Foot Health

General Foot Health

 A Biological Masterpiece, But Subject to Many Ills

 The human foot is a biological masterpiece. Its strong, flexible, and functional design  enables  it to do its job well  and without complaint—if you take care of it and don’t take it for granted.

The foot can be compared to a finely tuned race car, or a space shuttle, vehicles whose  function dictates their design and structure. And like  them, the human foot is complex, containing within its relatively small  size 26 bones  (the two feet contain a quarter of all the bones  in the body), 33 joints, and a network of more than 100  tendons, muscles, and ligaments, to say nothing of blood  vessels  and nerves.

Tons of Pressure

The components of your feet work together, sharing the tremendous pressures of daily  living. An average day of walking, for example, brings a force equal  to several hundred tons to bear on the feet. This helps  explain why  your feet are more subject to injury than any other part of your body.

Foot ailments are among the most  common of our health problems. Although some  can be traced to heredity, many stem  from the cumulative impact of a lifetime of abuse  and neglect. Studies show  that most  Americans experience foot problems of a greater or lesser degree of seriousness at some  time in their lives; nowhere near that many seek medical treatment, apparently because  they mistakenly believe that discomfort and pain  are normal and expectable.

There are a number of systemic diseases  that are sometimes first detected in the feet, such as diabetes, circulatory disorders, anemia, and kidney problems. Arthritis, including gout, often attacks foot joints first.

Specialized Care

Your feet, like  other specialized structures, require specialized care. A doctor of podiatric medicine can make  an important contribution to your total health, whether it is regular preventive care or surgery to correct a deformity.

In order to keep  your feet healthy, you  should  be familiar with the most  common ills that affect them. Remember, though, that self-treatment can often turn a minor problem into a major one and is generally not advisable. You should  see a podiatric physician when  any  of the following conditions occur or persist.

Athlete’s foot is a skin  disease, usually starting between the toes or on the bottom of the feet, which  can spread to other parts of the body. It is caused  by a fungus that commonly attacks the feet, because  the wearing of shoes and hosiery fosters fungus growth. The signs  of athlete’s foot are dry scaly  skin, itching, inflammation, and blisters. You can help  prevent infection by washing your feet daily  with soap and warm water; drying carefully, especially between the toes; and changing shoes and hose regularly to decrease  moisture. Athlete’s foot is not the only  infection, fungal or otherwise, which  afflicts the foot, and other dry skin/dermatitis conditions can be good  reasons to see a doctor of podiatric medicine if a suspicious condition persists.

Blisters are caused  by skin  friction. Don’t pop them. Apply  moleskin or an adhesive bandage over a blister, and leave it on until it falls off naturally in the bath or shower. Keep your feet dry and always  wear socks as a cushion between your feet and shoes.  If a blister breaks on its own, wash  the area, apply  an antiseptic, and cover with a sterile bandage.

Bunions are misaligned big toe joints which  can become  swollen and tender. The deformity causes the first joint of the big toe to slant outward, and the big toe to angle  toward the other toes. Bunions tend to run in families, but the tendency can be aggravated by shoes that are too narrow in the forefoot and toe. There are conservative and preventive steps  that can minimize the discomfort of a bunion, but surgery is frequently recommended to correct the problem.

Corns and calluses are protective layers of compacted, dead skin  cells.  They are caused  by repeated friction and pressure from skin  rubbing against bony  areas or against an irregularity in a shoe. Corns ordinarily form on the toes and calluses  on the soles of the feet. The friction and pressure can burn or otherwise be painful and may  be relieved by moleskin or padding on the affected areas. Never cut corns or calluses  with any instrument, and never apply  home remedies, except under a podiatrist’s instructions.

Foot odor results from excessive perspiration from the more than 250,000 sweat glands  in the foot. Daily  hygiene is essential. Change  your shoes daily  to let each pair air out, and change  your socks,  perhaps even  more frequently than daily. Foot powders and antiperspirants, and soaking your feet in vinegar and water, can help  lessen  odor.

