Your feet are arguably your most used body part throughout the day besides your hands, which means a lot of things can happen to them. Whether you’re wearing shoes, going barefoot, or wearing socks 24/7, there is a multitude of things out there that can affect your feet. Today, we’re going to look at five common foot problems--what causes them, how to recognize the symptoms, treatments, and most importantly: how to prevent them from happening.
  1. Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is caused by different kinds of fungi, typically found in damp areas such as a public swimming pool, locker room, shower, or other areas where there is a high volume of bare feet. The disease is highly contagious, and while it is typically found between the toes, it can spread to the nails, bottom of the foot, and even your hands. Symptoms include itching, skin cracking, redness, and in some rare cases, blistering. A fungal culture done by your doctor can confirm if it is indeed Athlete’s Foot, but most often the diagnoses is clear without a test. Once you have it, keeping your feet dry and clean is the most important thing, and applying a fungal cream for up to 4 weeks may be prescribed. In order to prevent yourself from getting this contagious disease, it is recommended to change your socks daily, keep your toenails neat and trimmed, wear sandals or another kind of protection in public showers, and make sure to wear proper fitting shoes.
  1. Plantar Warts
         Like Athlete’s Foot, plantar warts are most commonly caused by walking barefoot in publically shared spaces like a community center gym shower where another infected person has been. Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is the culprit responsible for producing these small, benign tumours, but unlike other warts or conditions, plantar warts have the ability to go away without any intervention, but it may take months or even a couple years for the wart to fully disappear. Plantar warts are often skin coloured and have a rough texture to them, and some may even have tiny black dots in the center. Some may find them painful and seek treatment at a foot clinic by a specialist. To avoid getting the disease or spreading it, wear sandals in community showers, cover them with band-aids, and avoid sharing socks and towels.
  1. Bunions
A bunion is a deformation of the joint that connects the big toe to the rest of the foot. While toes are meant to stick straight up, a bunion causes the big toe to turn inwards into the adjacent toes, resulting in a prominent and painful inflammation of the joint. The onset happens over time, usually between the ages of 20 and 50. While the actual cause is unknown, most specialists can agree that bunions there are multiple factors at play, including genetics and anomalies of the first metatarsal-phalangeal joint. Abnormal foot function can lead to muscle imbalance and cause problems for the MTP joint, resulting in a bunion. Abnormal anatomy at the first MTP joint can predispose an individual to develop a bunion deformity. Although improperly fitted shoes don't necessarily cause a bunion, it can cause the foot to swell which is very painful for the individual. For treatment, orthotics placed into a properly fitted and laced shoe will help decrease the pain and improve overall foot function. Applying ice to the area and taking over-the-counter pain medication will aid the individual during the healing process. In severe cases, foot surgery may be required to remove the bunion, but it is not recommended unless the individual is in constant pain and the bunion interferes with their daily routine.
  1. Heel Spur
A heel spur is a pointed bony outgrowth of the heel bone which is caused by the build-up of calcium deposits. Heel spurs under the sole of the foot (plantar area) are associated with inflammation of the plantar fascia (plantar fasciitis), the "bowstring-like" ligament stretching underneath the sole that attaches at the heel. Plantar heel spurs cause localized tenderness and heel pain made worse when stepping down on the heel. It is important to note that heel spurs may cause no symptoms at all and may be incidentally discovered during X-ray exams taken for other purposes. Treatment is very simple. Cold compresses, orthotics, exercises, all help the patient to make a full recovery.
  1. Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails are extremely painful and occur when the nail grows into the nail groove, resulting in redness, swelling, and even infections if not treated correctly. As with many other foot problems, wearing shoes that are not fitted properly can cause the nails to become ingrown, particularly when the top of the shoe is too fight and pushes back on the nail, forcing it back into the nail bed. Another cause comes from cutting the nail too short which does not allow it to grow back properly. To prevent ingrown toenails, keep the feet clean and dry, cut the nail straight across, rather than in a rounded pattern to avoid outward growth. Chiropodists are able to treat ingrown toenails by removing a section of the toenail or permanent nail surgery depending on the severity of the problem. Should you face any of these issues, and also ones that are not mentioned in this list, book an appointment with Minoo Shakibai, Chiropodist, and get back to living a pain-free life. They are located in Toronto at the Dufferin Foot Clinic.