Foot Disorders

Learn about the common foot disorders

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis, in general terms, is inflammation and swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints, generally accompanied by an increase in the fluid in the joints. Arthritis has multiple causes; just as a sore throat may have its origin in a variety of diseases, so joint inflammation and arthritis are associated with many different illnesses.

Arthritis and the Feet

Arthritis is a frequent component of complex diseases that may involve more than 100 identifiable disorders. If the feet seem more susceptible to arthritis than other parts of the body, it is because each foot has 33 joints that can be afflicted, and there is no way to avoid the pain of the tremendous weight-bearing load on the feet.

Arthritis is a disabling and occasionally crippling disease; it afflicts almost 40 million Americans. In some forms, it appears to have hereditary tendencies. While the prevalence of arthritis increases with age, all people from infancy to middle age are potential victims. People over 50 are the primary targets.

Arthritic feet can result in loss of mobility and independence, but that may be avoided with early diagnosis and proper medical care.

Some Causes

Besides heredity, arthritic symptoms may arise in a number of ways:

  • Through injuries, notably in athletes and industrial workers, especially if the injuries have been ignored (which injuries of the feet tend to be).
  • Through bacterial and viral infections that strike the joints. The same organisms that are present in pneumonia, gonorrhea, staph infections, and Lyme disease cause the inflammations.
  • In conjunction with bowel disorders such as colitis and ileitis, frequently resulting in arthritic conditions in the joints of the ankles and toes. Such inflammatory bowel diseases seem distant from arthritis, but treating them can relieve arthritic pain.
  • Using drugs, both prescription drugs and illegal street drugs, can induce arthritis.
  • As part of a congenital autoimmune disease syndrome of undetermined origin. Recent research has suggested, for instance, that a defective gene may play a role in osteoarthritis.

    Symptoms

    Because arthritis can affect the structure and function of the feet it is important to see a doctor of podiatric medicine if any of the following symptoms occur in the feet:

  • Swelling in one or more joints
  • Recurring pain or tenderness in any joint
  • Redness or heat in a joint
  • Limitation in motion of joint
  • Early morning stiffness
  • Skin changes, including rashes and growths

    Some Forms of Arthritis

    Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It is frequently called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. Although it can be brought on suddenly by an injury, its onset is generally gradual; aging brings on a breakdown in cartilage, and pain gets progressively more severe, although it can be relieved with rest. Dull, throbbing nighttime pain is characteristic, and it may be accompanied by muscle weakness or deterioration. Walking may become erratic.

    It is a particular problem for the feet when people are overweight, simply because there are so many joints in each foot. The additional weight contributes to the deterioration of cartilage and the development of bone spurs.

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a major crippling disorder and perhaps the most serious form of arthritis. It is a complex, chronic inflammatory system of diseases, often affecting more than a dozen smaller joints during the course of the disease, frequently in a symmetrical pattern—both ankles, or the index fingers of both hands, for example. It is often accompanied by signs and symptoms—lengthy morning stiffness, fatigue, and weight loss—and it may affect various systems of the body, such as the eyes, lungs, heart, and nervous system. Women are three or four times more likely than men to suffer RA.

    RA has a much more acute onset than osteoarthritis. It is characterized by alternating periods of remission, during which symptoms disappear, and exacerbation, marked by the return of inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Serious joint deformity and loss of motion frequently result from acute rheumatoid arthritis. However, the disease system has been known to be active for months, or years, then abate, sometimes permanently.

    Gout (gouty arthritis) is a condition caused by a buildup of the salts of uric acid—a normal byproduct of the diet—in the joints. A single big toe joint is commonly the affected area, possibly because it is subject to so much pressure in walking; attacks of gouty arthritis are extremely painful, perhaps more so than any other form of arthritis. Men are much more likely to be afflicted than women, an indication that heredity may play a role in the disease. While a rich diet that contains lots of red meat, rich sauces, shellfish, and brandy is popularly associated with gout, there are other protein compounds in foods such as lentils and beans that may play a role.


    Diagnosis

    Different forms of arthritis affect the body in different ways; many have distinct systemic affects that are not common to other forms. Early diagnosis is important to effective treatment of any form. Destruction of cartilage is not reversible, and if the inflammation of arthritic disease isn’t treated, both cartilage and bone can be damaged, which makes the joints increasingly difficult to move. Most forms of arthritis cannot be cured but can be controlled or brought into remission; perhaps only five percent of the most serious cases, usually of rheumatoid arthritis, result in such severe crippling that walking aids or wheelchairs are required.

    Treatment

    The objectives in the treatment of arthritis are controlling inflammation, preserving joint function (or restoring it if it has been lost), and curing the disease if that is possible.

    Because the foot is such a frequent target, the doctor of podiatric medicine is often the first physician to encounter some of the complaints—inflammation, pain, stiffness, excessive warmth, injuries. Even bunions can be manifestations of arthritis.

