Athlete’s Foot/ Tinea Pedis

Verrucae/ Plantar Warts

Bunions/ Hallux Valgus

Corns/Callus

Ingrown toenails/ Onychocryptosis

Blisters

Chilblains

Sever’s Disease

Section 1: Introduction

Did you know that in our lifetime, the average person walks approximately 100,000 miles? A moderately active person, on an average, takes around 6,000-7,000 steps in a day. If they maintain the same daily average until the age of 80, they would have walked about 216,000,000 steps!

But, what makes all this possible? It is possibly the part of the body that we take the least care of – our feet. The very foundation of our body, our feet, ensure that we stay mobile and independent. Of course, most of us don’t lavish the same kind of care and attention to our feet as we do the rest of the body. Maybe, this is because they are the farthest away from sight. But, if you want to continue to be mobile, this is the part of the body that you need to start taking care of.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Human Foot

The foot is a complex combination of flexible structures, including bones, muscles, joints and soft tissue. They bear our weight and make us stand upright, walk, run, jump and more. Did you know, about 25% of the human body’s bones are in the foot?

Our feet are divided into three sections:

  1. The forefoot: This part of the foot contains the five toes, also known as phalanges, and the five long bones, also known as metatarsals.
  2. The midfoot: This section forms the arches of the feet. Three bones, the cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone and the navicular bone, connect the forefoot to the hindfoot and ensure flexibility to walk and run with ease. It is interesting to note that the shape and height of your foot arches are unique and will never match in any other person.
  3. The hindfoot: This section of the foot forms the ankle and heel. The heel bone also knows as calcaneus, is the largest bone in the foot. The talus bone or ankle supports tibia and fibula, the leg bones. The tibia meets the talus to sit on top of the heel bone.

Keeping your feet healthy is a fundamental step (no pun intended!) toward overall health. Due to the weight pressure and movement, our feet undergo the most wear and tear of all the body parts. Any soreness in the feet can have a negative impact on the knees, hips and the spine too.

Governed by a complex mechanism, any problem in your foot could not only be painful; it could be debilitating and psychologically draining. Proper foot care, therefore, should be a part of everyone’s daily routine.

Section 2: Common Foot Problems

I. Athlete’s Foot/Tinea Pedis

1. What is Athlete’s Foot?

Medically known as Tenia Pedis, or ringworm of the foot, Athlete’s Foot is a fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet. As the name suggests, this contagious fungal infection was first seen in athletes.

This skin infection is caused by the ringworm fungus. It mainly develops between the toes but can spread to the toenails and even the hands, when left untreated. It is particularly common between the little toe and the toe next to it.

Athlete’s foot is relatively common and not something that should cause too much worry. Around 15% to 25% of the people across the world are likely to develop Athlete’s Foot at least once in their lifetime. Men and older people are more likely to contract this infection, especially those with a compromised immune system.

What you should know is that this skin infection is hard to cure. It is a highly discomforting medical condition, which not only feels but also looks terrible. When a person has Athlete’s Foot, they may get white and soggy skin between the toes, reddening and blistering of the skin, dry and flaky soles, all of which can make the foot ugly. You could also experience intense itching, which could keep you distracted and stressed.

The worst part about Athlete’s Foot is that there are times when bacterial infections can also occur alongside. In severe cases, the sores in the skin open up, making the area vulnerable to bacterial infestations. In some instances, Athlete’s Foot might keep recurring, no matter how much you treat it with powders, creams or sprays.

2. What Causes Athlete’s Foot?

Tinea fungus, a fungal species, is the culprit behind Athlete’s Foot. Tinea fungus grows on the feet and infects the skin. People often contract this fungus after direct contact with another infected person. Athlete’s Foot also occurs if the skin touches a surface that is contaminated with this fungus. Due to this, nearly 1% of the people in the habit of walking barefoot are affected.

There are certain risk factors can increase the chances of contracting this infection, such as:

  • Allergies and eczema
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Extreme sweating, particularly on the feet
  • Diabetes, which can lead to poor blood circulation in the feet
  • Weak immune system, due to a serious illness or long-term use of medication that has a negative impact on the immune system
  • Sports, like swimming and running
  • Regular use of sturdy safety boots or rubber boots.

This fungus thrives in warm, moist environments. It is for this reason that people are often advised to avoid unnecessary body contact with surfaces in locker room floors, showers and area around a swimming pool, which are the most common sources of this fungus.

Since Athlete’s Foot is a fungal infection, it can lead to bad foot odour too. When the sweat decomposes, a cheesy odour is released, which can be immensely discomforting for you and the people around you. Doctors usually advise people with Athlete’s Foot to dry their shoes before they wear them again.

3. What are the Treatments for Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s Foot never goes away on its own. If left untreated, it can make the feet even itchier and more miserable. Worse, it could leave the feet vulnerable to serious infections. When left untreated, it can spread to the nails and cause a fungal infection that could finally spread to other areas of the body. However, this rarely occurs.

