You know we expect an awful lot from our feet. We walk, run and jump on them. We cram them into socks and shoes. We use them to stand a little taller. We subject them to sand, rocks and heaven knows what hazards they endure while walking barefoot in our homes. Then we complain bitterly when they hurt. Makes sense to me.
Want to talk about foot pain? Talk about an ingrown toenail. Also known as onychocryptosis or unguis incarnatus (I dare you to pronounce those words) an ingrown toenail occurs when a sharp corner of the toenail digs into the skin at the end or side of the toe. Although it can happen to any toe, it’s most likely to be your big toe.
An ingrown toenail can be the result of trauma, such as stubbing your toe, having an object fall on your toe, or engaging in activities that involve repeated pressure on the toes, such as kicking or running.
The most common cause of ingrown toenails is incorrect trimming. Cutting your nails too short encourages the skin next to the nail to fold over the nail. Another cause of ingrown toenails is wearing shoes that are tight or short. Certain nail conditions are often associated with ingrown toenails. For example, if you have had a toenail fungal infection or if you have lost a nail through trauma, you are at greater risk for developing an ingrown toenail.
Treatment of Ingrown Toenails
If you don’t have an infection or any medical conditions that may affect your healing, you can soak your foot in room-temperature water with Epsom salts, and gently massage the side of the nail fold to help irrigate the area.
Avoid attempting “bathroom surgery.” Repeated cutting of the nail can cause the condition to worsen over time. If your symptoms fail to improve, make an appointment with The Podiatrist.
Home treatment is strongly discouraged if you suspect you have an infection, or if you have a medical condition that puts your feet at high risk, for example diabetes, nerve damage in the foot, or poor circulation.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
Many cases of ingrown toenails may be prevented by following these two important tips:
•Trim your nails properly. Cut your toenails in a fairly straight line, and don’t cut them too short. You should be able to get your fingernail under the sides and end of the nail.
•Avoid poorly-fitting shoes. Don’t wear shoes that are short or tight in the toe box. Also avoid shoes that are loose, because they too cause pressure on the toes, especially when you run or walk briskly.
Myth Busting – Ingrown Toenails!
Myth: Cutting a “V” in the nail will reduce the tendency for the nail to curve downward.
Truth: Cutting a “V” does not affect the growth of the toenail. New nail growth occurs from the nail bed and will continue to grow in whatever shape the nail bed is in.
Myth: Repeated trimming of the nail borders is a good way to treat ingrown toenails.
Truth: Repeated nail trimming fails to correct future nail growth and can make the condition worse.
Myth: Cotton placed under the nail will relieve the pain.
Truth: Cotton placed under the nail can be harmful. It can easily harbour bacteria and encourage infection.
Myth: You can buy effective ingrown toenail treatments at the Pharmacy or Chemist.
Truth: Over-the-counter topical medications may mask the pain, but they fail to address the underlying problem.
Get started on resolving your foot problem today.
Visit The Podiatrist for all your foot care needs
Corns are extremely painful. A corn is a toughened area of skin, quite small, which rubs against the bone and causes pain when we walk. A corn is a callus with a hardened centre, common to those who stand or walk all day. This continual pressure on one point of your skin initiates this hardened growth. There are remedies for corns, such as the many products marketed by the Dr Scholls company. One treatment is the corn pad, which reduces the pressure on your corn. Another is the corn remover, which typically uses the same salicylic acid that is used to remove warts. The best method is prevention of corns. Even if you can remove a corn and it does not return, you are likely to experience pain for weeks while you are treating the corn with acid. Corns sometime return, because the skin treatment does not get to the heart of the problem. So here are ways to prevent corns in the first place.
• Wear clean, dry socks. The continued application of moisture to your skin has an eroding effect. Once the skin has lost its natural toughness, corns and bunions will form. This is a good idea on general principle. Moisture in your sock leads to athlete’s foot. It also contributes to foot odor. But you should avoid dirty, moist socks to avoid more painful foot injuries.