    Arthritis may be treated in many ways. Patient education is important. Physical therapy and exercise may be indicated, accompanied by medication. In such a complex disease system, it is no wonder that a wide variety of drugs have been used effectively to treat it; likewise, a given treatment may be very effective in one patient and almost no help at all to another. Aspirin is still the first-line drug of choice for most forms of arthritis and the benchmark against which other therapies are measured.

    The control of foot functions with shoe inserts called orthoses, or with braces or specially prescribed shoes, may be recommended. Surgical intervention is a last resort in arthritis, as it is with most disease conditions; the replacement of damaged joints with artificial joints is a possible surgical procedure.

What is Athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is a skin disease caused by a fungus, usually occurring between the toes.

The fungus most commonly attacks the feet because shoes create a warm, dark, and humid environment which encourages fungus growth.

The warmth and dampness of areas around swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms are also breeding grounds for fungi. Because the infection was common among athletes who used these facilities frequently, the term “athlete’s foot” became popular.

Not all fungus conditions are athlete’s foot. Other conditions, such as disturbances of the sweat mechanism, reaction to dyes or adhesives in shoes, eczema, and psoriasis, may mimic athlete’s foot.

Symptoms

The signs of athlete’s foot, singly or combined, are dry skin, itching, scaling, inflammation, and blisters. Blisters often lead to cracking of the skin. When blisters break, small raw areas of tissue are exposed, causing pain and swelling. Itching and burning may increase as the infection spreads.

Athlete’s foot may spread to the soles of the feet and to the toenails. It can be spread to other parts of the body, notably the groin and underarms, by those who scratch the infection and then touch themselves elsewhere. The organisms causing athlete’s foot may persist for long periods. Consequently, the infection may be spread by contaminated bed sheets or clothing to other parts of the body.

Prevention

It is not easy to prevent athlete’s foot because it is usually contracted in dressing rooms, showers, and swimming pool locker rooms where bare feet come in contact with the fungus. However, you can do much to prevent infection by practicing good foot hygiene. Daily washing of the feet with soap and water; drying carefully, especially between the toes; and changing shoes and hose regularly to decrease moisture, help prevent the fungus from infecting the feet. Also helpful is daily use of a quality foot powder.

Tips

  • Avoid walking barefoot; use shower shoes.
  • Reduce perspiration by using talcum powder.
  • Wear light and airy shoes.
  • Wear socks that keep your feet dry, and change them frequently if you perspire heavily.

Treatment

Fungicidal and fungistatic chemicals, used for athlete’s foot treatment, frequently fail to contact the fungi in the horny layers of the skin. Topical or oral antifungal drugs are prescribed with growing frequency.

In mild cases of the infection, it is important to keep the feet dry by dusting foot powder in shoes and hose. The feet should be bathed frequently and all areas around the toes dried thoroughly.

Consult Your Podiatrist

If an apparent fungus condition does not respond to proper foot hygiene and self-care, and there is no improvement within two weeks, consult your podiatrist. The podiatrist will determine if a fungus is the cause of the problem. If it is, a specific treatment plan, including the prescription of antifungal medication, applied topically or taken by mouth, will usually be suggested. Such a treatment appears to provide better resolution of the problem when the patient observes the course of treatment prescribed by the podiatrist; if it’s shortened, failure of the treatment is common.

If the infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics, such as penicillin, that is effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria may be prescribed.

What is a Bunion?

A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe—the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint—that forms when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of place. This forces the toe to bend toward the others, causing an often painful lump of bone on the foot. Since this joint carries a lot of the body’s weight while walking, bunions can cause extreme pain if left untreated. The MTP joint itself may become stiff and sore, making even the wearing of shoes difficult or impossible. A bunion–from the Latin “bunio,” meaning enlargement–can also occur on the outside of the foot along the little toe, where it is called a “bunionette” or “tailor’s bunion.”


Symptoms of  Bunion

    • Development of a firm bump on the outside edge of the foot, at the base of the big toe.
    • Redness, swelling, or pain at or near the MTP joint.
    • Corns or other irritations caused by the overlap of the first and second toes.
    • Restricted or painful motion of the big toe.


How do you get a Bunion?

Bunions form when the normal balance of forces that is exerted on the joints and tendons of the foot becomes disrupted. This can lead to instability in the joint and cause the deformity. They are brought about by years of abnormal motion and pressure over the MTP joint. They are, therefore, a symptom of faulty foot development and are usually caused by the way we walk, and our inherited foot type, our shoes, or other sources.

Although bunions tend to run in families, it is the foot type that is passed down—not the bunion. Parents who suffer from poor foot mechanics can pass their problematic foot type on to their children, who in turn are prone to developing bunions. The abnormal functioning caused by this faulty foot development can lead to pressure being exerted on and within the foot, often resulting in bone and joint deformities such as bunions and hammertoes.

Other causes of bunions are foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders, or congenital deformities. People who suffer from flat feet or low arches are also prone to developing these problems, as are arthritic patients and those with inflammatory joint disease. Occupations that place undue stress on the feet are also a factor; ballet dancers, for instance, often develop the condition.

