FOOT CARE INFORMATION
Your feet can be affected by various conditions that cause pain or discomfort. Many of these conditions can be treated with home remedies, but some need medical treatment by your doctor. Learn more about the following conditions and how you should treat them:
A blister is a fluid-filled bubble that develops on the surface of skin. Foot blisters form from friction when skin rubs against shoes or another surface. This creates a tear in the epidermis, leaving a space between the layers of the skin which eventually fills with fluid.
CAUSES OF BLISTERS
Blisters are caused by friction, heat, inflammation, or moisture. Friction blisters usually develop when feet rub against shoes. They can be prevented by gradually breaking in new shoes or bandaging areas of skin that tend to rub against the shoe.
Common causes of blisters include:
- Allergic reaction.
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Chemical injury.
- Contact dermatitis.
- Fungal infection.
- Inappropriate footwear.
- Insect bites.
- Minor burns.
All blisters look similar and have the telltale bubble of skin filled with clear fluid. They can range in size from a few millimeters to as large as an inch in diameter.
Blisters may be accompanied by pain, warmth, redness, and itching. Some blisters are painful to the touch and others may simply feel tender. If the fluid within the blister is yellow or green, this may be a sign that the blister is infected.
Most blisters do not require a doctor’s care. New skin will form beneath the blister and the fluid will be absorbed. It is best to avoid puncturing a blister. The bubble of skin that develops over the blister is a natural barrier to bacteria and helps reduce the risk of infection.
If blisters become painful and affect walking, it is best to drain the fluid while leaving the outer layer of skin intact. Wash the area thoroughly and use a sterilized needle to make a small hole in the blister. Squeeze out fluid, apply an antibiotic ointment, and bandage the blister.
It is important to contact a physician if there are any signs of infection around the blister. If you have diabetes or any other condition that results in poor circulation, speak to a physician before treating a blister on your own.
A blood blister is a type of blister that develops when blood vessels are damaged near the surface of the skin. Blood blisters form after a pinching or bruising injury that does not actually break the skin. Since the blood cannot escape through an open wound, it collects beneath a bubble under the surface of the skin.
Blood blisters are very similar to friction blisters. They usually do not require medical treatment. The blister will heal on its own within three to seven days.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF BLOOD BLISTERS
Blood blisters are caused by a rupture of the blood vessels near the surface of the skin. This rupture develops from injuries that pinch the skin, like getting your toe caught in a door. Blood blisters are also caused by severe force from kicking something hard or stubbing your toe. They may develop also from persistent pressure from inappropriate footwear.
A blood blister can be very painful when it first develops. Blood blisters resemble friction blisters in size and shape; the only difference is they appear darker from the small amount of blood trapped between layers of skin.
BLOOD BLISTER TREATMENT
Blood blisters usually do not require medical attention. They are very similar to normal skin blisters in the way that they heal. It is best to avoid popping blood blisters; if left alone, new skin will form beneath the blister and they will heal on their own within a week’s time. If a blood blister is accidentally punctured, only a small amount of blood will escape, but skin will feel raw and extremely painful.
Blood blisters should be covered with a sterile, soft dressing and washed frequently to keep them clear of irritants. If a blood blister breaks, it should be treated with antiseptic ointment to prevent infection. It is important to leave the skin over a blood blister intact, even if it ruptures. That layer of skin provides natural protection from bacteria.
Blood blisters that fail to heal on their own may require treatment. If there are any signs of infection near the blister like warmth, redness, or inflammation, contact a physician immediately.
A bunion is a type of foot deformity that affects millions of men and women. Bunions form over time, but they begin when the big toe drifts inward. This throws off the alignment of the foot, changing the angle of bones in the front of the foot and eventually leading to the development of the characteristic bunion “bump” on the side of the big toe joint.
People often suffer with bunion pain for years before seeking treatment. The good news is that there is a variety of conservative treatments available to reduce the discomfort caused by bunions. Surgery is also an option when bunion pain becomes severe.
