Feet

Athlete’s Foot

Up to 70 percent of people will develop Athlete’s foot in their lifetime. The fungus that causes it grows on the warm, damp surfaces around pools, public showers, and locker rooms. Athlete’s foot commonly occurs in people whose feet are sweaty and in tight-fitting shoes. 

Athletes foot

Symptoms may include:

  • Itchy, scaly rash between toes
  • Small, red blisters
  • Ongoing dryness and scaling
  • Ulcers or sores

Your risk increases if you:

  • Wear closed shoes
  • Develop a minor skin or nail injury
  • Keep your feet wet for long periods
  • Sweat profusely

Athlete’s foot is contagious and can easily be passed through direct contact or contact with items such as shoes, stockings, and shower or pool surfaces.

Athlete’s Foot Treatment

Treatment options include topical or oral anti-fungal medications, bacterial or steroidal topical agents, and foot powders. Your podiatrist can teach you how to care for your feet and specific steps you can take to minimize your risk of Athlete’s foot reoccurring.

Athletes foot in shower

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Bunions

A bunion forms when the big toe points toward the second one, which causes a bump to appear. 

Bunions tend to develop over time and are much more common in women and seniors. Typically, a combination of genetics and environmental factors (footwear, injury, etc.) cause bunions.

Bunion

Bunion Symptoms

Other than the bump, symptoms can include swelling, redness, or soreness around the big toe joint. Because the joint at the base of the big toe supports much of your weight when walking, bunions can cause significant and constant pain.

Bunion Treatment

Heating pads or warm foot baths can be used to help ease pain and discomfort. Some people also find relief using ice packs.

Your doctor may prescribe you an over-the-counter pain reliever and medicine to reduce swelling. Treatment options can include:

  • Taping and padding
  • Removal of hard calluses
  • Dry needling
  • Muscle strengthening exercises
  • Orthotics (can help reduce pain and prevent further progression of the bunion)
  • Injection therapy (usually cortisone is used to reduce levels of pain)

Severe bunions usually require surgery to correct alignment. You will want to talk to your doctor about what you can expect and what recovery will be like.

Ice pack on bunions

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Diabetic Foot Care

Problems with the feet and toes are a common complication of diabetes. In fact, diabetes is responsible for over 50 percent of all foot amputations in the United States. Over time, diabetes can lead to nerve damage and lower the amount of blood flow in the foot. Nerve damage makes it difficult to feel irritation, soreness, or infection on the feet. Reduced blood flow can lead to pain, infection, and wounds that heal slowly. 

Diabetic foot

Symptoms

If you have diabetes, contact a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Skin color changes
  • Swelling in the foot or ankle
  • Leg pain
  • Changes in skin temperature
  • Ingrown toenails or toenails infected with fungus
  • Open wounds on the feet that are slow to heal
  • Calluses
  • Corns
  • Dry cracks in the skin, particularly around the heel
  • Foot odor that won’t go away

Prevention

Some diabetes foot-related problems can be prevented by:

  • Controlling your blood sugar
  • Not smoking
  • Eating healthy
  • Checking feet daily for wounds or sores
  • Seeking treatment for wounds early
  • Keeping feet clean and dry
  • Protect from injury and extreme temperatures
  • Wearing socks and shoes

Diabetic Foot Treatment

Treatment varies depending on the type of foot problem, but may include:

  • Medications, including antibiotics
  • Custom orthotics, inserts, or splints
  • Wound care and specialized dressings
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
  • Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT®)
  • Radiofrequency therapy
  • Surgical debridement or toe removal
Diabetic foot treatment

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Flat Feet

You have flat feet when the arches are flattened, allowing the entire soles of your feet to touch the floor when you stand. It can be something you’re born with, or they can develop later on in life. As an adult, you can develop flat feet due to:

  • Injury or trauma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Being overweight
  • Chronic diseases, including diabetes

Risk Factors

Flat feet are sometimes linked to overuse issues, such as engaging in strenuous activities, like distance running. Other factors that can increase your risk are:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Aging
  • Pregnancy
Flat foot vs healthy foot

Issues with Flat Feet

Some issues caused by flat feet include:

  • Inflammation of soft tissue
  • Foot, arch, and leg fatigue
  • Heel, foot, and ankle pain
  • Knee, hip, and lower back pain
  • Rolled-in ankles
  • Abnormal walking patterns
  • Shin splints
  • Bunions
  • Hammertoe
  • Arthritis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD)

While not generally anything to worry about, for some, flat feet can lead to chronic foot pain and ankle instability.