Wearing shoes that are too tight or cause the toes to be squeezed together is also a common factor, one that explains the high prevalence of the disorder among women.


What should you do for relief?

    • Wear shoes with a wide and deep toe box.
    • Avoid high-heeled shoes over two inches tall.
    • See your podiatric physician if pain persists.

The Role of Your Podiatric Physician

Because diabetes is a systemic disease affecting many different parts of the body, ideal case management requires a team approach. The podiatric physician, as an integral part of the treatment team, has documented success in the prevention of amputations. The key to amputation prevention in diabetic patients is early recognition and regular foot screenings, at least annually, from a podiatric physician.

In addition to these check-ups, there are warning signs that you should be aware of so that they may be identified and called to the attention of the family physician or podiatrist.  They include:

  • Skin color changes
  • Elevation in skin temperature
  • Swelling of the foot or ankle
  • Pain in the legs
  • Open sores on the feet that are slow to heal
  • Ingrown and fungal toenails
  • Bleeding corns and calluses
  • Dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heel

Wound Healing

Ulceration is a common occurrence with the diabetic foot and should be carefully treated and monitored by a podiatrist to avoid amputations. Poorly fitted shoes, or something as trivial as a stocking seam, can create a wound that may not be felt by someone whose skin sensation is diminished. Left unattended, such ulcers can quickly become infected and lead to more serious consequences. Your podiatric physician knows how to treat and prevent these wounds and can be an important factor in keeping your feet healthy and strong. New to the science of wound healing are remarkable products that have the appearance and handling characteristics of human skin. These living, skin-like products are applied to wounds that are properly prepared by the podiatric physician. Clinical trials have shown impressive success rates.

If You Have Diabetes Already . . . Do:

Wash feet daily.
Using mild soap and lukewarm water, wash your feet in the mornings or before bed each evening.  Dry carefully with a soft towel, especially between the toes, and dust your feet with talcum powder to wick away moisture.  If the skin is dry, use a good moisturizing cream daily but avoid getting it between the toes.

Inspect feet and toes daily.
Check your feet every day for cuts, bruises, sores or changes to the toenails, such as thickening or discoloration. If age or other factors hamper self-inspection, ask someone to help you, or use a mirror.

Lose weight.
People with diabetes are commonly overweight, which nearly doubles the risk of complications.

Wear thick, soft socks.
Socks made of an acrylic blend are well suited but avoid mended socks or those with seams, which could rub to cause blisters or other skin injuries.

Stop smoking.
Tobacco can contribute to circulatory problems, which can be especially troublesome in patients with diabetes.

Cut toenails straight across.
Never cut into the corners, or taper, which could trigger an ingrown toenail. Use an emery board to gently file away sharp corners or snags. If your nails are hard to trim, ask your podiatric physician for assistance.

Exercise.
As a means to keep weight down and improve circulation, walking is one of the best all-around exercises for the diabetic patient. Walking is also an excellent conditioner for your feet. Be sure to wear appropriate athletic shoes when exercising. Ask your podiatric physician what’s best for you.

See your podiatric physician.
Regular checkups by your podiatric physician—at least annually—are the best way to ensure that your feet remain healthy.

Be properly measured and fitted every time you buy new shoes.
Shoes are of supreme importance to diabetes sufferers because poorly fitted shoes are involved in as many as half of the problems that lead to amputations.  Because foot size and shape may change over time, everyone should have their feet measured by an experienced shoe fitter whenever they buy a new pair of shoes.

New shoes should be comfortable at the time they’re purchased and should not require a “break-in” period, though it’s a good idea to wear them for short periods of time at first. Shoes should have leather or canvas uppers, fit both the length and width of the foot, leave room for toes to wiggle freely, and be cushioned and sturdy.

Don’t go barefoot.
Not even in your own home. Barefoot walking outside is particularly dangerous because of the possibility of cuts, falls, and infection.  When at home, wear slippers.  Never go barefoot.

Don’t wear high heels, sandals, and shoes with pointed toes.
These types of footwear can put undue pressure on parts of the foot and contribute to bone and joint disorders, as well as diabetic ulcers. In addition, open-toed shoes and sandals with straps between the first two toes should also be avoided.

Don’t drink in excess.
Alcohol can contribute to neuropathy (nerve damage) which is one of the consequences of diabetes. Drinking can speed up the damage associated with the disease, deaden more nerves, and increase the possibility of overlooking a seemingly minor cut or injury.

Don’t wear anything that is too tight around the legs.
Pantyhose, panty girdles, thigh-highs or knee-highs can constrict circulation to your legs and feet, as can men’s dress socks if the elastic is too tight.

Never try to remove calluses, corns, or warts by yourself.
Commercial, over-the-counter preparations that remove warts or corns should be avoided because they can burn the skin and cause irreplaceable damage to the foot of a diabetic sufferer. Never try to cut calluses with a razor blade or any other instrument because the risk of cutting yourself is too high, and such wounds can often lead to more serious ulcers and lacerations. See your podiatric physician for assistance in these cases.