CAUSES OF BUNIONS
A bunion is more than just a growth on the outside of the foot; the bump reflects a complete shift in the bony framework of the foot. The cause of this shift is pressure and force. Tight-fitting shoes are usually the culprit. Shoes that have a narrow toebox and sloping foot bed force the toes forward and squeeze them together. The toes eventually become accustomed to the tight position and lead to the bunion deformity.
Genetics and past injuries also play a role in the development of bunions. Certain foot types make people more likely to get bunions, and women have a higher risk of developing bunions due to their choice of restrictive footwear.
The most telling symptom of a bunion is the bony outgrowth that develops on the outside of the base of the big toe.
Other symptoms that may occur at the site of the bunion include:
- Pain and tenderness
- Numbness, or alternately, a burning sensation
- Red, calloused skin
Bunion pain is aggravated by wearing tight fitting shoes and shoes that crowd the toes. Spending long periods of time on your feet can also give rise to painful bunion symptoms.
When bunions first develop, they may not require intervention. If the only symptoms are cosmetic, the best course of action is to change your footwear immediately.
Bunions that are causing severe pain or leading to the development of additional foot deformities (like overlapping toes) may require surgical intervention. There are many different types of bunion surgeries available. These procedures are all designed to:
- Address any soft tissue changes in the foot.
- Correct misalignment of the front foot.
- Remove the bony bump.
The goal of bunion surgery is to reduce pain associated with the deformity. Recovery from bunion surgery can be lengthy, so it is important to speak with a physician and investigate all treatment options before deciding to undergo surgery.
Burning feet, when feet feel painfully hot, is a condition that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. It is especially common in diabetics and people over the age of 50. The symptoms may be mild or severe and can be indicative of everything from tired feet to a more serious medical condition, like neuropathy.
The most important aspect of treating burning feet is proper diagnosis of the underlying condition. Burning sensation in the feet is often a symptom of nerve damage and it requires immediate medical care.
CAUSES OF A BURNING SENSATION
Burning sensation in the feet can be caused by many different factors. In some cases, it may simply be the result of fatigue. Sometimes feet just ache and burn at the end of a long day. Foot infections, like athlete’s foot, may also cause a burning sensation in the feet. More than likely, a persistent burning sensation is a symptom of nerve damage.
The most common causes of a burning sensation in the feet are:
- Athlete’s foot.
- Blood disorders.
- Circulatory disorders.
- Diabetic neuropathy.
- Metal poisoning.
- Other foot conditions, including metatarsalgia or Morton’s neuroma.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome.
- Underactive thyroid.
- Vitamin deficiency.
BURNING SENSATION TREATMENT
The most important aspect of treating burning feet is to establish the cause of the symptom. Methods of diagnosis include:
- Blood tests.
- Nerve testing.
- Physical examination.
A full battery of tests may need to be ordered to identify the source of the pain.
When a burning sensation in the feet is being caused by a local problem, it is easily treatable with medication or use of orthotics. If the burning sensation is a symptom of a more serious medical condition, your physician will discuss strategies to help manage the symptom while also addressing the underlying cause. Accurate diagnosis is essential to begin treatment.
A callus is an area of thickened skin that develops on the soles of the feet. Calluses form to protect the skin from injury or damage caused by excessive pressure and friction.
Calluses are a natural defense mechanism; they help cushion the feet and allow people to function without discomfort. However, calluses can become very painful if left untreated. The best way to deal with calluses is to eliminate the source of pressure or friction that causes them to develop.
CAUSES OF CALLUSES
Calluses are caused by too much pressure concentrated on a specific area of the foot. The pressure stimulates the skin to thicken in order to protect itself.
Some of the causes of callus formation include:
- Age (and subsequent loss of fat cushioning on the underside of the foot).
- Flat feet.
- Footwear that it too tight.
- High arches.
- Inappropriate footwear (narrow-toed and high-heeled shoes).
- Misalignment of the metatarsal bones.
- Overly long metatarsal bone.
- Toe deformities.
A callus looks like a thickened area of skin with no distinct border. Calluses feel hard and dry and may or may not be painful to the touch.
At first, calluses may cause no discomfort. Over time, they can begin to cause painful symptoms, including difficulty walking and discomfort while wearing thin soled or high-heeled shoes. Eventually calluses can become discolored due to bleeding in the area beneath the thickened skin. If left untreated, the thickened skin can separate, leading to infection.
