Fungal infection of the toenail, or onychomycosis, typically appears as a gradual change in a toenail’s texture and color that involves brittleness and darkening. The fungal infection itself occurs beneath the surface of the nail. Aside from discoloration, other symptoms include the collection of debris beneath the nail plate, white marks on the nail plate, and a foul odor emanating from the nail. If ignored, the infection can spread into other nails and the skin; in severe cases, it can hinder one’s ability to work or walk.
The toenails are particularly vulnerable to contracting infection in moist environments where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as around swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms. Fungal infection may also be more likely to occur in nail beds that have been injured, and sufferers of chronic diseases such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immunodeficiency conditions are particularly prone to developing fungal nails.
Fungal nails can be primarily prevented by practicing proper hygiene and regularly examining the feet and toes. Carefully washing the feet with soap and water and thoroughly drying the feet afterwards are essential. Other tips include wearing shower shoes in public areas, changing shoes and socks daily, keeping toenails clipped at a short length, wearing breathable shoes that fit properly, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and disinfecting home pedicure tools and instruments used to cut nails.
Fungal nail treatment may vary between patients and the severity of the condition. Your podiatrist may suggest a daily routine of cleansing that spans over a period of time to ease mild infections. Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal agents may also be prescribed, including topical and/or oral medications. Debridement, or the removal of diseased nail matter and debris, may also be performed. In more severe cases, surgical treatment may be needed. In some instances, the temporary removal of the fungal nail allows for the direct application of a topical antifungal to the nail bed. In other cases, a chronically painful fungal nail that has not responded to other treatments may be permanently removed; this allows the infection to be cured and avoids the growth of a deformed nail.
Plantar warts are growths that typically appear on the heels or other weight-bearing areas of the feet. These warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus enters the body through breaks in the skin, such as cuts, that are on the bottom of the feet. Plantar warts are more likely to affect children and teenagers, people with weakened immune systems, people who have a history with plantar warts, and people who walk barefoot in environments exposed to a wart-causing virus.
If you suspect you have plantar warts, you may have the following symptoms: pain or tenderness while walking, a lesion that interrupts the ridges in the skin of your foot, small fleshy lesions on the bottom of the foot, or a callus where a wart has grown inward over a well-defined spot on the skin.
HPV causes plantar warts to form and is very common. There are more than 100 kinds of the virus in existence. However, only a few of them cause warts on the feet. The other types of HPV are likely to cause warts on other parts of the body.
If you have plantar warts, your podiatrist may try different treatment methods depending on your specific case. Some treatments for plantar warts are peeling medicines (salicylic acid), freezing medicines (cryotherapy), or surgical procedures. Laser treatments and vaccines are also used to treat plantar warts.
Morton's Neuroma, also called Intermetatarsal Neuroma or Plantar Neuroma, is a condition that affects the nerves of the feet, usually the area between the third and fourth toe. Neuroma refers to a benign growth that can occur in different parts of the body. Morton's Neuroma strictly affects the feet. This condition causes the tissue around the nerves that lead to the toes becoming thick, causing pain in the ball of the foot.
This condition can be caused by injury, pressure or irritation. Normally no lump will be felt, but instead burning pain in the ball of the foot will be experienced. Numbness and tingling may also occur. With the onset of this condition, a person may feel pain when tight or narrow shoes are worn. As the condition worsens, the pain may persist for days, or even weeks.
Persistent foot pain should always be a concern. The foot should be examined by a podiatrist if pain persists longer than a few days with no relief from changing shoes. The earlier the foot is examined and treated, the less chance there will be for surgical treatment.
There are some factors that can play a role in the development of Morton's Neuroma. These include wearing ill-fitting shoes that cause pressure to the toes, such as high heels. Also, high impact exercise may contribute to the cause of this condition. Morton’s Neuroma may also develop if the foot sustains an injury. Another cause includes walking abnormally due to bunions or flat feet. This causes excessive pressure and irritates the tissue. At times, people are affected for no determinable reason.
Podiatrists can alleviate the effects of this condition using a treatment plan to help decrease the pain and heal the foot tissue. Depending upon the severity of the Morton's Neuroma, the treatment plan can vary. For cases that are mild to moderate, treatments may include applying padding to the arch to relieve pressure from the nerve and reduce compression while walking. Ice packs can also help reduce swelling. The podiatrist may also create a custom orthotic device to support the foot and reduce compression and pressure on the affected nerve. The doctor will probably advise against partaking in activities that cause constant pressure on the affected area. They may provide wider shoes to ease the pressure from the toes. If these treatments do not relieve the symptoms of this condition, the doctor may use injection therapy.
Surgical treatment may be recommended by the podiatrist if all other treatments fail to provide relief. Normally, the podiatric surgeon will decide on either a surgical procedure that involves removal of the affected nerve or will choose surgery to release the nerve. After examination, the surgeon will decide on the best approach to treat the problem.
Recovery varies according to the type of surgical procedure. The patient will also be instructed on the best shoe wear to prevent the return of this condition, along with changes to workout routines, if this was a cause. Preventative measures are important in ensuring the condition does not return.
Foot care is important regardless of your profession, but those who work on their feet must pay special attention. Bunions, calluses, blisters, and plantar warts are just a few of the many conditions that can arise after standing all day. While painful at their worst, these conditions can easily be avoided with the right foot care. This includes both appropriate footwear and proper posture—important elements that affect the health of your feet.
Choosing appropriate footwear means choosing a shoe that has a negative heel. This means that the heel is slightly lower than the ball of your foot, which places less of a strain. If you have a profession that requires you to be on your feet all day, investing in a pair of high-quality shoes is pertinent. High-quality shoes can be purchased from a respected manufacturer that emphasizes foot care and foot health.
Despite the regularity of wearing shoes, the feet are naturally not designed to be enclosed. Regular “barefoot” time for your feet can be beneficial for foot health. Among other methods, allowing your feet to breathe can help alleviate the pain and pressure your feet may be experiencing from being on your feet all day.
Simple foot exercises and yoga positions can help improve both the health and function of your feet. Active foot exercises that create movement will stimulate your foot’s blood flow and circulation, and yoga positions that place your feet flat onto the floor will stretch out their muscles. Yoga is particularly beneficial for your Achilles tendon and calf muscles, which are areas that can become especially problematic if not taken care of. Foot exercises and yoga positions can be easily performed every day at virtually any location and any time; whether it is at the office, at the gym, or at home right before you go to bed. Simple stretching can increase your foot health by miles.
The foot pain you experience after lengthy hours working on your feet may seem inevitable and unavoidable; in reality, however, that is not the case. Wearing proper footwear and performing simple foot exercises and stretches can help ease foot pain and allow you to truly avoid frustrating foot problems.
Your feet can easily be kept healthy with some education and a little effort. Pain that begins at the feet can eventually affect the whole body. Begin taking care of your feet now!