What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that occurs in approximately 15 percent of patients with diabetes, and is commonly located on the bottom of the foot. Of those who develop a foot ulcer, six percent will be hospitalized due to infection or other ulcer-related complication.

Diabetes is the leading cause of nontraumatic lower extremity amputations in the United States, and approximately 14 to 24 percent of patients with diabetes who develop a foot ulcer have an amputation. Research, however, has shown that the development of a foot ulcer is preventable.

Who Can Get a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

Anyone who has diabetes can develop a foot ulcer.  Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics and older men are more likely to develop ulcers.  People who use insulin are at a higher risk of developing a foot ulcer, as are patients with diabetes-related kidney, eye, and heart disease.  Being overweight and using alcohol and tobacco also play a role in the development of foot ulcers.

How do Diabetic Foot Ulcers Form?

Ulcers form due to a combination of factors, such as lack of feeling in the foot, poor circulation, foot deformities, irritation (such as friction or pressure), and trauma, as well as duration of diabetes.  Patients who have diabetes for many years can develop neuropathy, a reduced or complete lack of ability to feel pain in the feet due to nerve damage caused by elevated blood glucose levels over time.  The nerve damage often can occur without pain and one may not even be aware of the problem.  Your podiatric physician can test feet for neuropathy with a simple and painless tool called a monofilament.

Vascular disease can complicate a foot ulcer, reducing the body’s ability to heal and increasing the risk for an infection.  Elevations in blood glucose can reduce the body’s ability to fight off a potential infection and also retard healing.

What is the Value of Treating a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

Once an ulcer is noticed, seek podiatric medical care immediately. Foot ulcers in patients with diabetes should be treated for several reasons such as, reducing the risk of infection and amputation, improving function and quality of life, and reducing health care costs.

How Should a Diabetic Foot Ulcer be Treated?

The primary goal in the treatment of foot ulcers is to obtain healing as soon as possible.  The faster the healing, the less chance for an infection.

There are several key factors in the appropriate treatment of a diabetic foot ulcer:

  • Prevention of infection.
  • Taking the pressure off the area, called “off-loading.”
  • Removing dead skin and tissue, called “debridement.”
  • Applying medication or dressings to the ulcer.
  • Managing blood glucose and other health problems.

Not all ulcers are infected; however if your podiatric physician diagnoses an infection, a treatment program of antibiotics, wound care, and possibly hospitalization will be necessary.

There are several important factors to keep an ulcer from becoming infected:

  • Keep blood glucose levels under tight control.
  • Keep the ulcer clean and bandaged.
  • Cleanse the wound daily, using a wound dressing or bandage.
  • Do not walk barefoot.

For optimum healing, ulcers, especially those on the bottom of the foot, must be “off-loaded.”  Patients may be asked to wear special footgear, or a brace, specialized castings, or use a wheelchair or crutches.  These devices will reduce the pressure and irritation to the ulcer area and help to speed the healing process.

The science of wound care has advanced significantly over the past ten years.  The old thought of “let the air get at it” is now known to be harmful to healing.  We know that wounds and ulcers heal faster, with a lower risk of infection, if they are kept covered and moist.   The use of full strength betadine, peroxide, whirlpools and soaking are not recommended, as this could lead to further complications.

Appropriate wound management includes the use of dressings and topically-applied medications. These range from normal saline to advanced products, such as growth factors, ulcer dressings, and skin substitutes that have been shown to be highly effective in healing foot ulcers.

For a wound to heal there must be adequate circulation to the ulcerated area. Your podiatrist can determine circulation levels with noninvasive tests.

Controlling Blood Glucose

Tightly controlling blood glucose is of the utmost importance during the treatment of a diabetic foot ulcer. Working closely with a medical doctor or endocrinologist to accomplish this will enhance healing and reduce the risk of complications.

Surgical Options

A majority of noninfected foot ulcers are treated without surgery; however, when this fails, surgical management may be appropriate.  Examples of surgical care to remove pressure on the affected area include shaving or excision of bone(s) and the correction of various deformities, such as hammertoes, bunions, or bony “bumps.”

Healing Factors

Healing time depends on a variety of factors, such as wound size and location, pressure on the wound from walking or standing, swelling, circulation, blood glucose levels, wound care, and what is being applied to the wound. Healing may occur within weeks or require several months.

How Can a Foot Ulcer be Prevented?

The best way to treat a diabetic foot ulcer is to prevent its development in the first place. Recommended guidelines include seeing a podiatrist on a regular basis.  He or she can determine if you are at high risk for developing a foot ulcer and implement strategies for prevention.

You are at high risk if you:

  • have neuropathy,
  • have poor circulation,
  • have a foot deformity (i.e. bunion, hammer toe),
  • wear inappropriate shoes,
  • have uncontrolled blood sugar.

