Source credit: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319190.php
Our feet have several tough tasks to handle: balance, support and mobility. Imagine all those factors working in concert everyday— it adds up to lot of daily stress from walking, running, jumping, and climbing, so naturally, they are subject to many different types of problems.
Improper footwear, diabetes, and aging are some of the chief contributors to foot problems. This article will highlight some of the most common foot concerns, their causes, and when to seek treatment.
Research has shown that 77% of US adults have experienced some form of foot ailment. Here is an outline of the top ten based on percentages of those affected.
1. Ingrown toenails
Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail starts to grow into the nail groove, which can cause significant pain and discomfort, and even infection if left untreated.
Wearing badly-fitting shoes usually causes ingrown toenails. The pressure from shoes that are too narrow at the top or too tight can put extra pressure on the toes.
Other causes include toenails that are not trimmed properly, such as cutting the toenails too short or trauma to the feet due to activity including running. Having a family history of ingrown toenails can also increase a person’s risk.
Ingrown toenails will cause redness, swelling, pain, or even drainage from the toenail, which can indicate that an infection is present.
There are several ways to treat and prevent ingrown toenails, including:
- Washing the feet with antibacterial soap and keeping them clean and dry.
- Cutting the toenails straight across after a bath when the nails are soft.
- Avoiding cutting the nails in a rounded pattern.
- Wearing shoes that fit well and do not have a pointy tip.
If the toenail is infected or at-home care does not improve the condition, a person should see a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon.
2. Athlete’s foot / odor
Athlete’s foot is most commonly caused by walking in damp areas. It can be highly contagious.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin, usually found between the toes. However, the infection can spread and cause significant discomfort, itching, and even pain.
An individual is most commonly exposed to the fungus that causes athlete’s foot in a gym, shower, or pool where people walk around barefoot. Fungus tends to thrive in warm, damp areas. Also, wearing shoes that are warm and damp can cause the fungus to grow. The condition is highly contagious, and it can spread to other areas of the skin.
Athlete’s foot causes itching, cracking, blistering, and peeling of the feet. The condition usually starts between the fourth and fifth toes, then spreads.
Always wear sandals or flip-flops in public areas and use a separate towel. Antifungal treatments are available in most drugstores as sprays, powders, or lotions.
If the fungus is spreading or worsening after treatment, you should see a doctor who can prescribe oral antifungal medicines for the condition.
A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe or opposite, small toe.
Bunions are abnormalities of the feet that cause the big toe to turn slightly inward. with resulting bony protrusion. Doctors call bunions “hallux valgus.” Women are more likely to have bunions due to narrow footwear.
Wearing tight or narrow shoes can cause bunions to develop. Tight shoes put pressure on the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP), which is where the bone of the foot meets the bone of the big toe.
Having a family history of bunions is also a risk factor. Additionally, some conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis increase the likelihood of developing a bunion.
An individual with a bunion may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- visible bump on the side of the foot
- tenderness on or around the big toe
- callus or corn on the bone below the big toe
- pain in the big toe when walking
Conservative treatment measures will usually improve the symptoms of a bunion. A person should wear properly fitting shoes without high heels. Utilizing orthotics or supportive inserts can help position your foot in order to reduce stress on the bunion.
Also, applying ice for 10-minute increments with a cloth-covered ice pack can also reduce inflammation. If a person’s bunion does not subside and causes continued pain, consult a podiatrist who can consult you on having surgery to correct it.
4. Plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
The condition occurs when the plantar fascia–a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes on the bottom of the foot–becomes inflamed. This ligament is responsible for supporting the foot’s arch.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory condition that usually does not have a clear cause. Doctors refer to this condition, as idiopathic plantar fasciitis. Risk factors include being obese, having a very high arch, having tight calf muscles, and participating in activities that repetitively stress the heel, such as running.
Plantar fasciitis causes a person to experience pain on the bottom of the heel and foot. This pain is usually worse first thing in the morning and also worsens with activity.
Most people can manage with at-home treatment. Resting the foot and applying ice can reduce inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, can help with pain management.
Stretching the foot thoroughly before and after physical activity, as well as throughout the day, may help to reduce heel pain. Wearing supportive shoes can also help.
If an individual’s plantar fasciitis does not get better with these treatments, they can try physical therapy, or see a podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon for further treatments.