• Don’t wear shoes indoors. When you are at your house alone, go with bare feet. This is the most natural, healthiest way to treat your foot. Even the most comfortable shoe is not as forgiving as going bare. Of course, if your feet have orthopedic problems that are corrected by special foot ware, you are exempted from this advice.
• When perusing the shoe rack at a shoe store, avoid the shoes that don’t have a natural shape to them. Shoes need to have the shape of a foot. If the shoe is straight and thin, it is likely to cause corns and bunions. Shoes which appear flat-footed are also likely to cause you problem.
• Do not wear shoes which are tight around your toes. If your toes rub against the inside of your shoe all day, they are likely to develop a painful corn. Once you have it, continued use of the shoe will make walking unbearable. Tight shoes cause your toes to rub together. This results in “soft” corns between your toes. Shoes too small for your feet are a common cause of corns. When you try on a new pair of shoes, look for those which are wide on the toe end.
• When you try on new shoes, pay special attention to where the inside seams are. If they rub constantly along the edge of the foot, this can cause a corn. This is especially true if the seam is placed close to a bone, such as on your big toe or the ball of your foot at the base of your big toe. The same is true of the ball of the foot, where the bone might rub against a seam. Look for shoes without protruding seams. If they are smooth on the inside, you are much less likely to develop corns.
• Look for shoes that have extra padding. This padding creates a buffer. Your foot will settle into this buffer, maintaining its normal position as it would if you had on no shoes. Make certain a shoe has padding on the ball of the foot and on the back heel. These are the places most likely to develop corns.
• If your corns reoccur despite taking the above precautions, talk to a podiatrist. These doctors provide sufferers with foot inserts and wedges specifically meant to prevent corns. When no shoe can help you, there are modifications which can help. You don’t have to suffer with corns all your life.
See The Podiatrist for your foot care.
Athlete’s foot or Tinea pedis is caused by a fungal infection between the toes and over the foot. The commonest symptoms are itching, burning, stinging, flaking, scaling, blistering and bleeding skin between the toes or the sides of the feet.
Symptoms of the condition
- Red and itchy skin between toes and sides of the feet.
- Burning, and stinging of the skin
- Peeling, flaking and scaling of the affected skin
- Blistering that may ooze secretions or bleed. The lesions may appear crusty or weeping.
- Secondary bacterial infections may occur at the raw infected sites. This complicates the infection with pain, swelling, bleeding, oozing or formation of pus.
- Thick, discoloured and easily breakable toe nails. This is called onychomycosis
- Associated fungal infections may occur. These include ringworm on any part of the skin or jock’s itch over the groin.
- Sometimes athlete’s foot can be spread to the hands. This condition is called tinea manuum. It occurs when a sufferer of Athlete’s foot does not wash his or her hands after touching the infected skin on their feet.
Types of Athlete’s foot
Types of Tinea pedis infections include toe web infections, moccasin-type infections and so forth.
Toe web infections
Toe web infections commonly affect the webs between the two smallest toes. The skin turns pale, moist and soft initially.
There may be pain, burning or stinging with itching and a slight smell.
As the infection worsens there may be secondary bacterial infection. This may lead to foul smell, pain, pus formation, blistering, oozing and bleeding.
Moccasin-type infection is a long term infection. It starts as a small area of dryness, burning, or itching skin. Slowly the area is thickened, with scaling, flaking and peeling skin. This may affect toe nails as well.
Vesicular infection is the least common type of athlete’s foot. It begins as blisters usually over the instep of the foot or in the toe webs.
It may progress to a full-fledged infection often affecting other areas. There may be a risk of secondary bacterial infections as well.