Reducing additional risk factors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol,  high cholesterol, and elevated blood glucose are important in the prevention and treatment of a diabetic foot ulcer. Wearing the appropriate shoes and socks will go a long way in reducing risks.  Your podiatric physician can  provide guidance in selecting the proper shoes.

Learning how to check your feet is crucial in noticing a potential problem as early as possible. Inspect your feet every day—especially between the toes and the sole—for cuts, bruises, cracks, blisters, redness, ulcers, and any sign of abnormality.  Each time you visit a health care provider, remove your shoes and socks so your feet can be examined.  Any problems that are discovered should be reported to your podiatrist as soon as possible, no matter how “simple” it may seem to you.

The key to successful wound healing is regular podiatric medical care to ensure the following “gold standard” of care:

  • lowering blood sugar
  • appropriate debridement of wounds
  • treating any infection
  • reducing friction and pressure
  • restoring adequate blood flow

The old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was never as true as it is when preventing a diabetic foot ulcer.

Importance of Immediate Treatment

Foot and ankle emergencies happen every day. Broken bones, dislocations, sprains, contusions, infections, and other serious injuries can occur at any time. Early attention is vitally important. Whenever you sustain a foot or ankle injury, you should seek immediate treatment from a podiatric physician.

This advice is universal, even though there are lots of myths about foot and ankle injuries. Some of them follow:


Myths

  • “It can’t be broken, because I can move it.” False; this widespread idea has kept many fractures from receiving proper treatment. The truth is that often you can walk with certain kinds of fractures. Some common examples: Breaks in the smaller, outer bone of the lower leg, small chip fractures of either the foot or ankle bones, and the often neglected fracture of the toe.
  • “If you break a toe, immediate care isn’t necessary.” False; a toe fracture needs prompt attention. If X-rays reveal it to be a simple, displaced fracture, care by your podiatric physician usually can produce rapid relief. However, X-rays might identify a displaced or angulated break. In such cases, prompt realignment of the fracture by your podiatric physician will help prevent improper or incomplete healing. Often, fractures do not show up in the initial X-ray. It may be necessary to X-ray the foot a second time, seven to ten days later. Many patients develop post-fracture deformity of a toe, which in turn results in a deformed toe with a painful corn. A good general rule is: Seek prompt treatment for injury to foot bones.
  • “If you have a foot or ankle injury, soak it in hot water immediately.” False; don’t use heat or hot water on an area suspect for fracture, sprain, or dislocation. Heat promotes blood flow, causing greater swelling. More swelling means greater pressure on the nerves, which causes more pain. An ice bag wrapped in a towel has a contracting effect on blood vessels, produces a numbing sensation, and prevents swelling and pain. Your podiatric physician may make additional recommendations upon examination.
  • “Applying an elastic bandage to a severely sprained ankle is adequate treatment.” False; ankle sprains often mean torn or severely overstretched ligaments, and they should receive immediate care. X-ray examination, immobilization by casting or splinting, and physiotherapy to ensure a normal recovery all may be indicated. Surgery may even be necessary.
  • “The terms ‘fracture,’ ‘break,’ and ‘crack’ are all different.” False; all of those words are proper in describing a broken bone.

Prevention

  • Wear the correct shoes for your particular activity.
  • Wear hiking shoes or boots in rough terrain.
  • Don’t continue to wear any sports shoe if it is worn unevenly.
  • The toe box in “steel-toe” shoes should be deep enough to accommodate your toes comfortably.
  • Always wear hard-top shoes when operating a lawn mower or other grass-cutting equipment.
  • Don’t walk barefoot on paved streets or sidewalks.
  • Watch out for slippery floors at home and at work. Clean up obviously dangerous spills immediately.
  • If you get up during the night, turn on a light. Many fractured toes and other foot injuries occur while attempting to find one’s way in the dark.

When is Foot Surgery Necessary?

Many foot problems do not respond to “conservative” management. Your podiatric physician can determine when surgical intervention may be helpful. Often when pain or deformity persists, surgery may be appropriate to alleviate discomfort or to restore the function of your foot.

Bunionette (Tailor’s Bunion)
A protuberance of bone at the outside of the foot behind the fifth (small) toe, the bunionette or “small bunion” is caused by a variety of conditions including heredity, faulty biomechanics (the way one walks) or trauma, to name a few. Pain is often associated with this deformity, making shoes very uncomfortable and at times even walking becomes difficult. If severe and conservative treatments fail to improve the symptoms of this condition, surgical repair may be suggested. Your podiatric physician will develop a surgical plan specific to the condition present.

Bone spurs
A bone spur is an overgrowth of bone as a result of pressure, trauma, or reactive stress of a ligament or tendon. This growth can cause pain and even restrict motion of a joint, depending on its location and size. Spurs may also be located under the toenail plate, causing nail deformity and pain. Surgical treatment and procedure is based on the size, location, and symptoms of the bone spur. Your podiatric physician will determine the surgical method best suited for your condition.