Treatment of calluses should begin with a thorough diagnosis of the source of the pain. In most cases, calluses can be addressed with conservative measures like orthotics. Orthotics help keep weight evenly distributed when walking and running by taking pressure away from hot spots on the feet. This gives calluses plenty of time to heal.
It is best to avoid cutting or trimming calluses at home; this can lead to infection. Surgical treatment of calluses is always the last resort. If problems with calluses persist, see a physician to discuss possible solutions.
Corns are small mounds of dead skin that form near pressure points on the toes. Corns are essentially a type of highly concentrated callus. They are caused by friction and pressure; namely, from skin being pressed against bony areas or rubbed against shoes.
Corns have a hard, dense core that can press on tissue and sensitive nerves, causing severe pain. The best way to treat persistent corns is to address the cause of the pressure on the toes. Padding, ointments, and medicated pads can then be used to soften the corn and reduce pain.
CAUSES OF CORNS
There are two types of corns: hard corns and soft corns. Hard corns are firm and dry; they tend to form on the upper surface of toes and are caused by pressure, usually from ill-fitting shoes. Soft corns are pliable and moist; they usually form between the fourth and fifth toes. Wearing shoes with a narrow toe box can cause toes to rub together, producing soft corns between the toes. People with arthritis and toe deformities like hammertoes are at a higher risk of developing corns.
Corns can be white, grey, or yellow. They resemble a cone-shaped growth pointing down into the skin. Hard corns appear thick and dry; they are usually located on the outer surface of the little toe or any pressure point where the skin rubs against shoes. Soft corns are usually light in color. They form between the toes and are kept soft due to moisture.
Corns may be painful and sensitive to the touch, especially if they are pressing down on nerves beneath the skin.
To remove a corn, it is essential to treat the corn itself as well as address the underlying cause. One of the first things a podiatrist will recommend is a change in footwear. By avoiding high heels and other shoes with narrow toe boxes, it is possible to prevent corns from recurring.
Over-the-counter solutions are available to reduce pain from corns. Padding, or corn pads, can reduce friction on pressure points. Ointments and medicated pads can be used to soften corns and keep skin in good condition. People with diabetes or circulatory disease should never try to remove a corn on their own, the risk of infection is simply too high. Persistent corns should be treated by a doctor.
Many of us are familiar with the countless skin diseases and infections caused by bacteria and viruses; however, most people are unaware that there is another group of common skin infections caused by fungi.
One of the most common areas for fungal infections to develop is the feet. Fungal infections can be found in the surface layers of skin as well as the nails. The two most common types of fungal infections are Athlete’s foot and toenail fungus. These chronic fungal infections are most often seen in adults.
CAUSES OF FOOT FUNGUS
Fungi thrive in dark, moist environments. They can grow on the skin between toenails and spread to the toenails themselves. Fungal infections are usually picked up in public areas like locker rooms, swimming pools, and shower stalls. They can spread quickly among teammates and family members.
Certain people are at a higher risk of developing foot fungus, including those with diabetes, an abnormal skin PH level, or a compromised immune system. A prior injury to the nail bed can also increase the risk of fungal infection.
FOOT FUNGUS SYMPTOMS
Symptoms of fungal growth on the skin include:
- Cracked, bleeding skin.
- Small blisters.
Symptoms of fungal growth in toenails include:
- Changes in color (yellowing of nails).
- Debris beneath the nails.
- Foul odor.
- Thickening of nails.
- White spots on the nails.
FOOT FUNGUS TREATMENT
Foot fungus is difficult to treat. The first part of treatment is designed to make the infected area less suitable for fungal growth. To this end, your doctor will advise you to:
- Avoid cutting your toenails too short.
- Change your socks frequently throughout the day.
- Keep your feet as clean and dry as possible at all times.
- Wear shoes that breathe.
- Wear shower sandals in public areas.
The second stage of treatment involves battling the infection. Your doctor may recommend antifungal creams or washes. Serious cases of foot fungus are treated with a multi-week course of oral antifungal medication. Your doctor may need to remove part or all of an infected toenail to avoid re-infection of the feet.
