Disease, years of wear
and tear, ill fitting or poorly designed shoes, poor circulation to the
feet, or improperly trimmed toenails cause many common foot problems.
To prevent foot problems,
check your feet regularly or, have them checked by a member of the family-and
practice good foot hygiene. Podiatrists and primary care physicians (internists
and family practitioners) are qualified to treat most feet problems; sometimes
the special skills of an orthopedic surgeon or dermatologist are needed.
Improving the circulation of blood to the feet can help prevent problems.
Exposure to cold temperatures or water, pressure from shoes, long periods
of sitting, or smoking can reduce blood flow to the feet. Even sitting
with your legs crossed or wearing tight, elastic garters or socks can
affect circulation. On the other hand, raising the feet, standing up and
stretching, walking, and other forms of exercise promote good circulation.
Gentle massage and warm foot baths can also help increase circulation
to the feet.
shoes that fit well can prevent many foot ailments. Foot width may increase
with age. Always have your feet measured before buying shoes. The upper
part of the shoes should be made of a soft, flexible material to match
the shape of your foot. Shoes made of leather can reduce the possibility
of skin irritations. Soles should provide solid footing and not be slippery.
Thick soles lessen pressure when walking on hard surfaces. Low heeled
shoes are more comfortable, safer, and less damaging than high heeled
Common Foot Problems
Fungal and bacterial conditions-including athlete's foot-occur
because the feet are usually enclosed in a dark, damp, warm environment.
These infections cause redness, blisters, peeling, and itching. If not
treated promptly, an infection may become chronic and difficult to cure.
To prevent these conditions, keep the feet-especially the area between
the toes-clean and dry and expose the feet to air whenever possible. If
you are prone to fungal infections, you may want to dust your feet daily
with a fungicidal powder.
Dry skin can
cause itching and burning feet. Use mild soap sparingly and a body lotion
on your legs and feet every day. The best moisturizers contain petroleum
jelly or lanolin. Be cautious about adding oils to bath water since they
can make the feet and bathtub very slippery.
Corns and calluses
are caused by the friction and pressure of bony areas rubbing against
shoes. A podiatrist or a physician can determine the cause of this condition
and can suggest treatment, which may include getting better fitting shoes
or special pads. Over-the-counter medicines contain acids that destroy
the tissue but do not treat the cause. These medicines can sometimes reduce
the need for surgery. Treating corns or calluses yourself may be harmful,
especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation.
skin growths caused by viruses. They are sometimes painful and if untreated,
may spread. Since over-the-counter preparations rarely cure warts, get
professional care. A doctor can apply medicines, burn or freeze the wart
off, or remove the wart surgically.
when big toe joints are out of line and become swollen and tender. Bunions
may be caused by poor fitting shoes that press on a deformity or an inherited
weakness in the foot. If a bunion is not severe, wearing shoes cut wide
at the instep and toes may provide relief. Protective pads can also cushion
the painful area. Bunions can be treated by applying or injecting certain
drugs, using whirlpool baths, or sometimes having surgery.
occur when a piece of the nail breaks the skin. This is usually caused
by improperly trimmed nails. Ingrown toenails are especially common in
the large toes. A podiatrist or doctor can remove the part of the nail
that is cutting into the skin. This will allow the area to heal. Ingrown
toenails can usually be avoided by cutting the toenail straight across
and level with the top of the toe.
is caused by shortening the tendons that control toe movements. The toe
knuckle is usually enlarged, drawing the toe back. Over time, the joint
enlarges and stiffens as it rubs against shoes. Your balance may be affected.
Hammertoe is treated by wearing shoes and stockings with plenty of toe
room. In advanced cases, surgery may be recommended.
calcium growths that develop on bones of the feet. They are caused by
muscle strain in the feet and are irritated by standing for long periods
of time, wearing badly fitting shoes, or being overweight. Sometimes they
are completely painless, but at other times the pain can be severe. Treatments
for spurs include using proper foot support, heel pads, heel cups, or
other recommendations by a podiatrist or surgeon.
For more information on foot care, write to either of the following:
9312 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814
Foot and Ankle Society
222 South Prospect
Park Ridge, IL 60068