Preoperative Testing and Care

As with anyone facing any surgical procedure, those undergoing foot and ankle surgery require specific tests or examinations before surgery to improve a successful surgical outcome. Prior to surgery, the podiatric physician will review your medical history and medical conditions. Specific diseases, illnesses, allergies, and current medications need to be evaluated. Other tests that help evaluate your health status may be ordered by the podiatric physician, such as blood studies, urinalysis, EKG, X-rays, a blood flow study (to better evaluate the circulatory status of the foot/legs), and a biomechanical examination. A consultation with another medical specialist may be advised by a podiatric physician, depending on your test results or a specific medical condition.

Postoperative Care

The type of foot surgery performed determines the length and kind of aftercare required to assure that your recovery from surgery is rapid and uneventful. The basics of all postoperative care involve to some degree each of the following: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Bandages, splints, surgical shoes, casts, crutches, or canes may be necessary to improve and ensure a safe recovery after foot surgery. A satisfactory recovery can be hastened by carefully following instructions from your podiatric physician.

Your Feet Aren’t Supposed to Hurt

Remember that foot pain is not normal. Healthy, pain-free feet are a key to your independence. At the first sign of pain, or any noticeable changes in your feet, seek professional podiatric medical care. Your feet must last a lifetime, and most Americans log an amazing 75,000 miles on their feet by the time they reach age 50. Regular foot care can make sure your feet are up to the task. With proper detection, intervention, and care, most foot and ankle problems can be lessened or prevented. Remember that the advice provided in this pamphlet should not be used as a substitute for a consultation or evaluation by a podiatric physician.

What is a Hammertoe?

A hammertoe is a contracture—or bending—of the toe at the first joint of the digit, called the proximal interphalangeal joint. This bending causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when looked at from the side. Any toe can be involved, but the condition usually affects the second through fifth toes, known as the lesser digits. Hammertoes are more common to females than males.

Symptoms of  a Hammertoe?

  • Pain upon pressure at the top of the bent toe from footwear.
  • The formation of corns on the top of the joint.
  • Redness and swelling at the joint contracture.
  • Restricted or painful motion of the toe joint.
  • Pain in the ball of the foot at the base of the affected toe.

How Do You Get a Hammertoe?

A hammertoe is formed due an abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes. This abnormal balance causes increased pressures on the tendons and joints of the toe, leading to its contracture. Heredity and trauma can also lead to the formation of a hammertoe. Arthritis is another factor, because the balance around the toe in people with arthritis is so disrupted that a hammertoe may develop. Wearing shoes that are too tight and cause the toes to squeeze can also be a cause for a hammertoe to form.

What Can You Do for Relief?

  • Wear a shoe with a deep toe box.
  • Avoid heels more than two inches tall.
  • A loose-fitting pair of shoes can also help protect the foot while reducing pressure on the affected toe, making walking a little easier until a visit to your podiatrist can be arranged. It is important to remember that, while this treatment will make the hammertoe feel better, it does not cure the condition. A trip to the podiatric physician’s office will be necessary to repair the toe to allow for normal foot function.
  • Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or narrow. Children should have their shoes properly fitted on a regular basis, as their feet can often outgrow their shoes rapidly.
  • See your podiatric physician if pain persists.


What Will Your Podiatrist Do to Treat a Hammertoe?

The treatment options vary with the type and severity of each hammertoe, although identifying the deformity early in its development is important to avoid surgery. Podiatric medical attention should be sought at the first indication of pain and discomfort because, if left untreated, hammertoes tend to become rigid, making a nonsurgical treatment less of an option.

Your podiatric physician will examine and X-ray the affected area and recommend a treatment plan specific to your condition.

Padding and Taping:
Often this is the first step in a treatment plan. Padding the hammertoe prominence minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping may change the imbalance around the toes and thus relieve the stress and pain.

Medication:
Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections can be prescribed to ease acute pain and inflammation caused by the joint deformity.

Orthotic Devices:
Custom shoe inserts made by your podiatrist may be useful in controlling foot function. An orthotic device may reduce symptoms and prevent the worsening of the hammertoe deformity.

Surgical Options:
Several surgical procedures are available to the podiatric physician. For less severe deformities, the surgery will remove the bony prominence and restore normal alignment of the toe joint, thus relieving pain.

Severe hammertoes, which are not fully reducible, may require more complex surgical procedures.

Recuperation takes time, and some swelling and discomfort are common for several weeks following surgery. Any pain, however, is easily managed with medications prescribed by your podiatric physician.


Your Feet Aren’t Supposed to Hurt

Remember that foot pain is not normal. Healthy, pain-free feet are a key to your independence. At the first sign of pain, or any noticeable changes in your feet, seek professional podiatric medical care. Your feet must last a lifetime, and most Americans log an amazing 75,000 miles on their feet by the time they reach age 50. Regular foot care can make sure your feet are up to the task. With proper detection, intervention, and care, most foot and ankle problems can be lessened or prevented. Remember that the advice provided in this pamphlet should not be used as a substitute for a consultation or evaluation by a podiatric physician.

