If you have trouble with your feet, you are not alone. It is estimated that over 85% of the population suffers from some sort of foot problems. About one-quarter of all the bones in the human body are located in the feet, and in a lifetime the average person will have walked enough miles to have travelled around the world nearly five times! Given all that wear and tear, it’s not surprising that so many things can go wrong.
Athlete’s foot is a common infection that is started by a fungus. As the infection worsens, bacteria may also contribute to the infection.
The symptoms include:
- itching, stinging, or burning between the toes (especially between the fourth
and fifth toes)
- itching, stinging, or burning on the sole of the foot
- cracked or peeling skin, especially between the toes or on the sole
- foul odour
- thickening skin
- nails that become thick, crumbly, ragged, discoloured, or pull away from the
Treatment depends on the stage of the infection. Medicated powders can help keep the feet dry and fight the bacteria, but antifungal medicine will be necessary to treat the fungus.
To help with the healing—and to help avoid a recurrence—you can take the following steps:
- Wash and dry your feet thoroughly (especially between your toes) every day.
- Wear shoes and socks that allow your feet to “breathe,” such as socks made of natural fibres (cotton or wool, for example) and shoes that are open (when the weather permits).
- Change your socks daily, and never put on socks that aren’t completely dry.
- When possible, avoid wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row. A day of rest gives the insides of the shoes a chance to dry out.
- Dust your feet, especially between your toes, with a medicated powder.
- Don’t go barefoot in public places such as pools or gym changing rooms.
In most cases, your London Drugs pharmacist can help you select the right products to use. However, if you have diabetes, a blood vessel disorder, another skin condition, or a history of asthma or allergies, do not try to treat athlete’s foot yourself. See your doctor or a foot care specialist (a podiatrist or chiropodist).
A bunion is a bump at the joint where the big toe (sometimes called the great toe) attaches to the foot. A bunion forms when the big toe moves out of its proper position and overlaps the toe next to it. Most people who develop bunions have a structural deformity of the foot, but other contributing factors include poor posture and wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. Bunions are ten times more common in women.
The symptoms include bending inward of the big toe to overlap the other toes, swelling of the joint at the base of the big toe, and sometimes pain and redness at the joint. If left untreated, bunions tend to become worse and can cause serious joint problems.
Treatment generally involves switching to roomier shoes and avoiding high heels. Orthotic devices (custom-made shoe inserts) help some people by stabilizing the bones and muscles. Pain medicines and bunion pads can help reduce the discomfort. Some bunions, when caught early enough, can be corrected by wearing a splint to keep the toe in its correct position. In severe cases, an operation may be needed to correct the problem.
The best way to avoid bunions is to wear roomy, comfortable, low-heeled shoes. If you notice your big toe starting to bend inward, consult your doctor or foot care specialist before the condition becomes a serious problem.
Calluses & Corns
A callus is a thickening of the skin that is raised above the skin surface and shows the normal pattern of skin ridges. Calluses form on weight-bearing areas such as the soles, toes, and heels. They form as a protective barrier when an area of skin experiences repeated pressure and friction, such as that caused by wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or that are made of inflexible materials.
Corns are also spots of thickened skin. They differ from calluses in that they are usually smaller, have clearly defined edges, and don’t have the normal pattern of skin ridges on the surface. They usually have more compact centres than calluses, which makes them more painful. Corns can be either hard or soft. Hard corns generally form on the tops of toes; soft corns develop between the toes. The most common causes are improperly fitting shoes or structural problems with the feet.
The most important part of the treatment for both calluses and corns is to remove the cause of the problem, which generally means a change of footwear. There are also some over-the-counter products that can cause the layers of the callus or corn to peel away, and your pharmacist can advise you about these products. If used according to the directions, they usually work within two weeks. Protective pads can cushion the tender area during the treatment to help lessen the discomfort and can be used after the treatment to keep the problem from recurring. Do not try to speed up the treatment by cutting away the dead tissue, because this can lead to an infection. If you have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or a skin condition, do not try to remove a callus or corn yourself. Consult your doctor or a foot care specialist.
Ingrown toenails occur when an improperly trimmed nail becomes embedded in the skin around the nail edge.
Symptoms include pain—especially when there is pressure on the toe—and, sometimes, swelling and redness of the area next to the nail.
If caught early in its development, an ingrown toenail can be treated by placing a piece of clean absorbent cotton, lamb’s wool, or moleskin gently under the corner of the nail. This lifts the nail edge slightly, encouraging it to grow normally instead of growing down into the skin. However, nails grow very slowly and it may take months to correct the problem. Also, having the absorbent material under the nail may be uncomfortable, and an unpleasant odour may develop. If this happens or if the ingrown nail is red, swollen, or painful, or if it doesn’t resolve itself
within a week, see your doctor or a foot care specialist.
To help avoid ingrown toenails, keep your nails clean and neatly trimmed (straight across and level with the ends of your toes—do not round the corners), brush your cuticles regularly with a nail brush, and avoid tight shoes.
Warts are infectious growths on the skin that are caused by a virus. When they appear on the soles of the feet, they are called plantar warts. They can occur either alone or in clusters, and they can make you feel like you are walking around with pebbles in your shoes.
About one-third of all warts clear up on their own within six months, and more than half clear up within two years. However, they are contagious and can spread to other parts of your body or to other people, so you may not want to wait to see if they take care of themselves.
Many warts can be easily eliminated with nonprescription products, and your London Drugs pharmacist can help you select an appropriate product and explain how to use it. Close medical supervision is an important part of home therapy for warts, because improper treatment can lead to scarring, so it is always a good idea to consult your doctor or a foot care specialist when treating warts yourself. People with diabetes, a blood vessel disorder, a skin condition, asthma, or allergies should never treat a wart themselves. They should seek treatment from a doctor, podiatrist, or chiropodist.