Self-treatment is often the first course of action people take to treat Athlete’s Foot. Some of the most common natural or home remedies that people use to kill the fungus causing the infection include:

  • Hair dryer and talcum powder
  • Hydrogen peroxide with iodine
  • Tea tree oil
  • Garlic
  • Baking soda

The spores shed by infected people can enter the socks, shoes, damp workout clothes and towels. Try to wash these fabrics in hot water to keep them disinfected. Podiatrists also recommend good basic hygiene with regular washing of the feet and wearing clean socks and shoes each time, especially if you have Athlete’s Foot.

If the rash on foot has reached an extreme situation, it is unlikely to get cured with home remedies. In such cases, leading podiatrist strongly advise seeking medical help.

In most cases, over-the-counter remedies, like antifungal products, used alongside basic foot hygiene, can help cure Athlete’s Foot. You can sprinkle antifungal powder or use sprays and antifungal creams to manage the infection in its initial stages.

4. How can I Help Prevent Athlete’s Foot?

There are certain home remedies and foot hygiene practices that can prevent Athlete’s Foot in the first place. These include:

• Wash your feet twice a day
• Dry your feet well with a microfibre towel, especially between the toes
• Try not to walk barefoot or without slippers
• Use powder on your feet and sprinkle it inside the shoes, if you tend to sweat a lot
• Never wear the same shoes three days in a row
• Change your socks every day
• Sun dry or air dry your shoes, whenever possible
• Avoid wearing tight footwear and ill-ventilated shoes
• Avoid sharing your shoes and socks with others
• Wear shoes in locker rooms and other areas with a lot of foot traffic.

5. When should I see a podiatrist?

Prevention is always better than cure. However, there are times when even after following good hygiene practices, you might fall prey to Athlete’s Foot. Try some natural home remedies and follow a foot care routine for a couple of weeks diligently. If the problem persists, consult a podiatrist for further guidance.

Seeing a doctor becomes especially important for those with diabetes or a weakened immune system. Call your doctor right away if you observe symptoms like swelling, excessive redness, fever or drainage, which are signs of possible secondary bacterial infection.

To know more about Athlete’s Foot and other common foot problems, visit Foot Corner.

II. Verrucae/Plantar Warts

1. What are Verrucae?

We all have experienced small, rough lumps on the skin, often on the palms and soles of the feet. These benign lumps on the skin are known as warts. Warts can be of several types, which includes common warts, plane warts, filiform warts, plantar warts or verrucae. They can all vary in sizes and shapes.

Also known as Plantar Warts, verrucae is the occurrence of warts that are the localised thickening of the skin on soles of the feet, usually near the toe area. The soles of the feet are medically referred to as the ‘plantar’ surface, which is why this condition is called plantar warts. The size of these warts can vary from 1mm to 1cm in diameter.

Having verrucae is not a worrying condition. These small lumps on the skin are painless and don’t necessarily require treatment. However, they can become uncomfortable when they form on an area of pressure, such as the heels or balls of the feet.

Most people have it at some point in their life. Usually, these warts occur at the bottom of the feet and go away on their own. However, no one can tell when. It can even take weeks, months or years for them to go away.

2. What Causes Verrucae?

Verrucae is the result of a viral infection of the skin. It is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV makes keratin grow excessively on the skin that causes a hard, rough structure of a wart. Keratin is a hard protein that can be found in the top layer of the skin. The skin of our feet also contains large amounts of keratin.

Verrucae is a communicable condition. It mainly occurs when someone comes in contact with the virus. When left untreated, this contagious foot problem can spread to other parts of the body, as well as to other people.

HPV is usually found in damp environments, such as pools, changing room floors, showers and more.

People are often seen worrying where verrucae can cause cancer. There are some HPV known that have brought changes to cells, increasing the risk of cancer. However, verrucae-causing HPV are low-risk strains, where the cells they infect usually don’t change into cancerous ones.

3. What are the treatments for Verrucae?

Verrucae look similar to some types of skin cancer. They are mostly confused with corns, another common foot problem. It is strongly recommended to always check with a podiatrist before using any treatment. The doctor will be able to diagnose the foot problem through careful examination accurately.

Verrucae can be treated in various ways. The kind of treatment used majorly depends on the age of the person, size and number of verrucae, personal situation and any pre-existing medical condition.

Contact a podiatrist who can educate you about all the options available to help you make an informed treatment decision. Here are some common treatment options.

  1. Over-the-Counter Remedies
    • Creams: If the verrucae are in their initial stages, OTC remedies like creams and gels available at pharmacies and the Foot Corner Clinic will be the best option. These creams and gels contain a mild concentration of acids that burn away the verrucae.
    • Salicylic Acid: You can directly apply salicylic acid, available as Salactol, to the affected area using a small ring pad and leave it on for 48 hours.
    • Duct Tape: Place a piece of duct tape tightly over the verruca and leave it there for a week. Duct tape will contain the virus near the skin. This helps in aggravating the wart. This condition makes the immune system focus completely on wart until it is destroyed.
  2. Treatment by a Podiatrist
    • Cryotherapy: In this method, verrucae are frozen using liquid nitrogen. This is a painless process that can be done in a minute. Afterwards, the dressing is applied.
    • Dry Needling: Dry needling is a popular method, used to remove persistent verrucae in adults. This method works by reintroducing verruca cells into the bloodstream with a very fine needle. This facilitates an immune-generated response. This procedure has a 90%-95% success rate.