See The Podiatrist for all your foot problems
These days, the vast majority of people are working to improve some aspect of their overall health. Popular resolutions can range from increased exercise and healthier eating habits to quitting smoking or simply taking a daily multivitamin; but amidst all these other goals, proper foot care often falls by the wayside. Common foot problems, such as foot pain, ingrown nails, athlete’s foot or bunions, are all too often neglected at the outset – and subsequently permitted to progress to the point where professional treatment is required to reverse the problem. In most cases, improved preventative care is all it takes to keep these conditions at bay. However, some conditions may require professional treatment or even surgery: and before attempting to self-diagnose or self-treat any foot injury, pain or infection, it is important to consult an experienced professional podiatrist to ensure proper diagnosis and a safe solution for lasting health.
The following guidelines can help individuals keep their feet healthy and happy all year long – and make it easier for them to detect early symptoms and warning signs in order to seek prompt and effective podiatric treatment:
- Ingrown Nails – Ingrown toenails can develop easily and without warning if nails are trimmed incorrectly or constricted in ill-fitting shoes. Left untreated, they can result in painful infections. Prevent ingrown toenails by cutting nails straight across and rounding the edges with a clean file — and take care to prioritize proper trimming and sanitation techniques when frequenting nail salons to reduce the risk of infection.
- Nail Fungus – Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is a common ailment that is particularly likely to affect athletes, elderly individuals and anyone with a genetic history of the disease. Fungus can start in a tiny portion of the nail and spread over time to the full nail, so frequent inspections (after bathing or while grooming, for example) are an essential preventative step. Take steps to avoid toenail fungus by keeping feet dry and clean, changing socks regularly and wearing shoes in public areas. For those already battling nail fungus, consider advanced laser therapy for drug-free, long-lasting eradication of fungus and unsightly symptoms.
- Bunions –as high heels, flats and flip-flops), most bunions are in fact the result of inherited structural defects and have little relation to one’s footwear. That being said, shoes that lack the proper support may well exacerbate the pain and swelling symptomatic of bunions. Individuals suffering from continuous foot pain, visible swelling on the big toe joint or restricted motion of the foot should consult The Podiatrist.
Professional guidance and preventative care with The Podiatrist.
Don’t wait to begin taking better care of your feet: commit to a better preventative care routine today, and consider visiting The Podiatrist for a check-up or consultation with our team of highly trained Podiatrists. As Podiatrists, we ensure top-quality care for all our patients and recommend the latest in healthcare solutions to help you look and feel your best.
Not the most glamorous injury, but ingrown toenails are easily one of the more common and painful foot problems around.
Also known as onychocryptosis, there are a variety of ways an athlete could suffer from the problem.
Excessive pressure on the outside of the great toe, stubbing or having a toe stepped on, tight socks and shoes, even improper trimming of your nails can cause ingrown toenails.
The pain isn’t easy to deal with, as a soccer player is usually always on their feet.
With rugby, soccer, netball and tennis being a dynamic sport of rapid acceleration and changes in direction, kicking a ball, or landing on the toes with an ingrown toenail can be incredibly painful.
Along with soreness and sensitivity along the margins of the toenails, bacteria and fungi can easily infect the skin.
The foot’s warm and moist environment is a great breeding ground for a variety of infections.
The Podiatrist can treat an infected ingrown toenail immediately. Signs include a discoloured toe with discharge (watery, blood, pus). Any attempts at “home surgery” should not be attempted.
To prevent ingrown toenails, you want to protect the feet from trauma, avoid poorly fitting socks and shoes (too tight or too loose), and always make sure to trim your nails straight across with clippers to a comfortable length on a regular basis.
If uninfected, treat the feet by soaking them in either salt or warm soapy water. Drying them thoroughly, applying a mild antiseptic solution, and bandaging the toe will make a difference.
Visit The Podiatrist (www.thepodiatrist.co.nz)
It is important to keep your feet clean and as dry as you can. However, the sole of the foot contains thousands of sweat glands so feet which have been kept hidden away in winter shoes and boots during cold and rainy days are prone to problems because warm, dark moist places encourage such as athlete’s foot, fungal nail infections and verrucas. On top of this, bacteria that cause smelly feet flourish on warm, moist skin.