Heel pain is generally the result of faulty biomechanics (walking gait abnormalities) that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it. The stress may also result from injury, or a bruise incurred while walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces; wearing poorly constructed footwear; or being overweight.


Common Causes of Heel Pain:

Plantar Fasciitis

Both heel pain and heel spurs are frequently associated with an inflammation of the band of fibrous connective tissue (fascia) running along the bottom (plantar surface) of the foot, from the heel to the ball of the foot. The inflammation is called plantar fasciitis. It is common among athletes who run and jump a lot, and it can be quite painful.

The condition occurs when the plantar fascia is strained over time beyond its normal extension, causing the soft tissue fibers of the fascia to tear or stretch at points along its length; this leads to inflammation, pain, and possibly the growth of a bone spur where it attaches to the heel bone.The inflammation may be aggravated by shoes that lack appropriate support, especially in the arch area, and by the chronic irritation that sometimes accompanies an athletic lifestyle.Resting provides only temporary relief.

When you resume walking, particularly after a night’s sleep, you may experience a sudden elongation of the fascia band, which stretches and pulls on the heel. As you walk, the heel pain may lessen or even disappear, but that may be just a false sense of relief. The pain often returns after prolonged rest or extensive walking.

Excessive Pronation

Heel pain sometimes results from excessive pronation. Pronation is the normal flexible motion and flattening of the arch of the foot that allows it to adapt to ground surfaces and absorb shock in the normal walking pattern.As you walk, the heel contacts the ground first; the weight shifts first to the outside of the foot, then moves toward the big toe.

The arch rises, the foot generally rolls upward and outward, becoming rigid and stable in order to lift the body and move it forward. Excessive pronation—excessive inward motion—can create an abnormal amount of stretching and pulling on the ligaments and tendons attaching to the bottom back of the heel bone. Excessive pronation may also contribute to injury to the hip, knee, and lower back.

Some general health conditions can also bring about heel pain

  • Rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis, including gout, which usually manifests itself in the big toe joint, can cause heel discomfort in some cases.
  • Heel pain may also be the result of an inflamed bursa (bursitis), a small, irritated sack of fluid; a neuroma (a nerve growth); or other soft-tissue growth. Such heel pain may be associated with a heel spur or may mimic the pain of a heel spur.
  • Haglund’s deformity (“pump bump”) is a bone enlargement at the back of the heel bone, in the area where the achilles tendon attaches to the bone. This sometimes painful deformity generally is the result of bursitis caused by pressure against the shoe and can be aggravated by the height or stitching of a heel counter of a particular shoe.
  • Pain at the back of the heel is associated with inflammation of the achilles tendon as it runs behind the ankle and inserts on the back surface of the heel bone. The inflammation is called achilles tendinitis. It is common among people who run and walk a lot and have tight tendons. The condition occurs when the tendon is strained over time, causing the fibers to tear or stretch along its length, or at its insertion on to the heel bone. This leads to inflammation, pain, and the possible growth of a bone spur on the back of the heel bone. The inflammation is aggravated by the chronic irritation that sometimes accompanies an active lifestyle and certain activities that strain an already tight tendon.
  • Bone bruises are common heel injuries. A bone bruise or contusion is an inflammation of the tissues that cover the heel bone. A bone bruise is a sharply painful injury caused by the direct impact of a hard object or surface on the foot.
 
What should you do about heel pain?

If pain and other symptoms of inflammation—redness, swelling, heat—persist, you should limit normal daily activities and contact a doctor of podiatric medicine.

The podiatric physician will examine the area and may perform diagnostic X-rays to rule out problems of the bone.

Early treatment might involve oral or injectable anti-inflammatory medication, exercise and shoe recommendations, taping or strapping, or use of shoe inserts or orthotic devices. Taping or strapping supports the foot, placing stressed muscles and tendons in a physiologically restful state. Physical therapy may be used in conjunction with such treatments.

A functional orthotic device may be prescribed for correcting biomechanical imbalance, controlling excessive pronation, and supporting of the ligaments and tendons attaching to the heel bone. It will effectively treat the majority of heel and arch pain without the need for surgery.

Only a relatively few cases of heel pain require more advanced treatments or surgery. If surgery is necessary, it may involve the release of the plantar fascia, removal of a spur, removal of a bursa, or removal of a neuroma or other soft-tissue growth.

The Podiatric Physician and Cardiovascular Ailments

As a member of the healthcare team, your doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) is vitally concerned about hypertension (high blood pressure) and vascular disease (heart and circulatory problems). There are several reasons for this concern. First, because you are a patient, your podiatric physician and surgeon are interested in all aspects of your health and your treatment program. Second, he or she supports the goals of high blood pressure detection, treatment, and control.