Corns are patches of thickened skin, often found on the soles of the feet or toes. They are normally painless to start with. These areas form to protect the skin and stop the body from developing blisters.
Corns can be caused by bunions, hammer toe, or ill-fitting shoes. Over time, they may become painful and should be treated. Corn plasters are available over the counter (OTC); they relieve pressure on the corn and allow it time to heal.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgical removal.
6. Heel or bone spurs
A heel spur is an outgrowth of calcium that develops between the heel bone and the arch of the foot. For many individuals, there are no symptoms but, for others, it can be painful and cause inflammation.
This is not a condition that can be easily diagnosed and requires medical imaging to confirm.
Heel spurs are caused by long-term strain on muscles and ligaments. They can also be caused by arthritis, excess body weight, and by wearing badly fitted or worn out shoes.
Treatments can include a cold compress, injections of anti-inflammatory drugs, OTC pain medications, rest, and orthotic shoe inserts.
Extensor tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendons in your feet, it’s likely due to spending a lot of time on your feet or wearing shoes that are too tight.
The extensor tendons in your feet attach the muscles at the front of your legs to the toes and run across the top of your feet with very little padding to protect them from a variety of injuries. These tendons have an important job and are in vulnerable locations.
The main symptom of foot extensor tendonitis is pain on the top of the foot. The discomfort is usually felt around the midpoint of the dorsal (top) of the foot and builds gradually as use of the injured tendon continues.
Tendonitis can affect your ability to move your toes or to push off from your toes when you jump, dance, or run. Running or simply being on your feet for an extended period of time may make the pain worse.
Foot tendons can be irritated if they rub against shoes that are too tight. Overuse can also cause foot extensor tendonitis. Running uphill is a common culprit.
Resting the sore tendons and icing–to reduce the inflammation–is recommended for foot extensor tendonitis.
You may also want to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help relieve the pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises are the main ways to regain tendon strength and flexibility. You may also need to see a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in feet, or an orthopedist, a doctor who specializes in foot and ankle injuries.
A hammertoe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe causing it to be bent up and inward. Hammertoes are deformities that occur due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons or ligaments that normally hold the toe straight.
High-heeled shoes or footwear that’s too tight in the toe box can crowd your toes into a space in which they can’t lie flat.
An injury in which you stub, jam or break a toe can make it more likely for that digit to develop hammertoe or mallet toe. Also, abnormal balance of the toe muscles which leads to instability, which can cause the toe to contract.
You can avoid many foot, heel and ankle problems with shoes that fit properly. Here’s what to look for when buying shoes:
- Adequate toe room. Avoid shoes with pointed toes.
- Low heels. Avoiding high heels will also help you avoid back problems.
- Adjustability. Laced or strapped shoes are roomier and adjustable.
If conservative treatments don’t help, your doctor might recommend surgery to release the tendon that’s preventing your toe from lying flat
9. Stone bruise or Metatarsalgia
Stone bruises are also called metatarsalgia. They can appear after high-impact exercises or because of wearing poor-fitting shoes; alternatively, they can be a sign of an underlying condition.
The area between the toes and the arch of the foot might feel numb with occasional sharp pains as if there is a stone in your shoe. Symptoms can worsen over time.
Treatments generally include rest, applying an ice pack, and getting better-fitted shoes. If the pain does not improve or gets worse, it is important to visit a doctor.
10. Peripheral or diabetic neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy starts with numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet and can graduate to sharp, jabbing, freezing or burning pain.
People with diabetes are more prone to fluctuations in blood sugar. Diabetic neuropathy is not one condition, but a group of conditions that cause damage to the feet due to diabetes.
Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves in the feet. Other factors can make this nerve damage worse, such as a history of smoking, alcoholism, or history of diabetic neuropathy in the family.
Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet. This can contribute to a greater risk of a person experiencing cuts or injuries to the feet due to lack of feeling.
Over-the-counter pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can relieve mild symptoms. Maintaining good health and blood sugar control can help a person treat their diabetic neuropathy. While a doctor cannot reverse nerve damage, they can recommend treatments to prevent it worsening.
A person with diabetes should also go for regular foot exams. For general foot health it’s important to examine your feet after bathing and check for abnormalities as shown above and any other conditions or discomfort. Preventative care is the best you can give yourself!
Source credit: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319190.ph