Hammertoe is a condition in which  any of the toes are bent in a claw-like position. It occurs most  frequently with the second  toe, often when  a bunion slants the big toe toward and under it, but any of the other three smaller toes can be affected. Although the condition usually stems  from muscle  imbalance, it is often aggravated by ill-fitting shoes or socks that cramp the toes. Avoid  pressure on the toes as much  as possible. Surgery may  be necessary to realign the toes to their proper position.

Heel pain can generally be traced to faulty biomechanics which  place too much  stress on the heel bone, ligaments, or nerves in the area. Stress could  result while  walking or jumping on hard surfaces, or from poorly made  footwear. Overweight is also a major contributing factor. Some  general health conditions—arthritis, gout, and circulatory problems, for example—also cause heel pain.

Heel spurs are growths of bone  on the underside of the heel bone. They can occur without pain; pain  may  result when  inflammation develops at the point where the spur forms. Both heel pain  and heel spurs are often associated with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the long  band  of connective tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot. Treatments may  range from exercise and custom-made orthotics to anti-inflammatory medication or cortisone injections.

Ingrown nails are nails  whose  corners or sides dig painfully into the skin, often causing infection. They are frequently caused  by improper nail  trimming but also by shoe pressure, injury, fungus infection, heredity, and poor foot structure. Toenails  should  be trimmed straight across,  slightly longer than the end of the toe, with toenail clippers. If the ingrown portion of the nail  is painful or infected, your podiatric physician may  remove the affected portion; if the condition reoccurs frequently, your podiatrist may  permanently remove the nail.

Neuromas are enlarged, benign growths of nerves, most  commonly between the third and fourth toes. They are caused  by bones  and other tissue rubbing against and irritating the nerves. Abnormal bone  structure or pressure from ill-fitting shoes also can create the condition, which  can result in pain, burning, tingling, or numbness between the toes and in the ball of the foot. Conservative treatment can include padding, taping, orthotic devices, and cortisone injections, but surgical removal of the growth is sometimes necessary.

Warts are caused  by a virus, which  enters the skin  through small  cuts and infects the skin. Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to warts than adults. Most warts are harmless and benign, even  though painful and unsightly. Warts often come  from walking barefooted on dirty surfaces or littered ground. There are several simple procedures which  your podiatric physician might use to remove warts.

Top Ten Foot Health Tips

Diseases, disorders and disabilities of the foot or ankle  affect the quality of life and mobility of millions of Americans. However, the general public  and even  many physicians are unaware of the important relationship between foot health and overall health and well-being. With this in mind, the American Podiatric Medical  Association (APMA) would  like  to share a few tips to help  keep  feet healthy.

1. Don’t ignore foot pain—it’s not normal. If the pain  persists, see a podiatric physician.

2. Inspect your feet regularly. Pay attention to changes  in color and temperature of your feet. Look for thick or discolored nails  (a sign of developing fungus), and check  for cracks  or cuts in the skin. Peeling  or scaling  on the soles of feet could  indicate athlete’s foot. Any growth on the foot is not considered normal.

3. Wash your feet regularly, especially between the toes, and be sure to dry them completely.

4. Trim toenails straight across,  but not too short. Be careful not to cut nails  in corners or on the sides; it can lead to ingrown toenails. Persons with diabetes, poor circulation, or heart problems should  not treat their own feet because they are more prone to infection.

5. Make sure that your shoes fit properly.  Purchase new shoes later in the day when  feet tend to be at their largest and replace worn out shoes as soon as possible.

6. Select  and wear the right shoe for the activity that you are engaged in (i.e., running shoes for running).

7. Alternate shoes—don’t wear the same  pair of shoes every day.

8. Avoid  walking barefooted—your feet will  be more prone to injury and infection. At the beach  or when  wearing sandals, always  use sunblock on your feet just as on the rest of your body.

9. Be cautious when  using  home  remedies for foot ailments; self-treatment can often turn a minor problem into a major one.

10. If you are a person with diabetes, it is vital that you see a podiatric physician at least  once a year for a check-up.

Your podiatric physician/surgeon has been trained specifically and extensively in the diagnosis and treatment of all manner of foot conditions. This training encompasses all of the intricately related systems and structures of the foot and lower leg including neurological, circulatory, skin, and the musculoskeletal system, which  includes bones,  joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.

At the Family FootCare Center, we specialize in: