Our feet keep us grounded, they contain more than a quarter of all the bones in our body and take us the equivalent of 5 times around the earth in our lifetime. Yet they rarely get the attention they deserve, so it’s no surprise that foot problems can develop. The following advice should help you understand a little more about the 10 most common problems and how to avoid them.

 

1. Corns and Callus

Thick, hard callused skin can form on areas of your feet where there has been repeated high pressure over a period of time, or shearing stress and friction, such as shoes rubbing. Read more about callus development here. Corns will often develop on the tops of your toes and on the ball of your foot. Callus normally develops first and if the pressure continues a hard compacted core of cells forms and can press on the nerve endings resulting in pain. The build up of hard skin is a protective mechanism as it shields the more delicate tissue underneath. To prevent problems from occurring make sure your shoes fit well.  If you are suffering from painful callus or corns see your podiatrist who will be able to remove the hard skin painlessly.  Read more about the treatment of corns here. Dr Anders Intensive Rescue Balm contains urea to nourish and break down hardened, callused skin and eliminate cracks and fissures, read more about how it can deeply hydrate and soothe skin here.

 

2. Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s Foot (or tinea pedis) is one of the most common foot infections that can affect your feet. It will usually affect the skin between your toes which may become red or look soggy and white and will be very itchy. Your skin may also peel, flake and crack. The infection can also spread to other parts of your feet or body and can also cause a fungal infection of your nails. Fungi thrive in moist environments such as inside your shoes and the floors around swimming pools, changing rooms and bathrooms. The fungal spores can also remain in a dormant state and then cause re-infection. Dry or split skin reduces the barrier function of your skin and may make you more susceptible to infection. Topical antifungal creams will normally be effective if used regularly, but to prevent reinfection it’s also important to treat your shoes with an antifungal spray.

 

3. Fungal Nails

Fungal nail infections are common can develop over a period of time, so any immediate difference in the way your nail looks or feels may be too subtle to notice at first. The infection is not usually serious can be unpleasant and difficult to treat. It is normally the same type of fungus that causes athlete’s foot that infects your nails. Warm moist environments such as inside your shoes help the fungi to thrive, long tubular structures known as hyphae infect the nail and break down the keratin. Although the fungus needs a host such as nail or skin to grow and reproduce, the spores can lie dormant for up to a year in places such as your shoes so re-infection is common. Fungal nail infections are contagious so can spread amongst family members or may be passed to others through contamination of shared facilities for example flooring, gym environments, shared nail files or clippers. Read more about fungal nail infections here. Dr Anders Conditioning Nail Treatment can improve the appearance of the nails, read more about how it works  here. 

 

4. Ingrowing toenails

Ingrown toenails occur when a splinter of nail grows into the surrounding skin, this can be extremely painful and the area may become infected or bleed. If your nails are naturally curved they may have a tendency to grow into the flesh. If you cut your nails too short you may leave a spike of nail which then grows at an angle and into the skin, tight shoes may also push the skin into the nail so that it pierces the skin. Don’t try to treat an ingrowing toenail yourself, your podiatrist will be able to treat it painlessly. Read more about ingrowing toenails here.

 

5. Blisters

Blisters are usually caused by your footwear rubbing excessively against your skin. Tight shoes can increase pressure on your feet and loosely fitting footwear can result in greater movement and friction inside your shoes. The friction separates the upper layers of the skin and this rupture forms a pocket that quickly fills with liquid. This liquid filled pocket is what gives the blister its bubble-like appearance. Blisters will normally heal by themselves, try to resist the temptation to pop them, instead cover them with a smooth plaster and avoid further friction to the area. Read more about blister development here.

 

6. Bunions

A bunion is a bony deformity of your big toe. Bunions often develop over time and are caused by abnormal forces leading to your big toe moving towards your second toe, creating a bony lump on the side of your foot which can become inflamed and sore. Surgery is the only way to remove the bony deformity, however the pain caused by a bunion can be managed using a padding or strapping. Orthotics can help with the alignment and slow the progression of the deformity so seek advice from your podiatrist. Read more about bunion development here.

 

7. Verucca

Warts and verrucae are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus is contagious and can be spread by contact with someone else who is infected or by coming into contact with infected skin cells in places like communal showering areas. The virus enters through small breaks in your skin and infection is thought to be more likely if your skin is wet. Verrucae are most commonly seen in children, teenagers and young adults. It is possible to develop an immunity against the virus over time and they will often resolve without treatment. If they are painful there are several over the counter remedies available. If self-treatment isn’t effective, you should seek advice from your podiatrist. Read more about verucca here.

 

8. Sweaty Feet

There are more sweat glands per inch in your feet than anywhere else on your body and they secrete all the time, not just in response to heat or exercise. The sweat keeps the skin on your feet moist and supple.Very sweaty feet can be caused by changing hormone levels in your body. Mental or emotional stress may also be a factor. If you have very sweaty feet they may also smell as bacteria on the skin break down the sweat causing offensive odours. Maintaining good foot hygiene will help including using an antiperspirant spray. It’s also important to wear shoes and socks that wick away moisture.

 

9. Sports Injuries

Playing sport regularly is a great thing: it’s enjoyable and great for our health and our minds. However, when we run, our body weight is multiplied up to three times, with our feet bearing the brunt of this stress at every stride. The demands made on your feet and lower limbs can lead to a range of injuries, including blisters, sprained ankles, torn ligaments, shin splints (leg pain), knee pain, lower back pain and other joint or muscle problems. Running style, poor footwear and even minor limb length differences can also contribute to injuries.

If you have repeated lower limb injuries it may be related to how your feet function when you walk or run. A podiatrist can assess your posture and lower limb function and provide advice regarding stretching and strengthening exercises, treatment plans and recommend suitable footwear. Often orthotics (supportive insoles) may be prescribed as a long-term treatment.

 

10. Foot problems due to diabetes

High blood glucose levels can cause damage to the nerve systems in your body, which stops important messages getting to and from your brain. The nerves in your body that are most likely to be affected are the longest ones – those that have to reach all the way to your feet and legs. Damage to your nerves is the thing most likely to affect your feet if you have diabetes.

Nerve damage is also sometimes called neuropathy. When it affects your feet it can lead to the following:

  • Damage to sensory nerves, which means that you start to lose sensation in your feet and are less able to feel pain, temperatures and vibrations
  • Damage to motor nerves, which can affect the muscles in your feet causing toe joints and bones to change shape
  • Damage to autonomic nerves which can reduce the amount of sweat that your feet produce, which will make your skin very dry. Dr Anders Nourishing Daily Therapy is immediately absorbed to nourish and restore dry problem skin. Read more about its benefits here.

The other important reason why some people with diabetes develop foot problems is because high blood glucose levels can also cause damage to your blood vessels. This can affect the blood supply (circulation) to your feet and legs and may mean that less blood gets to your skin, muscles and tissues. Because nerve damage often shows itself gradually you may not know that you are at risk of foot problems. So, even if your feet look healthy, it’s important to check them regularly and to make sure your nerves are tested at your annual diabetes review.

There’s lots more information about diabetes and your feet on the educate section here.

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