In comparison to the clinical effectiveness of cryotherapy versus salicylic acid for the treatment of plantar warts, salicylic acid and cryotherapy are found equally effective.

4. How Can I Help Prevent Verrucae?

There is adequate evidence to prove that half the incidences of verrucae disappear without treatment. But, some can take a year or more. In many cases, verrucae persist and may require medical intervention. This foot condition is highly contagious. Just by mere skin contact or sharing communal baths, towels, socks or shoes, verrucae can spread from one person to another.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to prevent verrucae occurring in the first place:

  • Never make the mistake of touching another person’s warts or verrucae
  • Never scratch or pick your warts or verrucae to prevent it from spreading
  • Try not share towels, socks and shoes with others
  • Never walk barefoot in communal showers
  • Keep the wart or verrucae covered during swimming, using a waterproof plaster.

5. When Should I See a podiatrist?

Verrucae are a painless medical condition. In some cases, they may not hurt even when they occur on direct pressure areas. Because of this, some verrucae go unnoticed. However, they may hurt when pinched, when walking or pressure due to footwear. Verrucae are painful because our body weight can force them to grow back into the skin.

Verrucae are characterised as lumpy white skin that often has a black dot in the centre and usually takes place on the soles of the feet. However, it is strongly recommended to consult a podiatrist as soon as such textural changes occur, especially if they are accompanied by pain or bleeding.

Since planar warts have a distinctive appearance, podiatrists will easily identify them through visual examination of the affected area. When examining warts, the doctor will consider the number of warts, their location, size, colour, texture and shape to make a diagnosis.

To know more about verrucae and their treatment, visit Foot Corner.

III. Bunions/Hallux Valgus

1. What are Bunions?

The site where the big toe meets the foot is called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. Over time, this joint start growing into a bony bump, which is called a Bunion or Hallux Valgus. This bump gets bigger slowly and sticks out. As a result, the big toe might turn inwards and could even move on top of the adjacent toe.

This foot condition is often passed down from parents to children. This means that if you have bunions, the chances are that other members of your family might have tolerated or are suffering from a similar foot disorder or other toe deformities. In most cases, bunions are congenital or a deformity present at birth.

Bunions appear as a bulging lump on the joint. They feel tender and could even hurt when touched. They could also swell or turn. Over time, they may become shiny and feel warm to the touch.

The reason bunions are a concern is that each time you take a step, your entire body weight rests on it, which could lead to pain when you walk. This could limit your ability to get around and hamper the quality of life.

2. What Causes Bunions?

The defective mechanical structure of the foot is often found to be the root cause of bunions. It can be passed down generations in a family with poor or weak foot structure.

If one leg of a person is longer than the other, they are more likely to grow a bunion on the big toe of their longer leg. Our foot spreads as we grow, which worsens the problem. Bunions can also develop in those with Rheumatoid arthritis and those who play sports.

Women tend to wear tighter footwear than men, which makes them more vulnerable to developing bunions than men. Wearing high heels that push the bones of the foot in an unnatural shape can also lead to the development of bunions. In fact, when women wear heels, 90% of their body weight is on the big toe joint, which can aid this dislocation.

Remember, any act that puts a great amount of pressure on the big toe joint can cause inflammation of the joints. As a result, the tip of the big toe could move towards the other toes. This can form a pseudo “sixth toe” around the big toe joint or bunion, made of bone and inflamed tissue. This can lead to not only pain but also disability and anxiety.

3. What are the Treatments for Bunions?

Most people find bunions normal and learn to deal with them. However, if you feel pain even when walking in flat shoes that are supposed to make you feel comfortable, it is wise to seek medical advice. Treatment options for bunions can include rest, ice packs, foot supports (orthotics) and alteration of footwear. In extreme cases, bunions need to be treated with anti-inflammatory or painkiller medication, steroid injections and surgery. Always check with the podiatrist before going for any treatment.

Exercises that might help

Your podiatrist might suggest a few exercises like toe stretches. Here are some other exercises recommended by podiatrists:

  • Stretching the big toe
  • Toe flexing and contracting
  • Resistance exercises for the big toe
  • Towel curls
  • Ball roll

Performing these exercises daily can help relieve the foot pain associated with bunions.

Orthoses/shoe alterations

Poor fitting shoes are one of the leading causes of bunions and other foot problems. Different people have different foot sizes and different foot needs. It is normal that a shoe that was very comfortable for your neighbour might not work as well for you. Even if the shoe fit right when it was bought, it could wear down with time and cause discomfort, while increasing the likelihood of bunions.

It is recommended to consider specific custom shoe alterations to alleviate the pain associated with bunions and other medical conditions. Bunions are often associated with flat feet. You can buy insoles, bunion corrector toe separators/straighteners, or moleskin or gel-filled pad to protect the bunion from further worsening. If required, change the shoe to a well-made pair that fits you right.

Surgery to treat bunions is often the last recourse, which only considered when every other method has failed, or the symptoms are severe.

4. How can I help prevent Bunions?

Bunions are a foot problem that takes time to develop. It is, therefore, important to take care of your feet right from childhood to prevent this condition. Here’s a look at some do’s and don’ts.