Make sure your shoes and socks are made from natural fibres and try and let your feet ‘breathe’ as much as possible.
The simplest way to deal with sweaty feet is to use a foot powder or antiperspirant. However, this may be insufficient in some people who have truly sweaty feet and have a condition called hyperhidrosis.
The most important thing is to vary the type of shoe and heel that you wear in order to reduce the repetitive strain on any one particular area of the foot. A low-heeled shoe will help with Achilles tendon problems and also plantar fasciitis.
Heel pain (called plantar fasciitis) can be caused by summery shoes such as flip-flops or ballet pumps. If you suffer from any of these see your Podiatrist.
If you have bunions (an enlargement of tissue around the big toe) or hammer toes (when your second, third or fourth toes are permanently bent) winter shoes can be very unforgiving. If you are having regular problems seek advice from a Podiatrist who will be able to give you different treatment options, and recommend a surgeon if needed.
Thick cracked skin on the heels is very common and the best way to deal with this is to start off with a visit to your Podiatrist who will remove the hard skin, and then advise on a home maintenance regime, which will involve the use of a foot cream (Gehwol foot care products).
Home maintenance will also include regular use of pumice to keep the skin smooth. Make sure the foot is nice and dry and gradually file the skin. If you are diabetic the skin loses its ability to sweat which is very important in naturally moisturising your feet and preventing cracking. If you have also lost skin sensation, these cracks may not be noticed or healed and this can lead on to significant problems. In this situation it is essential that you see a Podiatrist (chiropodist) regularly for your foot care rather than taking it on yourself. This is also true if you have circulatory problems in your feet.
Make sure you cut your toenails properly as painful conditions can occur without care.
Keep your nails trimmed. Undercutting the end of the nail in this way increases the risk of the nail edge growing forward into the nail – a so-called ‘in-growing toe nail’. Cutting them too short also encourages this to occur.
Thickened, yellow, brittle nails are a sign of a fungal nail infection. Treating this infection can be very difficult and it is best to make sure that you get nail clippings sent off to the lab before starting any anti-fungals.
Identification of the exact cause and targeted anti-fungal treatment increases the chance of success but beware as this can take several months. Sweaty feet make this more difficult.
It’s a good idea to have a regular foot care routine to keep you feet healthy.
If you are diabetic, make sure you inspect them regularly, especially if you have lost the feeling in them.
Firstly wash your feet in warm water, preferably with an anti-bacterial soap. Make sure you dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes as the skin here is prone to a fungal infection called athlete’s foot. When dried, moisturise your feet.
Hard skin can be rubbed with a pumice stone when you are washing your feet. Severe hard skin on the sole is usually down to excessive pressure and you really ought to see a Podiatrist (chiropodist) to have this removed or protected with insoles.”
A verruca on the other hand has a dark centre and is more discrete. It is caused by the human papilloma virus.
Scaly, itchy feet can be due to athlete’s foot and it is actually quite common for this to be resistant to treatment with the standard over-the-counter preparations.
If this is the case you should see you GP as oral medications may be required.
Make sure that you treat your socks and shoes with powder as well as these can harbour the fungus and cause re-infection.
Please seek professional advice if you are diabetic, have circulatory problems, or want more information.
An infection of nail fungus occurs when fungi infect one or more of your nails. A nail fungal infection may begin as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail. As the nail fungus spreads deeper into your nail, it may cause your nail to discolor, thicken and develop crumbling edges — an unsightly and potentially painful problem.
These infections usually develop on nails continually exposed to warm, moist environments, such as sweaty shoes or shower floors. Nail fungus isn’t the same as athlete’s foot, which primarily affects the skin of the feet, but at times the two may coexist and can be caused by the same type of fungus.
An infection with nail fungus may be difficult to treat, and infections may recur. But medications are available to help clear up nail fungus.