cause an attack of sudden burning pain, stiffness and swelling in a joint, usually a big toe. The condition stems from a buildup of uric acid in the body, and can be treated through diet changes, anti-inflammatory drugs or a uric-acid lowering prescription.

Osteoarthritis – Considered a result of wear and tear to the foot, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage breaks down between joints and causes swelling, pain and deformity. To alleviate the pain and improve motion, you may receive steroid injections, purchase custom shoes or receive physical therapy.

Be sure to consult your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms or other persistent foot concerns. Professional diagnosis and a doctor-recommended treatment plan is the best way to get back on your feet.