Dos

  • Always track the development of feet over time, especially if you have a family history of bunions.
  • Wear comfortable shoes/footwear that fit properly.
  • Consider exercises like picking up a pencil or pebble with your toes; calf stretches for feet strengthening.

Don’ts

  • Women should avoid wearing footwear with pointed toes or very high heels.
  • Never cramp or pinch your toes.
  • Don’t let the foot roll inward while walking (overpronation), to keep the weight equally distributed throughout the feet.

5. When Should I see a Podiatrist?

Bunions are a painful problem, which is best prevented. However, if you have already developed bunions and the problem persists, you should consult a podiatrist for the best guidance. For the diagnosis, the doctor might ask for X-rays to examine the anatomy of the foot, including the joint and foot function.

To relieve swelling and pain, the podiatrist might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever and other medicines. If they find your symptoms severe, you could be recommended surgery. The surgery that is done to cure bunions is called bunionectomy, which can be done in a hospital or a foot clinic. During the course of action, the patient is given local anaesthesia to numb the area.

In the surgery, the bone behind the big toe is often realigned by cutting the ligaments at the joint. In other cases, the doctor might need to shave off or remove the excess bone (osteotomy) and insert wires or screws to keep the bones aligned. You have to take proper rest for a few weeks after the surgery to ensure the best results.

To find out more about several treatment options, visit Foot Corner.

IV. Corns/Callus

1. What are Corns?

Evolving from a four-legged creature, humans learned to stand on two legs and walk upright comfortably and efficiently some 65 million years ago. And, it was this ability that differentiated the once ape-like humans from other primates. Who would have imagined then that standing/walking on two legs would come at a cost?

When we stand/walk, our entire body weight is carried on our feet, first on the heel, followed by the balls of the feet. The skin on the ball is thicker than that on the other parts of the foot, in order to withstand just this pressure. However, when the pressure exceeds the normal limit, our feet fall prey of corns and calluses, due to the friction of the skin rubbing against the shoe, bone or the ground.

Corms and calluses appear as a thick, hard patch or a bump on the skin. Having corns and calluses is actually very common. They are our feet’s protective response to friction. They become a cause for concern only when the affected area becomes dry and flaky, and you experience pain or tenderness in the affected area.

Corns appear as small circles of thick skin. Although they can occur anywhere, they most often develop on the soles of the feet and on the top and sides of toes. They are caused by friction or pressure over bony areas. Corns can either be hard or soft. Other types of corns that may occur on the feet are seed corns, vascular/neurovascular corns and fibrous corns.

Calluses too are hard, rough areas of skin that may develop on the feet, usually under the skin of balls of the feet or around the heel area. This is a painful condition, and the affected area is often yellowish in colour. In comparison with corns, calluses are extended or large, with non-uniform edges. They also aren’t as sensitive to the touch as corns.

Having calluses on the soles of the feet is an indication of a poor walking style, ill-fitting shoes or a bone deformity. Some people, especially the elderly, have skin with the less fatty tissue, which makes them more prone to callus formation.

2. What Causes Corns?

Wearing poorly fitted shoes is the main cause of corns. When you wear loose-fitting shoes, the foot tends to slide and rub against the inner surface, causing friction, which results in corns. Many people opt for shoe designs that tend to place excessive pressure on a certain area of the foot, which also leads to corns/calluses. Women who are fond of wearing high heels that squeeze the toe are at higher risk of this foot condition. Corns can be a symptom of other leg problems too, like hammer toe and bunions.

Calluses can be caused by age, dry skin, reduced fat padding, arthritis and playing sports or participating in activities like walking barefoot and running in a way that places repeated pressure on a certain area of the foot.

3. What are the Treatments for Corns?

When you have corn in a foot, you need to see a podiatrist. However, before consulting a doctor, you can try some remedies at home, to allow the corn/callus to heal itself. In case, the corn/callus has pus or clear liquid, don’t waste time and see a podiatrist immediately.

The first thing to do is to address the cause of pressure or friction that led to the corn or callus. If you don’t do that and the problem persists, the skin will keep on getting thicker and more painful. For women, addressing the problem might mean replacing those high heels with comfortable, flat footwear. After this, you need to get the thickened skin removed.

There are corn plasters available at local pharmacies, which can prevent the corn from worsening. However, if you have diabetes or fragile skin, corm plasters may not be a good idea, since they affect blood circulation.

A corn can also be a symptom of an underlying problem. Before going for treatment, always check with the podiatrist. They’ll identify the cause and suggest the appropriate treatment, based on your specific needs. They often prescribe orthoses/shoe alterations or insoles to minimise friction and pressure.

To remove the thickened skin, you can use mild over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid. This softens the skin so that it can be easily removed. Afterwards, gently rub off as much of the corn/callus as you can, with a soft brush or coarse towel.

In case it is painful for you to do it on your own, see a podiatrist. A podiatrist will use a scalpel, handled with precision, in a painless procedure, to remove the thickened skin. This will give you significant relief from the pain and discomfort. Follow the foot care routine and exercises the podiatrist recommends.

4. How Can I Help Prevent Corns?

Corns are a painful skin condition that affects can your mobility and quality of life. Here are a few things some dos and don’ts to prevent corns.

