Feet: preventing and treating common foot conditions

Sprains, mycosis, gout, ingrown toenails, hallux valgus, sores on the feet can be as benign as they are very disabling and be the symptom of other conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated in time. Often hidden in shoes and socks, the feet with all their bones, joints, tendons, muscles and ligaments in each foot are sometimes neglected or even abused at the risk of damage. To better prevent the risk of diseases and complications, discover 10 common foot problems.

  • Drop

  • Gout is a rheumatological disease caused by an increase in the level of uric acid in the blood. This molecule crystallizes at the level of the joints and causes an extremely painful inflammation which generally affects the foot, and in particular the big toe. During a gout attack, often only one joint is affected, but the pain is excruciating to the point that even touching the bed sheet can become unbearable. Gout has been on the increase in recent years, especially in industrialized countries, in particular because of the increase in junk food.

  • Foot and nail fungus

  • Mycosis of the feet (“athlete’s foot”) is an infectious disease caused by the proliferation of fungi between the toes. It presents as redness and flaking. The appearance of itching and cracks also makes it possible to recognize it. Mycosis can develop under the nails, in this case it is onychomycosis. The nail detaches slightly from its bed, takes on other colors and turns yellow or green or varies in thickness or texture.

  • Foot pain (e.g. sprain or blisters)

  • The foot can be subject to different pains depending on the affected area: muscles, bones, joints, ligaments or tendons. A sprain can also cause severe pain. Uncomfortable shoes, excessive friction, sport (eg football) or fatigue are all causes of foot pain. In case of swelling of the foot, redness, appearance of blisters, ingrown toenail, corns and callus, persistent pain or if it becomes difficult to move the foot, it is best to consult a doctor or a podiatrist to avoid any risk of complications.

  • Ingrown toenail and paronychia

  • An ingrown toenail is characterized by the growth of a nail into the flesh, that is, inside the skin. It is usually found at the level of the big toe. The affected area turns red, with the appearance of painful inflammation. Nails that are too short, shoes that are too tight or certain nails that bend naturally are the cause of ingrown toenails. Be careful, without treatment, the wound may become infected. Sometimes, an injury located on the toenails can promote the development of paronychia, a bacterial infection which at stage 3 of its development can reach the bloodstream with a risk of sepsis.

  • plantar warts

  • Plantar warts are among the common problems encountered on the foot. This is a small growth that develops on the soles of the feet. Warts are usually painless, but as soon as they appear on the feet they become very painful and need to be treated quickly. The wart can also be present on the foot (and not on the sole).

  • Corns and calluses

  • Less painful than warts or blisters, the callus is characterized by the thickening of the epidermis. It appears at the level of the pressure zone of the sole of the foot or at the place where the skin undergoes too frequent friction. As for the corn, it is recognized by a small yellowish callus, slightly conical, which grows on the back of the joints, in particular of the toe and the extreme edge of the foot. It causes pain when walking and can become infected if left untreated. Diabetics must be attentive to these foot problems, the diagnosis of which may be delayed because of the absence of pain.

  • Hallux valgus (bunion)

  • Hallux valgus or bunion is a problem of misalignment of the big toe and the long bone connecting it to the ankle. Even if the causes are not yet very precise, it is advisable for women, who are more affected by this condition, to avoid wearing pointy-toed shoes that are too tight or with high heels in the long term. Another good tip is to avoid buying shoes that are too big or too small. Hallux valgus can cause persistent pain in the foot and lead to the appearance of a bump on the outer part of the big toe. It is estimated that 30% of women are affected by one or more bunions.

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  • Morton’s neuroma

  • Morton’s neuroma is manifested by severe pain felt between the toes. It could occur as a result of thickening or bulging of the tissue surrounding the plantar nerves. The appearance of the neuroma could be explained by the compression of the nerves following the use of shoes that are too narrow. It is estimated that this disease affects more women than men. Morton’s neuroma is not always visible on the outside, but any time burning pain or numbness occurs below or between the toes, it is best to consult a doctor.

  • Foot cramps

  • Foot cramps are painful, involuntary contractions that affect the muscles. They are generally short and may be due to too great an effort which has not been preceded by sufficient muscle warm-up. Excessive effort that strains the muscles or requires sustained muscle contraction can also be the cause of these cramps. Dehydration, pregnancy or poor blood circulation to the muscles are all possible factors that can cause this pain. In case of foot cramp, it is advisable to gently stretch the muscle by pulling the tip of the foot towards you, the leg extended. Massaging the tense area or standing up, straightening your legs, and walking around as soon as the pain subsides a little will also help prevent further spasms from occurring.

  • Foot odor

  • Bad foot odor is usually caused by excessive perspiration. Poor foot hygiene also promotes the proliferation of bacteria that feed on dead skin. Other causes such as stress, diabetes or the use of socks and shoes made of materials that prevent air circulation, such as nylon or polyester, increase the risk of having smelly feet. The treatment of the cause and a good hygiene of the feet make it possible to drive out this unpleasant odor of the feet. Leather shoes and cotton socks are preferred. Note that talc, cornstarch and baking soda absorb moisture while a regular bath with black tea helps reduce perspiration and therefore the bad smell.

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