Common Foot Issues
Corns, like calluses, develop from an accumulation of dead skin cells on the foot, forming thick, hardened areas. They can develop due to bone pressure against the skin, and are common on the tops and sides of the toes and on the balls of the feet. Corns can be hard and dry or soft and mushy. Common causes of corns are boney prominence, sometimes due to arthritis, or poorly-fitting shoes.They contain a cone-shaped core with a point that can press on a nerve below, causing pain. Corns can become inflamed due to constant friction and pressure from footwear. Corns that form between the toes are sometimes referred to as soft corns.
The formation of calluses is caused by an accumulation of dead skin cells that harden and thicken over an area of the foot. Calluses can develop anywhere on the body where there is repeated friction, such as a guitar player’s fingertips or a mechanic’s palms. They are common on the tops and sides of the toes and on the balls of the feet. This callus formation is the body’s defense mechanism to protect the foot against excessive pressure and friction. Calluses are normally found on the ball-of-the-foot, the heel, and/or the inside of the big toe.
Think of a balloon. If you push on it, it expands; your heel does the same. If it is encased in a callus, it can't expand, so it splits. Heel fissures can certainly be unsightly enough to make you want to enclose your feet in closed shoes instead of sandals, but the issue of cracked heels is more than a cosmetic consideration. Cracks in dry skin, such as heel fissures are also painful enough to interfere with exercise and even with the ordinary needs of life as they can make walking uncomfortable enough to be difficult. Moreover, over time heel fissures that remain untreated can worsen, splitting open more and more, getting both wider and deeper. In the worst case scenario, a heel fissure can begin to reveal underlying tissue, even exposing it to infectious agents if the fissure begins to bleed.
Bunions, referred to in the medical community as Hallux Valgus, are one of the most common forefoot problems. A bunion is a prominent bump on the inside of the foot around the big toe joint. This bump is actually a bone protruding towards the inside of the foot. With the continued movement of the big toe towards the smaller toes, it is common to find the big toe resting under or over the second toe. Some of the symptoms of bunions include inflammation, swelling, and soreness on the side surface of the big toe. The discomfort commonly causes a patient to walk improperly.
The little toe, not to be left out, can develop a bunion as well, also known as a Bunionette. This forms on the outside of the foot towards the joint at the little toe. It is a smaller bump that forms due to the little toe moving inwards, towards the big toe.
Foot problems are common in people with diabetes. You might be afraid you’ll lose a toe, foot, or leg to diabetes, or know someone who has, but you can lower your chances of having diabetes-related foot problems by taking care of your feet every day. Over time, diabetes may cause nerve damage, also called diabetic nearopathy that can cause tingling and pain, and can make you lose feeling in your feet. When you lose feeling in your feet, you may not feel a pebble inside your sock or a blister on your foot, which can lead to cuts and sores. Cuts and sores can become infected.
Although rare, nerve damage from diabetes can lead to changes in the shape of your feet, such as Charcot’s foot. Charcot’s foot may start with redness, warmth, and swelling. Later, bones in your feet and toes can shift or break, which can cause your feet to have an odd shape, such as a “rocker bottom.”
Hammer Toes, Mallet Toes, Claw Toe
Hammertoe, claw toe, and mallet toe are conditions that deform the shape of the four smaller toes, leaving them in a curved position. Hammertoe affects the toe’s middle joint; claw toe affects the toe’s middle and end joints; mallet toe affects the toe’s end joint.
In addition to the odd shape of the toes, symptoms include pain, sores, and calluses or corns.
Toes may have a flexible deformity (some normal movement is possible) or a fixed deformity (the joint can no longer move normally). Without treatment, a flexible deformity may become a fixed deformity.
Toenail fungus, known by healthcare professionals as Onychomycosis, is relatively rare in children, but the incidence increases with age. Factors enhancing the risk for onychomycosis are smoking; avid sports participation; the use of commercial swimming pools; wearing occlusive, tight footwear; use of common, hot, humid climates; and frequent travel to endemic areas.
Symptoms include swelling, yellowing, thickening or crumbling of the nail, streaks or spots down the side of the nail, and even complete loss of the nail. Toenail color can vary from brown or yellow to white with this condition. It occurs most often on the big or small toe, but might occur on any toe.
Myth: Toe nail fungus isn't contagious.
Fact: Approximately 1 in 5 Canadians experience toe fungus
Myth: Only those with poor hygiene get toe fungus.
Fact: Foot fungus prefer warm, moist environments, such as shoes. Public areas like gym locker rooms, shower rooms and swimming pools are common areas.
Fact: 50% of nail problems are due to a fungal nail infection
Ingrown toenails occur when the edges or corners of your nails grow into the skin next to the nail. Your big toe is most likely to get an ingrown toenail.
You can treat ingrown toenails at home. However, they can cause complications that might require medical treatment. Your risk of complications is higher if you have diabetes or other conditions that cause poor circulation.