Dos

  • Choose shoes that fit properly
  • Try calf stretches
  • Follow a good foot care routine
  • Thoroughly dry your feet after washing them
  • Keep your feet moisturised with foot cream

Don’ts

  • Don’t try to cut the corn or callus yourself.
  • Don’t shop for footwear in the evening, since feet tend to swell as the day goes by
  • Avoid wearing heels to prevent excess pressure on the front of the foot
  • Never take any kind of foot pain lightly.

5. When Should I see a Podiatrist?

Corns and calluses are painful and annoying skin conditions that can affect your daily life. They can be treated with different types of medicated products that pare down the dead, thickened skin chemically.

If the problem persists even after using medications, consult a podiatrist for the best guidance. The doctor will diagnose the corns and calluses, based on their appearance and history. In case, the corn/callus is mild, simply changing shoes or adding padding will suffice. However, if it is serious, the podiatrist will shave off the dead, thickened skin.

A good foot care routine is the key to preventing and treating corns and calluses.

To know more about this foot problem and its treatment options, visit Foot Corner.

V. Ingrown toenails/Onychocryptosis

1. What are Ingrown Toenails?

A highly painful foot problem, ingrown toenails refers to a condition in which the edges or corners of the nails grow into the skin adjacent to the nail. This foot condition results in the toenail growing into the nail fold and is also known as Onychocryptosis.

An ingrown nail is curved at the nail borders or the sides of the nail. When it grows into the skin, it can cause pain, swelling, redness and, sometimes, even infection. It is quite common among athletes. Some people have a genetic predisposition towards ingrown nails. No matter how much they try, these ingrowths keep recurring. In many people, ingrown nails may appear on multiple toes at the same time. Doctors often advise full or partial matrixectomy or the removal of the pain-causing toenail.

Stages of Ingrown Toenails

Stage 1: Erythema, slight oedema and pain, with pressure to the lateral nail fold.

Stage 2: Increased symptoms, infection and drainage.

Stage 3: Magnified symptoms, granulation of tissue and lateral nail-fold hypertrophy.

An ingrown toenail shouldn’t be left untreated since it can cause an infection in the toe’s bone. The infection in the bone can then lead to foot ulcers or open sores. In severe conditions, the blood flow to the infected area is lost, increasing the chances of tissue decay.

Treating an ingrown nail becomes especially important if you have diabetes. With high sugar levels, any foot infection can turn into a serious condition due to nerve sensitivity and lack of blood flow.

2. What Causes Ingrown Toenails?

A person with an ingrown nail may feel pain when pressure is applied to the toe. The skin at the ending of the toe gets inflamed. They might also notice overgrowth of skin and fluid buildup in the area surrounding the nail. In extreme cases, white or yellow pus and even blood might come out of the affected area.

Ingrown nail is a foot problem, common to both men and women. However, it is more frequently seen in people whose feet stay sweaty most of the time. With age, the toenails thicken, which increases the likelihood of ingrown nails in older people.

Some people genetically have irregular or curved toenails, while there are others who cut their toenails incorrectly. Instead of cutting straight across, they angle the sides of the nail, which makes the nail grow into the skin.

The choice of footwear and socks also plays an important role in increasing the risk of ingrown toenails. Wearing shoes that put excessive pressure on the big toes and wearing socks or stocking that are too tight could also lead to inappropriate toenail growth.

Toenail injury like toe stubbing, poor foot hygiene and posture, and a genetic predisposition are also found to be the most common causes of ingrowth. Activities like football, ballet, kickboxing and soccer are known to put extensive pressure on the feet, which could cause toenail damage and increase the risk of ingrown toenails.

3. What are the Treatments for Ingrown Toenails?

Ingrown nails can usually be treated at home.

Helpful home remedies

  • Avoid wearing socks and shoes that are too tight.
  • Soak the affected part in warm, soapy water for 15-20 minutes, thrice a week.
  • Soak the ingrown toenail in 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, diluted with warm water.
  • Use over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment.
  • Take an over-the-counter medicine to relieve the pain.
  • Pack the affected area with waxed dental floss or cotton soaked in alcohol to promote proper nail growth.
  • Protect the affected area with a toe protector or use toe braces.

These home treatments may take a few days or even 1-2 weeks to show results. If the pain persists, see a doctor.

Ingrown nails may cause complications like infections that might require medical intervention. People should not try home remedies in this case and should immediately see a doctor. Those with diabetes or a poor immune system should immediately consult a podiatrist since they are at a much higher risk of complications.

Surgical treatment (Nail avulsions)

In some cases, surgery might be required. Surgical treatment for ingrown toenails may include partial removal of a piece of the nail digging into the skin or complete nail removal (matrixectomy), in case of toenail thickening.

Depending on how the nail has been removed, it can take a few months or over a year for the nail to grow all over again.

It is crucial to follow the doctor’s instructions on post-surgical care, such as resting the foot as much as possible, salt soaks daily, wearing open-toed shoes, etc. To prevent pain and infection, you might be prescribed certain medication and antibiotics.