Flat Feet Treatment

Treating flat feet usually starts with conservative measures. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the treatment plan can include:

  • Medications, including antibiotics
  • Medications for pain relief and inflammation
  • Custom-molded orthotics
  • Ankle or foot braces
  • Shoe modifications
  • Physical therapy
  • Fracture boot

Surgery may be needed to correct flat feet if your condition has progressed into a stiff, rigid, or arthritic state. This type of reconstructive foot surgery can repair tendons and restore foot function. 

Flat foot brace

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Foot Fracture

There are 26 bones in the foot. They support our weight and allow us to walk and run. Certain activities or injuries can cause a fracture, or crack, in one or more of these bones. 

Pain, redness, swelling, and bruising are signs of a possible fracture. 

Foot fractures, foot bones

Foot Fracture Risk Factors

Women are much more likely to suffer from fractures than men. In fact, one in two women over 50 will have a fracture in her lifetime.

Other factors that increase your risk of a fracture include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in excess
  • Steroids
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diabetes

Rest, ice, and immobilization are often the treatments. However, surgery is sometimes needed to repair the fracture.

Foot Ulcers

A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot. More than any other group, people with diabetes have a particularly high risk of developing foot ulcers. This is because the long-term complications of diabetes often include neuropathy and circulatory problems. In addition to diabetes, Atherosclerosis and Raynaud’s phenomenon increase the risk of foot ulcers.

Foot ulcer

Foot Ulcer Symptoms

Signs of a foot ulcer include:

  • Swelling, discoloration, and warmth around the wound.
  • Foul-smelling discharge seeping from the wound.
  • Pain and firmness when the wound is touched.
  • Callused or thickened skin surrounding the ulcer.
  • Fever and chills in advanced stages of foot ulcers

Without prompt and proper treatment, a foot ulcer can develop into:

  • An abscess (a pocket of pus)
  • A spreading infection of the skin and underlying fat (cellulitis)
  • A bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Gangrene. Gangrene is an area of dead, darkened body tissue caused by poor blood flow

Foot Ulcer Treatment

Patients will typically be asked to care for their ulcers at home by:

  • Keeping the wound clean and dry
  • Changing the dressing as directed
  • Taking prescribed medications as directed
  • Drinking plenty of fluid
  • Following a healthy diet, as recommended, including plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercising regularly, as directed by a physician
  • Wearing appropriate shoes
  • Wearing compression wraps, if appropriate, as directed

In some case, your doctor will recommend removing the ulcer with a debridement, the removal of dead skin, foreign objects, or infections that may have caused the ulcer. Surgery may be needed to alleviate pressure around the ulcer by shaving down the bone or removing foot deformities such as bunions or hammertoes.

Foot ulcer treatment eat healthy fruits veggies

Foot Ulcer Prevention

You can help prevent ulcers by:

  • Quit smoking
  • Manage your blood pressure
  • Control your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels by making dietary changes and taking medications as prescribed
  • Limit your intake of sodium
  • Manage your diabetes and other health conditions, if applicable
  • Exercise—start a walking program after speaking with your doctor
  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Ask your doctor about aspirin therapy to prevent blood clots
Foot ulcer prevention watch blood pressure

Nerve Pain

The intense pain on the top of your foot or through your arch isn’t always related to issues with your joints and tendons. Nerve pain and nerve damage are common problems many people face and can be brought on by a nerve being irritated directly or affected by an underlying health condition.

People who suffer from nerve pain experience everything from burning, shooting, or stabbing pain to numbness and that pins-and-needles feeling. More often than not, these episodes come and go randomly.