Above all, it is important to continue treatment until all of the symptoms have disappeared.
Persistent foot odor is an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition that affects people of all ages. Foot odor develops when feet perspire while wearing shoes. Bacteria that grow in the shoes and attach to the skin produce the unpleasant odor.
The dark, warm environment within shoes provides a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria and fungi that are responsible for foot odor. Fortunately, smelly feet can be controlled with a few basic preventative measures, including practicing good feet hygiene.
CAUSES OF FOOT ODOR
Simply put, feet smell because we wear shoes, and our feet sweat. The feet have more sweat glands than any other part of the body, roughly 3,000 glands per square inch. When feet begin to sweat profusely in shoes, there is nowhere for the sweat to evaporate. Feet begin to smell as the perspiration interacts with the bacteria that live on our skin and in our shoes and socks.
People who sweat excessively are predisposed to developing foot odor. There are a number of factors that can lead to increased sweat production, including:
- Certain prescription medications.
- Condition known as hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating).
- Hormonal changes.
FOOT ODOR TREATMENT
The best way to address foot odor is to take the following preventative measures:
- Alternate footwear so shoes can dry out between uses.
- Avoid wearing closed shoes without socks.
- Change moist socks as needed throughout the day.
- Dust your feet with non-medicated foot powder.
- Monitor your feet for signs of fungal infection.
- Wash your feet daily in warm water with soap; make sure to dry feet thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- Wear shoes that breathe.
- Wear thick, absorbent socks.
If preventative measures fail to eliminate foot odor, your podiatrist can prescribe stronger medication. Persistent foot odor may be a sign of an infection, so it is important to see a physician if odor does not go away with home treatment.
An ingrown toenail is a painful condition that occurs when the corner or side of a toenail digs into the skin of the toe. The nail irritates the soft tissue of the toe, causing pain, redness, and inflammation.
Treatment of ingrown toenails can usually be performed at home. If ingrown toenails become extremely painful, a physician can remove the ingrown portion of the nail and prescribe antibiotics to address any infection.
CAUSES OF INGROWN TOENAILS
Ingrown toenails occur when the nail begins to grow into the skin of the toe, usually the big toe. There are a variety of factors that can lead to the development of an ingrown toenail, including the following:
Footwear - Shoes that are too small or too tight cause toes to compress together; this can result in abnormal nail development.
Fungal infections - Fungal nail infections can cause nails to become thicker and wider, making an ingrown nail likely to develop.
Genetics - If a member of your family consistently develops ingrown toenails, you are likely to develop them as well.
Injury - Any trauma or injury that damages the nail can lead to an ingrown toenail.
Nail trimming - One of the most common causes of ingrown toenails is trimming nails too short or rounding nails (nails should be trimmed straight across).
INGROWN TOENAIL SYMPTOMS
Ingrown toenails usually develop on the outer edge of the big toe; however, any toenail can become ingrown. Symptoms of an ingrown toenail include:
- Drainage of a yellowish fluid.
- Extra skin growth around the corner of the nail.
- Pain, redness, and swelling along one or both sides of the toenail.
Drainage of pus may indicate that an infection has developed. It is important to see a physician if the pain from the ingrown toenail becomes severe or if the infection seems to be growing.
INGROWN TOENAIL TREATMENT
When an ingrown toenail first develops, it can be treated at home. Soak your foot daily in warm water and massage the side of the nail to reduce inflammation. Avoid repeatedly trimming your toenail; this can actually cause ingrown toenails to worsen.
If pain persists or there are any signs of infection, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and elevate and clean the ingrown portion of the nail. If excess tissue has grown around the toenail your doctor may choose to remove the tissue to help the toe heal faster.
When ingrown toenails become a recurring problem, it may be necessary to remove part of the toenail and underlying tissue to prevent the nail from growing back malformed.
It is also important to know other ways you can prevent problems with your feet. Take an active role in your foot health by reviewing the following information:
A pedicure is a great way to pamper yourself and groom your feet; but be careful, pedicure infections are very easy to pick up if your salon does not practice proper hygiene. Health risks associated with pedicures include everything from fungal foot infections to bacterial skin infections and viral infections.
