The foot is an evolutionary marvel, capable of handling hundreds of tons of force.....
The foot is an evolutionary marvel, capable of handling hundreds of tons of force - your weight in motion - every day. In your daily life, you may not always place a lot of emphasis on foot care. Yet, your feet follow your pace and serve you well in many ways. Did you know that your feet are subjected to a number of ‘stressors’ and must take on countless challenges? Your occupational and sports activities, choice of footwear, and foot hygiene are among the many factors that influence foot health. In order to remain ‘on the ball’, this week You! takes a look at some common foot problems and how to treat them...
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection that usually begins between the toes. It commonly occurs in people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined within tightfitting shoes. A common symptom of this condition is a scaly rash that usually causes itching, stinging and burning. Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread via contaminated floors, towels or clothing. You can avoid athlete’s foot by keeping your feet and toes clean and dry, and by changing your shoes and socks regularly. You can also treat your feet through over-the-counter antifungal creams or sprays. If these remedies do not work, you may need to see podiatrist and ask about prescription-strength medication.
Ill-fitting shoes can cause numerous foot problems, including blisters between your toes and blisters on your heel or sole. When the front of the shoe pinches your toes together you could develop multiple pinch blisters, especially if you do a lot of walking or running. Likewise, running in shoes that allow too much movement by your toes can also place excessive pressure on certain toes, causing painful blisters. You can usually treat a toe blister yourself. In addition to letting it heal, your other priority is preventing an infection. That means you should avoid popping the blister or picking at it. Unbroken skin can help prevent bacteria from infecting the area. If the blister has broken, you can soak your toes in a clean tub filled with warm water and Epsom salts. Gently cleaning the area with warm water is also fine. Use an adhesive bandage and apply moisture before covering the blister to protect it while it heals.
A bunion is a painful bony bump that develops on the inside of the foot at the big toe joint. Anyone can get a bunion but they more common in women. They develop slowly when the pressure on the big toe joint causes the big toe to lean toward the second toe. Over time, the normal structure of the bone changes, resulting in the bunion bump. This deformity will gradually increase and may make it painful to wear shoes or walk.
In most cases, bunions are treated without surgery. Although nonsurgical treatment cannot actually ‘reverse’ a bunion but can help reduce pain and keep the it from worsening. The pain can be managed successfully by switching to shoes that fit properly and do not compress the toes. Protective ‘bunion-shield’ pads can help cushion the painful area. To take pressure off your bunion, your doctor may recommend that you wear over-the-counter or custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics). Applying ice several times a day for 20 minutes at a time can also help reduce swelling. However, do not apply ice directly on your skin.
If your second, third, or fourth toe is crossed, bent in the middle of the toe joint, or just pointing at an odd angle, you may have what’s called a hammertoe. Hammertoes usually start out as mild deformities and get progressively worse over time. The most common cause of hammertoe is a muscle or tendon imbalance, which leads to a bending of the toe. Because hammertoes are bent, corns and calluses often form on them. They are compressed patches of dead skin cells can be hard and painful. Corns appear on the tops and sides of your toes as well as between your toes. Calluses form on the bottom of the foot, especially under the heels or balls, and on the sides of toes.
To treat hammertoe early on, wearing inserts or foot pads can help reposition your toe, but later it becomes fixed in the bent position. And if the pain then sets in and you may need surgery. Avoiding shoes - such as pointed toes shoes, ones too short, or shoes with high heels - that can aggravate the condition will also make a huge difference.
Heel spurs (also known as plantar fasciitis) are a painful inflammation of the fibrous band of connective tissue (plantar fascia) that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the ball of the foot. They are often caused by strains on foot muscles and ligaments, stretching of the plantar fascia, and repeated tearing of the membrane that covers the heel bone. Heel spurs are especially common among athletes whose activities include large amounts of running and jumping. Other causes also include increasing age, diabetes, putting pressure on one’s feet for a prolonged time or having flat-feet.
Treatments for heel spurs and associated conditions include exercise, custom-made orthotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and cortisone injections. If conservative treatments fail, surgery may be necessary.
An ingrown toenail happens when the edges or corners of the nail grow into the skin next to the nail and break the skin. It is a common condition, and it can be painful, causing swelling, redness, and sometimes infection. It usually affects the big toe, either on one or both sides of the toe. Ingrown toenails can usually be treated at home, but if the pain is severe or spreading, you should see a doctor immediately to prevent complications and relieve symptoms. These should be treated as soon as symptoms appear, especially if the person has diabetes, nerve damage in the foot or leg, or poor circulation in the foot. Otherwise, complications can occur.
To avoid ingrown toenails, you should cut your nails across in a straight line - not too short or rounded in shape. Maintain hygiene and choose a footwear that fits you properly.
Your feet are undeniably your simplest and safest mode of transportation. They provide you with support and freedom; so, provide them with the gift of health!