Risks for Nerve Pain

Your risk of developing nerve pain and damage increases due to:

  • Trauma or injury
  • Drugs or antibiotics
  • Tumors
  • Diabetes
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Disease
  • Excess pressure (tight shoes)

Nerve Pain Treatments

Nerve pain treatment is complicated. Depending on how the nerve responds, patients may see gradual improvement or none at all. Some nerve pain can’t be reversed. A podiatrist can identify the reasons for your nerve pain and offer treatment options, including:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Prescription pain killers
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Topical treatments
  • Exercise
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Warm baths

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Neuromas

A neuroma is a pinched nerve or benign nerve tumor and is typically found between the third and fourth toes or in the ball of the foot. Many patients describe neuroma as if they have a small stone in their shoe and are constantly putting weight on it, causing pain. While neuromas can affect anyone, most podiatrists see women because of the anatomical construction of the female foot. According to several studies, women are 8-10 times more likely to develop this painful condition.

Symptoms may include:

  • Burning sensation
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Cramps

Risk factors may include:

  • Tight shoes
  • High arches or flat feet
  • Repeated stress
  • Trauma

Neuromas Treatment

Anti-inflammatory drugs can ease acute pain and inflammation. Your podiatrist might also suggest custom shoe inserts and orthotics to help improve foot function and prevent the condition from getting worse. In extreme situations, surgery is also an option. Consult with your podiatrist to determine the level of care that is right for your situation.

Foot Doctor Neuromas treatment shoe inserts

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Neuropathy

Neuropathy affects roughly 20 million people in the United States. It occurs when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body are damaged. It is associated with a litany of underlying medical conditions and affects a single peripheral nerve or several nerves at the same time.

People with diabetes have a high risk of neuropathy, but there are also a variety of other potential causes.

Neuropathy symptoms include:

  • Numbness
  • Prickling and tingling sensation
  • Throbbing
  • Cramps
  • Weakness
  • Burning pain
  • Sharp pain

Neuropathy risk factors include:

  • Physical trauma
  • Repetitive injury
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Infection
  • Heredity
  • Arthritis
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Metabolic problems
  • Diabetes

Prevention tactics like following a healthy diet, exercising, and seeing your podiatrist regularly will help avoid further complications of neuropathy.

Neuropathy Treatment

Once neuropathy has developed, there is little you can do other than manage the pain. Early treatment can improve outcomes. Treatment options include physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and narcotics. Your podiatrist will devise an individualized solution to maintain foot health and decrease pain.

Orthotics

When you’re experiencing chronic pain in your feet and joints, podiatrists often prescribe orthotics. While shoe inserts provide cushioning and support and can be made out of gel, plastic or foam, orthotics are a medical device that help with foot pain caused by everything from plantar fasciitis to rheumatoid arthritis and correct biomechanical foot issues such as how you walk, stand, or run. A few of the benefits of orthotics include:

  • Reduce or eliminate foot pain
  • Take pressure off joints
  • Increased stability
  • Prevent injury
  • Prevent future foot problems

Your podiatrist will do a thorough examination to determine which option is best for you. Sometimes, it’s as simple as using an over-the-counter shoe insert. Other times, your pain solutions may call for orthotics.

Orthotics

Osteoarthritis

Over time, the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones as they move wears down and not only restricts your ability to perform daily activities but also causes damage to joints in your hands, knees, hips, and spine. This is called osteoarthritis, and it can just as easily occur in a person’s big toe, midfoot, and ankles.

Osteoarthritis is considered a wear-and-tear disease. The symptoms develop slowly and get worse over time. Though certain treatments can make osteoarthritis easier to manage, damage to the joint is irreversible.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Loss of flexibility
  • A grating sensation
  • Tenderness

Osteoarthritis Risk Factors

Your risk of developing osteoarthritis increases due to:

  • Repeated stress and use
  • Injury
  • Abnormal foot mechanics
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Obesity
  • Bone deformities

Osteoarthritis Treatment

If you have osteoarthritis, you should seek treatment to improve your mobility and worsening foot or ankle pain. Treatment options include physical therapy, hydrotherapy, and various stretching exercises. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and narcotics can also be prescribed. In severe cases, surgery may be an option to consider.

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Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. Plantar Fasciitis is painful inflammation of that tissue. It is caused by repetitive strain from excessive running or walking, repeated jumping, and inadequate shoes.

While Plantar Fasciitis can develop without an obvious cause, podiatrists see higher incidences among runners and people who are constantly on their feet. The pain is worse first thing in the morning and after the activity, not during it.