There are precautions you can take both before and after a pedicure to minimize your risk of infection.
PEDICURE SAFETY TIPS
Before baring your toes at your local nail salon, take a few easy steps to ensure foot safety:
- Bring your own pedicure tools to reduce risk of contamination.
- Do not allow the pedicurist to cut your cuticles.
- Do not shave or wax your legs less than 24 hours before your appointment.
- Make sure footbaths are drained and washed between clients.
- Schedule your appointment as early as possible (pedicure tools and footbaths are cleanest at the beginning of the day).
- Take a look around, does the salon look clean?
You should avoid having a pedicure if you have any cuts, bug bites, scratches, or scabs on your feet and legs.
AFTER PEDICURE HOME CARE
To reduce your risk of infection, take the following steps after receiving a pedicure:
- Apply moisturizer to the skin and margins of the nail.
- Gently exfoliate dead skin.
- Maintain a straight (not rounded) nail edge.
- Push back, but do not trim cuticles.
- Space your next pedicure apart by eight weeks.
- Wash and soak your feet in warm water for 10 minutes, this helps clean skin and nails.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
It is important to be on guard for infection in the days and weeks following a pedicure.
Signs of a fungal infection include:
- Discoloration of toenails.
- Flaking of toenails.
- Red, itchy skin between toes (this may be athlete’s foot).
- Small indentations in toenails.
- White spots in toenails.
Bacterial infections are all too common following a pedicure. One of the first symptoms of infection is small, red bumps that resemble insect bites. These are actually boils, and they can continue to grow in size, eventually producing pus.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of a foot infection following a pedicure, make sure to see a doctor right away. People with diabetes and those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to pedicure infections and should see a physician immediately if they suspect something is wrong.
PROPER NUTRITION FOR HEALTHY FEET
Typically when discussing the benefits of proper nutrition, most people highlight improvements to heart health or a shrinking waistline. However, proper nutrition can also improve the health of your feet.
EFFECTS OF NUTRITION ON FEET
There are several medical conditions that affect foot health, many of which are affected by nutrition. Some of these conditions include:
- Diabetes - can affect the circulation in your feet, cause a loss of feeling, and trigger diabetic neuropathy.
- Inflammation - Some types of food (including foods with refined sugar and trans fats) can increase inflammation in your feet and even cause plantar fasciitis.
- Obesity - The more you weigh the more force your feet have to bear. Obesity can lead to plantar fasciitis and heel pain. It can also worsen bunions and hammertoes.
- Osteoporosis (weakened bones) - Bones weakened by osteoporosis are more susceptible to stress fractures and trauma-related breaks.
- Poor circulation - Circulatory problems caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), smoking, diabetes, and other conditions can create various problems with your feet and legs.
TIPS FOR PROPER NUTRITION
Although proper nutrition alone may not prevent all of the above medical conditions from forming, it can be a vital part of achieving better health – including improved foot health.
Some tips to improve your overall foot health include:
- Control blood sugar levels - If you suffer from diabetes, it is important to monitor and control your blood glucose levels. By keeping your diabetes in check, you can prevent symptoms and keep existing conditions from worsening.
- Eat a healthy diet - By eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and rich in fruits and vegetables, you can decrease the risk of PAD, reduce inflammation, and lose weight. Be sure to discuss any dietary changes with your doctor.
- Exercise regularly - Although exercise is not a form of nutrition in the traditional sense, regular exercise can help "feed" your bones and minimize bone loss. Speak with your doctor to find an exercise program that will meet your specific needs.
- Increase intake of calcium and vitamin D - By building stronger bones with daily vitamins and minerals, you can combat the onset of osteoporosis. Be sure to speak with your doctor about the proper intake of these vitamins as too many may not be healthy.
In addition to the above tips, you should monitor your foot health and visit your doctor if you begin to notice weakness, pain, numbness, or any other abnormal sensation in your feet. Catching foot problems in their early stages can help you reduce the likelihood of long-term adverse effects.
If you are unable to self-treat a foot condition or if the problem worsens, be sure to visit your doctor for treatment.