4. How Can I Help Prevent Ingrown Toenails?

Here are some do’s and don’ts that can help prevent ingrown toenails:

Dos

  • Trim/cut your toenails straight across and make sure that the edges do not curve in.
  • Wear proper fitting shoes and socks.

Don’ts

  • Never leave the nail edges curved in.
  • Avoid trauma to the toe area.

5. When Should I see a Podiatrist?

Ingrown toenails are a common phenomenon, and is often left unaddressed unless it starts hurting. If the problem persists, even after trying the home remedies, you should contact a podiatrist for the best guidance. The doctor will initially conduct a physical examination to diagnose the ingrowth. They might need an X-ray to see the depth of the ingrowth, especially if the toe looks infected.

In case the toenail is severely inflamed, has pus oozing out of it or is bleeding, it is strongly advised to see a podiatrist or foot care specialist to prevent the situation from worsening.

To know more about ingrown toenails and their treatment options, visit Foot Corner.

VI. Blisters on the Feet

1. What are Blisters?

Have you ever had a painful, fluid-filled, bubble-shaped lesions forming on any part of your body? Those small pockets of fluid are blisters. Blisters can be caused by several factors. It could be the effect of a fungal or bacterial infection, a burn, insect bite or an injury.

The skin condition in which blisters develop on the soles of the feet or on the palms of the hand is known as Dyshidrotic eczema or dyshidrosis. Blisters on the feet are most commonly caused by pressure or friction from the footwear. They can also be as a result of seasonal allergies or stress. These fluid-filled blisters are usually itchy and can last for 2-4 weeks. But, since they are present on the soles of the feet, standing and walking can be torture. Try not to put extra pressure on the affected area. Wear footwear that keeps the blister significantly exposed.

Diabetic patients often complain of the sudden appearance of a large blister or group of blisters on various areas of their body, such as the hands, forearms, feet and legs. Such blisters look very similar to those formed after a burn.

Do Not Pop/Puncture a Blister

Usually, blisters don’t require medical attention. They eventually heal after 4-7 days, if you don’t try to burst them. Bursting of the blister can cause infection, which would hamper the healing process.

Most people pop or puncture blisters since they find the fluid-filled lesion ugly and uncomfortable. Afterwards, they peel off the dead skin, which creates a wound. Puncturing a blister can cause further irritation.

You should know that the fluid in the blister is meant to keep the underlying skin clean, to promote healing and prevent infection. Popping the blister and peeling off the skin will take off the protective cover that is needed for new skin formation.

2. What Causes Blisters?

Friction is often found to be the major culprit of blisters on the feet. This is especially true for people who have a work routine where they need to walk or stand for long hours. This puts pressure in their feet, especially the soles, heels and toes. This increases the risk of blisters.

Ill-fitted shoes are another major reason for fluid-filled blisters. When the footwear is too loose or too tight, the inside of the shoe rubs against the skin of the foot, which causes friction. This results in a fluid build up underneath the top layer of the skin.

If your feet remain sweaty, the excessive moisture in the shoes can also become a cause of fluid-filled blisters. Sweat clogs the pores present on the skin of the feet, which then forms tiny blisters. It is for this reason that runners and athletes fall prey to such skin bubbles in warm weather.

Other than ill-fitting shoes and excessive moisture, sunburn, frostbite, allergic reaction, exposure to certain chemicals present in detergents or cosmetics, chickenpox, fungal and bacterial infections and dyshidrotic eczema are also potential causes of blisters on the feet.

3. What are the Treatments for Blisters?

First and foremost, never get tempted to burst or pick at the blister, since an open blister is susceptible to infections. In case the blister is broken and drained, gently wash the area around the blister with soap & water and cover it with a loose/breathable bandage.

To allow it to heal, you’ll have to leave the blister alone. When left untouched, blisters tend to harden and disappear on their own. You can use an adhesive bandage to cover the affected area. This will protect the blister while it heals. Keep the foot raised on a chair or pillow. This will prevent inflammation by reducing blood flow to the affected area. Also, you can apply ice covered in a towel, smoothly without pressure, for some relief.

4. How Can I Help Prevent Blisters?

In case of a blister, prevention is better than cure, since blisters can lead to infection when left untreated or poorly handled. Having a blister in the feet, especially on the soles, is especially risky since they are more prone to bursting and causing infection.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to prevent blisters:

Dos

  • Keep your feet as dry as possible
  • Use foot powder to reduce moisture due to sweating
  • Use insoles for extra padding to prevent rubbing of the skin with the shoe
  • Cut your toenails properly

Don’ts

  • Don’t wear the shoes/socks that caused the blister.
  • Don’t wear ill-fitted shoes
  • Don’t pop or drain a blister
  • Don’t move around much if you have a blister on the sole of the feet.

5. When Should I see a Podiatrist?

When the blister is big in size, you might find it very uncomfortable, even when it is covered. It is best to seek a doctor’s help in such cases. Even if the blister is small in size, but isn’t going away on its own, you should consult a podiatrist for the best guidance.

You can check with the podiatrist for safe draining of the blister. They’ll clean the area with over-the-counter solutions like hydrogen peroxide. They will use sterilised scissors or tweezers to remove the dead skin. The doctor might also give an antibiotic ointment or cream to help the blister heal and for safe scar removal. Don’t forget to ensure routine foot care for a few weeks.