Symptoms may include:

  • Sharp, stabbing pain
  • Heel tenderness
  • Pain after rest or when flexing
  • Tingling and burning

Schedule a plantar fasciitis exam if you’re experiencing symptoms. If left untreated, you could develop chronic pain and issues with your knees, hips, and back.

Risk factors include:

  • Overexertion from exercise
  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Foot mechanics (flat feet, high arch)

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Ice and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Stretching exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Arch supports and orthotics
  • Purchasing new shoes
  • Night splints

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis affects over 1.3 million Americans. It is characterized by painful inflammation of one or more joints, including the feet, and causes stiffness that only worsens with age.

The average person doesn’t typically experience symptoms until they are in their 60s. Podiatrists tend to see more women than men for cases of rheumatoid arthritis, which can feel like a sprain or broken bone and, in some cases, may be painful to the touch.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms

  • Joint pain and stiffness, swelling, and redness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Tenderness around the affected area
  • Pain lasts longer than six consecutive months
  • Four or more affected joints, including hands and feet
  • Physical deformity
  • Fatigue

Rheumatoid Arthritis risk factors

  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal
  • Exposure to pollution, chemicals, secondhand smoke
  • Obesity
  • Previous joint injury

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

Depending on the severity and your history, your podiatrist’s goal will be to reduce foot-related pain and improve foot function and mobility. Below are just a few treatment options:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Steroid injections
  • Stretching and physical therapy
  • Orthotics
Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment injection

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Warts

Plantar warts are small growths with a rough texture that grow on your heels, soles, or any other area of your feet. They are not life-threatening and can go away over time without medical treatment, but they tend to be painful and will likely multiply if left untreated.

Warts enter the skin through a cut on the bottom of your feet and are more common in children, teenagers, and people with a weakened immune system. People who walk barefoot—especially at public swimming pools or in locker rooms and communal showers—are also susceptible. See a podiatrist if the wart is large, there are several of them, or if they are causing discomfort.

Plantar Warts

Wart Symptoms

As the virus progresses, wart signs and symptoms can include:

  • Small, bumpy, or flat growths with a rough or grainy texture
  • Pain when walking or standing
  • Black dots

Wart Prevention

Follow these steps to prevent warts:

  • Wash your hands carefully after touching a wart
  • Keep your feet clean and dry
  • Avoid walking barefoot around swimming pools and locker rooms

Wart Treatment

Over-the-counter medicine, topical treatments such as gels, ointments, and lotions, pumice stones, and freezing sprays are available at nearby stores. Your doctor can prescribe salicylic acid if you prefer a more effective option. They can also freeze off the wart or use laser treatment.

Wart treatment

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Wound Care

More than just treating a standard cut or scrape, wound care is a specialized medical protocol that involves treating wounds that do not heal and are likely the result of a more serious underlying condition. Wounds are typically considered non-healing if they have not started to heal in two weeks or have not completely healed in six weeks. Examples of non-healing wounds include foot ulcers due to diabetes, venous insufficiency, or swollen legs.

It is essential that people with diabetes care for their feet and regularly visit with a podiatrist to reduce the risk of slow-healing wounds and complications. This includes foot ulcers, lower leg ulcers, pressure ulcers, surgical wounds, lacerations, infections, and more.

Foot wound

Chronic wound risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Circulation problems
  • Infection
  • Arthritis
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

Wound care prevention includes:

  • Keep hands and feet clean
  • Visually inspect feet for signs of blisters, cuts, etc.
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Seek medical attention if your wound worsens
  • Keep blood sugar levels under control

Wound Care Treatment

It is important for anyone who has a chronic wound on one or both feet to be very thorough and comprehensive when it comes to the treatment and overall care of the affected area. Ignoring the problem will make the wound worse and can lead to further complications, including severe infections, hospitalization, and possible amputation. Treatment includes:

  • Making sure the wound is constantly clean and bandaged properly
  • Wearing compression stocking and bandages to improve blood circulation
  • Debridement (cutting down the dead skin and calluses)
  • Antibiotics
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Orthotics
  • Regular visits with your podiatrist and other wound care specialists
Wound care

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Other Conditions

Visit our blog for upcoming articles with useful information and tips about these or other conditions. We invite you find a podiatrist from our network who specializes in these conditions and can help you with treatment.

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