Feet are something that people often take for granted until they face pain or an injury. Foot health helps keep the entire body healthy and is particularly essential for people with diabetes. August 17 is the annual National I Love My Feet Day and is the perfect time to put your best foot forward in caring for your dependable lower appendages.
A podiatrist is a medical specialist or foot doctor who can provide care for your feet and lower legs. Podiatrists are medical doctors with the designation DPM, doctor of podiatric medicine, after their name. Podiatrists address all aspects of foot care including trauma, correction of deformities, foot and ankle surgery and plastic surgery to manage chronic wounds. Foot doctors can order tests and X-rays, prescribe drugs and special orthotics and reset broken bones.
What Causes Foot Problems?
Your feet undergird your movement and activities every day. The human foot is quite complex with 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. The sweat glands in your feet outnumber the sweat glands in any other part of your body.
Because your feet handle tons of force and your weight in motion daily, the continual stress can expose your feet to a high risk of injury. Simple wear and tear, ill-fitting shoes and general neglect can accelerate basic foot problemsincluding bunions, hammertoes and toenail fungus.
What Are Common Foot Conditions?
Blisters are soft pockets of raised skin filled with a clear fluid. Most blisters are caused by the friction of your foot’s skin pressing against the inside of your shoe. Podiatrists advise covering a blister with a bandage and allowing the skin bubble to burst naturally. If you are prone to infections because of diabetes or another health condition, you may want to consult with a physician before you treat a blister.
Calluses and corns are compressed areas of dead skin cells that form through repeated rubbing against a bony section of the foot. Calluses typically form on the bottom of the feet, particularly on the heels or balls of the feet. Corns prefer the tops, sides and between your toes. Try soaking your foot in warm water to soften the skin before gently removing the dead skin with an emery board or wet pumice stone. Never remove too much skin, which may cause bleeding or an infection.
Bunions appear at the base of the big-toe joint as a bony bump that causes the big toe to turn inward. Arthritis, trauma, congenital deformities, heredity and narrow-fitting shoes around the toe can cause bunions. Wearing wider shoes and padded shoe inserts may help relieve pain, but surgery may be necessary to set the big toe to its normal position.
Athlete’s Foot appears as inflamed skin or a white, scaly rash with a red base between your toes and the bottoms of your feet. Caused by a fungus that flourishes in dark, moist, warm settings, athlete’s foot can also result in burning, itching and peeling skin. Public showers and locker rooms are notorious for this bothersome condition also called tinea pedis. Over-the-counter antifungal creams and sprays may help treat athlete’s foot, but you may need see a doctor for a prescription-strength medication.
Gout is a type of arthritis resulting from excess uric acid in joint tissue and fluid. The painful symptoms of a hot, red, swollen joint typically attack where the big toe connects to the foot. Avoiding foods and drinks that increase uric acid such as alcohol, seafood and red meat can help prevent gout attacks. Gout medications are designed to reduce pain and lower the body’s production of uric acid.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition in which the plantar fascia ligament that connects the heel to the ball of the foot becomes inflamed or torn. Anyone is at risk for this overuse injury, but runners and other athletes experience the condition more frequently. A podiatrist can prescribe specific stretches to reduce the tightness and recommend wearing a corrective night splint.
Tips for Healthy Foot Care
Wash your feet daily. Use lukewarm water, gentle soap and a soft washcloth or sponge to bathe your feet. Be sure to rinse and dry your feet thoroughly before putting on socks and shoes.
Wear only clean, dry socks. When your feet sweat, the moisture is trapped by your socks. To prevent bacteria and other pathogens from affecting your feet, be sure to change out of damp socks. Moisture-wicking socks are increasing in popularity.
Check your feet regularly for blisters, cuts, redness or cracks. Be diligent about inspecting your feet for injuries or damage. Contact your doctor if you see significant or persistent problems. If you are diabetic, examine your foot health daily.
Keep your toenails trimmed at the right length. If your toenails are trimmed too short, they can become infected or ingrown or cause pain. Cut your nails straight across and gently file the edges with an emery board or nail file. If you cannot manicure your own toenails, a think podiatrist can help. If you get professional pedicures, be sure to tell the nail stylist not to cut your toenails too short or harshly file, injuring your skin.
Wear properly fitting shoes. Avoid shoes that are too tight or too loose, causing blisters and other foot sores. Look for footwear that supports your feet and ankles and does not irritate your skin or arches. Flip-flops and flats are not the best choice for arch support.
Moisturize your feet nightly. After a long day working hard for you, your feet relish some pampering. Moisturizing your feet with lotion or cream keeps your skin soft and prevents itching and cracking. To help prevent infection, avoid applying moisturizers between your toes.
When Should I See a Doctor?
Even seemingly mild foot pain can turn quite debilitating. Any pain in your feet may be an initial sign of a systemic problem in your body. If you are diabetic, you need to remain proactive about the everyday condition of your feet. Read “How to care for diabetic feet” to help reduce foot complications related to diabetes.
Seek medical attention for your feet if you experience:
- Severe swelling or pain
- An open wound or wound that is oozing a discharge
- Signs of infection including warmth, redness or tenderness or a fever over 100° F
- (37.8° C)
- Inability to put weight on your foot or walk
- Persistent swelling that does not improve after 2-4 days
- Persistent pain that does not lessen after several weeks
- Burning pain, tingling or numbness in your foot/feet
Our think podiatrists can help diagnose and treat problems with your feet and work in tandem with think primary care doctors, rheumatologists, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals to ensure your optimal foot health.
Think podiatrists can help fit you with shoes and shoe inserts (orthotics) that offer proper support, handle general wear or equip your feet for sports-specific activities. Our foot medical specialists can also help you manage diabetes-related issues affecting your feet and overall health.
LEARN MORE ABOUT FOOT CARE BY SPEAKING WITH OUR KNOWLEDGEABLE PODIATRY PROVIDERS
Think makes it easy to receive accurate and affordable care for feet, ankles and lower extremities. Our podiatrist team diagnoses and treats a wide variety of foot conditions for all ages.
If you need quick assistance for an injury or an acute condition, our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our wide-ranging whole person healthcare, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page.