To know more about blisters and their treatment options, visit Foot Corner.

VII. Chilblains

1. What are Chilblains?

Also known as perniones, chilblains are our skin’s reaction to intense cold. It is a medical condition that develops when a person is exposed to high levels of cold and humidity. In this condition, the tissues in the front of the toes, particularly the smaller ones, get damaged. Chilblains are different from trench foot and frostbite.

In chilblains, the capillary beds in the skin get damaged, which causes inflammation, redness and itching. This can become increasingly painful. The affected area starts to look shiny, due to the swelling. Some people may also get blisters, which break down to an ulcer. Chilblains can also swell and dry. This leaves a crack in the skin of the foot, making it prone to infection.

The best way to prevent chilblains is to avoid exposing your body to extreme weather changes. When outside, keep your hands and feet warm, by keeping them fully covered.

A burning and itching feeling, accompanied by swelling and redness on the hands and feet during the onset of winter, is the first sign of chilblains. What’s worse? When people suffering from chilblains enter a warm room, the burning and itching sensation intensifies.

2. What Causes Chilblains?

Chilblains are a common foot condition. It is more prevalent amongst young adults who have to work outdoors in cold places for long hours, with their skin exposed to the cold. Also, wearing tight-fitting clothes and shoes is a major risk factor for chilblains. People who do not wear socks can also get chilblains.

The elderly and people suffering from anaemia, as well as those who do not exercise regularly, are also susceptible to chilblains. Those who have Raynaud’s disease are also at higher risk. In addition, women have been found to be more vulnerable than men and children, while overweight people are also at a higher risk.

There is no single explanation of why chilblains occur. However, many scientific studies have concluded that this condition is the body’s reaction to exposure to very cold temperatures and then rewarming. When the cold skin is rewarmed, the small blood vessels under the skin expand. The expansion of the blood vessels is so quick that blood leaks into the nearby larger blood vessels and tissues. However, this phenomenon largely depends on the efficiency of the body’s circulation. Chilblains are, therefore also common in people with poor blood circulation.

Hormonal imbalance, dietary factors and damp or draughty conditions can also contribute to chilblains.

3. What are the Treatments for Chilblains?

Those who get chilblains frequently become familiar with it. Chilblains can eventually clear up in 1-3 weeks of the skin being exposed to the cold. During medieval times, people used to treat chilblains with a mix of eggs, wine and fennel root, but not anymore.

To gain relief from the pain, here are some home remedies you can try:

  • Keep the affected area warm and dry.
  • Gently massage, applying direct heat, or rub to rewarm the affected area.
  • Clean the affected area with an antiseptic. To prevent infection, gently bandage the area.
  • Use a soothing calamine lotion to alleviate itching and heal chilblains.

Never scratch the affected area, even if you are sorely tempted. Instead, massage the skin with a soft fabric. Scratching or brutally rubbing the skin can cause complications, such as infections, skin ulcers and scarring.

If the doctor advises, apply a weak iodine solution and a mixture of friar’s balsam on the area. If you experience itching and inflammation, and if the skin has cracked, the doctor might advise you corticosteroid creams and vasodilators to dilate (open) the blood vessels to allows blood to flow more easily.

In very rare cases, doctors advise a biopsy of the area affected by chilblains, especially if there is a reason to suspect skin cancer. For this, they will take a small sample of tissue from the affected area and look at it under the microscope.

4. How Can I Help Prevent Chilblains?

Chilblains can be highly discomforting and painful. Poor blood circulation in the legs, due to unhealthy habits, like lack of physical activity, usually increase the risk of this condition.

Here are a few dos and don’t to help prevent chilblains:

Dos

  • Stay active in your daily life to maintain good blood circulation
  • Maintain blood pressure and cholesterol within a healthy range
  • Exercise regularly
  • Elevate your legs after every few hours of sitting constantly
  • Dress appropriately for the cold weather, including warm footwear and socks.

Don’ts

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid exposure to intense cold, whenever possible
  • Don’t keep sitting or standing for a long period of time
  • Avoid wearing clothing that is too tight.

5. When Should I see a Podiatrist?

Chilblains often heal on their own in a week or two, without causing any permanent damage. Medical intervention might not be required during this time.

However, if the problem is severe and doesn’t improve in 2 weeks or recurs, it is advisable to see a podiatrist for the best guidance. The doctor will be able to diagnose your skin condition through a physical examination accurately. They’ll also talk to you about any recent cold exposure.

Routine foot care for a few weeks is vital in the treatment of chilblains. Seeking medical advice also becomes a must if you find any signs of infection, including swelling or pus formation in the affected area, not feeling energetic, feeling shivery or hot, or if you suspect swollen glands.

To know more about chilblains and their treatment, visit Foot Corner.

VIII. Sever’s Disease

1. What is Sever’s Disease?

A common heel problem in growing children and adolescents, Sever’s Disease is a foot problem that causes heel pain, due to inflammation of the growth plate in the heel or calcaneous. It can occur in the heel of one or both feet. The disease is named after James Warren Sever, an American physician who was the first to describe the condition, in 1912.

Sever’s Disease is often the result of repeated stress on the heels. This occurs during a child’s growth period, due to the rapid changes in the bones, muscles, tendons and other structures of their body.

Sever’s Disease is also very common in children who actively participate in athletic activities, like running and jumping. Wearing very flat shoes is also a common cause of the condition, even if the adolescent isn’t as active as their peers.

When a child/adolescent develops this condition, they experience tenderness underneath the heel, accompanied by mild swelling and severe pain. This condition is typically seen in boys aged 10 to 15 years and girls aged 8 to 13 years. They experience pain, swelling and redness in one or both heels. They can have trouble walking and running. This can have a traumatic effect on the child.

2. What Causes Sever’s Disease?

In children and adolescents, there is a special area in the bones, from where they grow. This area is called the growth plate or areas of cartilage near the end of the bones.

During the growth period, the growth plates are weak and highly vulnerable to trauma. However, once the child is fully grown, the growth plates close and solid bone takes their place.

Sever’s Disease is caused by the excessive force on the growth plate of the heel while the child is still growing. There are times when muscles and tendons become very tight and overstretched. This affects the flexibility of the heel and puts pressure on the growth plate. Sever’s Disease is also commonly seen in kids with one leg shorter than the other, which puts excess pressure on the heel of the shorter leg.

3. What are the Treatments for Sever’s Disease?

Unbearable pain is the main reason why children and adolescents with this condition remain restless throughout the day. Getting relief from the pain is the immediate goal of treatment. There is very limited research on effective treatment for Sever’s Disease. However, doctors use a fusion of treatments to prevent the symptoms from worsening.

Firstly, a podiatrist directs the child to cut down on or avoid any kind of physical activity until the symptoms are gone. Children are advised complete rest for 1-2 weeks to reduce the pain and decrease the swelling. The doctor may also advise ice therapy or compression to the injured heel, 2-3 times a day.

Sever’s Disease can often be treated with simple measures like rest and over-the-counter pain medication. In some cases, doctors may advice changing the footwear. In case the pain is unbearable, there are some stretching and strengthening exercises of the leg muscles and tendons that are recommended for quick relief. Children are also advised supportive shoes and shoe inserts to reduce stress on the heel bone.

4. How Can I Help Prevent Sever’s Disease?

Sever’s Disease is a highly common problem among children, especially boys. In fact, it is difficult to prevent the condition while the child is growing. It does eventually stop when growth is complete.

Here are few dos and don’t that parents can ensure for their children to prevent Sever’s Disease:

Dos

  • Stretch the calves, heel and hamstrings regularly
  • Always wear good quality shoes while playing sports
  • Wear shock absorbing, supportive shoes
  • Put ice on the heel after physical activity
  • Swim, instead of participating in strenuous sports, like running

Don’ts

  • Do not overdo any sports activity, no matter how much you like it
  • The extra weight should be lost to reduce pressure on the heels
  • Avoid running and jumping on hard surfaces
  • Avoid activities in bare feet
  • Avoid wearing heavy or high heeled shoes.

5. When Should I see a Podiatrist?

The good news about Sever’s Disease is that it doesn’t cause any long-term foot problem and can be relieved with disciplined rest and over-the-counter medicines, within a few months. In some cases, kids ignore the pain and play through it. This hampers the healing process while aggravating the pain. Even when the pain is gone, children should take some time off before returning to their previous level of activity.

If the problem continues, you should seek advice from a podiatrist for the best guidance. The child needs to follow a good foot care routine for a few weeks and keep up with the stretches and follow the guidance given by the podiatrist to prevent the recurrence of the problem.

To know more about Sever’s Disease and its treatment, visit Foot Corner.

Section 3: Conclusion

The human foot is an extremely strong structure that takes our body weight, controls our movements, allowing us to move around, walk and sit. This mechanical structure consists of 26 bones, more than 100 muscles, 33 joints and a number of ligaments and tendons. It is really amazing how a combination of 52 bones in our feet is equal to one-fourth of all the bones present in our body. So, any problem in even a single muscle or bone or even the skin on our feet is enough to restrict our mobility.

It is important that we should not take our feet for granted and take good care of them. Do not wait for a painful problem like a callus or blister to develop for your feet to get your attention. Taking care of your feet helps you take preventive measures, rather than having to deal with a problem after it arises. It also helps you treat existing problems before they impact your mobility.

Like any other body part, your feet should be washed regularly, dried and moisturised well every day. Make sure the toenails are properly cut and filed. Podiatrists always advise people not to walk barefoot, since it puts excess pressure in the feet. It is also vital to pay immense attention to the kind of footwear you choose to wear since compromising on the quality, and the size of the shoe can invite serious foot problems, due to friction.

Other than keeping your feet hygienic and healthy, make sure you take regular walks to increase blood circulation to their legs and feet. To stimulate blood flow, a warm bath and a foot massage can also be a good idea.

And, don’t delay seeking professional help if you should encounter a foot problem, like ingrown nails, fungal infections, bunions, corns and calluses. Remember, if left untreated, you might have to deal with a much larger problem later on.

If you see any signs of redness, pain and swelling in your foot, visit a podiatrist to get an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations. To know more about caring for your feet and potential foot problems, visit Foot Corner.