Your podiatric physician should know if you have any of the following cardiovascular or related conditions:

Hypertension and/or cardiovascular disease: Hypertension sometimes causes decreased circulation. A careful examination is required to determine if there is lower than normal temperature in any of the extremities, absence of normal skin color, or diminished pulse in the feet. The concern is that these are signs of arterial insufficiency (reduced blood flow). Increased or periodic swelling in the lower extremities is important because it may mean that hypertension has contributed to heart disease.

Rheumatic heart disease: Persons who have had rheumatic heart disease must be protected with prophylactic antibiotics prior to any surgical intervention. If you take medication for this condition, tell your podiatric physician. Any medication you may be taking for high blood pressure, a heart condition, or any other reason should be reported to the DPM to ensure that it does not conflict with medications that may be prescribed in the treatment of your feet.

Diabetes: This condition frequently affects the smaller arteries, resulting in diminished circulation and decreased sensation in the extremities. Let your podiatric physician know if you have ever been told that you have diabetes, particularly if you are taking medication or insulin for this condition.

Ulceration: Open sores that do not heal, or heal very slowly, may be symptoms of certain anemias, including sickle cell disease. Or they may be due to hypertension or certain inflammatory conditions of the blood vessels. Your DPM is on the alert for such conditions, but be sure to mention if you have ever had this problem.

Swollen feet: Persistent swelling of one or both feet may be due to kidney, heart, or circulatory problems.

Burning feet: Although it can have a number of causes, a burning sensation of the feet is frequently caused by diminished circulation.

Control of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause fatal strokes and heart disease. As a healthcare provider, your podiatric physician assists in controlling this public health problem. There are three major areas in which he or she provides this important public service:

Detection: Many podiatric physicians routinely take every patient’s blood pressure and determine if it is elevated.

Treatment: After confirming that blood pressure is elevated and making this information part of the patient’s record, the DPM refers all patients with elevated blood pressure to their primary care physicians for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.

Long-Term Control: By encouraging patients at every visit to adhere to treatment, and by monitoring reductions in blood pressure, side effects of treatment, and referring for reevaluation as needed, the podiatric physician facilitates long-term control.

Foot Health Tips

Diseases, disorders and disabilities of the foot or ankle affect the quality of life and mobility of millions of Americans. However, the general public and even many physicians are unaware of the important relationship between foot health and overall health and well-being. With this in mind, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) would like to share a few tips to help keep feet healthy.

1. Don’t ignore foot pain—it’s not normal. If the pain persists, see a podiatric physician.

2. Inspect your feet regularly. Pay attention to changes in color and temperature of your feet. Look for thick or discolored nails (a sign of developing fungus), and check for cracks or cuts in the skin. Peeling or scaling on the soles of feet could indicate athlete’s foot. Any growth on the foot is not considered normal.

3. Wash your feet regularly, especially between the toes, and be sure to dry them completely.

4. Trim toenails straight across, but not too short. Be careful not to cut nails in corners or on the sides; it can lead to ingrown toenails. Persons with diabetes, poor circulation, or heart problems should not treat their own feet because they are more prone to infection.

5. Make sure that your shoes fit properly. Purchase new shoes later in the day when feet tend to be at their largest and replace worn out shoes as soon as possible.

6. Select and wear the right shoe for the activity that you are engaged in (i.e., running shoes for running).

7. Alternate shoes—don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day.

8. Avoid walking barefooted—your feet will be more prone to injury and infection. At the beach or when wearing sandals, always use sunblock on your feet just as on the rest of your body.

9. Be cautious when using home remedies for foot ailments; self-treatment can often turn a minor problem into a major one.

10. If you are a person with diabetes, it is vital that you see a podiatric physician at least once a year for a check-up.

Barometers of Health

Toenails often serve as barometers of our health; they are diagnostic tools providing the initial signal of the presence or onset of systemic diseases. For example, the pitting of nails and increased nail thickness can be manifestations of psoriasis. Concavity—nails that are rounded inward instead of outward—can foretell iron deficiency anemia. Some nail problems can be conservatively treated with topical or oral medications while others require partial or total removal of the nail. Any discoloration or infection on or about the nail should be evaluated by a podiatric physician.

Nail Ailments

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown nails, the most common nail impairment, are nails whose corners or sides dig painfully into the soft tissue of nail grooves, often leading to irritation, redness, and swelling. Usually, toenails grow straight out. Sometimes, however, one or both corners or sides curve and grow into the flesh. The big toe is usually the victim of this condition but other toes can also become affected.

Ingrown toenails may be caused by:

  • Improperly trimmed nails (Trim them straight across, not longer than the tip of the toes. Do not round off corners. Use toenail clippers.)
  • Heredity
  • Shoe pressure; crowding of toes
  • Repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities

If you suspect an infection due to an ingrown toenail, immerse the foot in a warm salt water soak, or a basin of soapy water, then apply an antiseptic and bandage the area.

People with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or other circulatory disorders must avoid any form of self-treatment and seek podiatric medical care as soon as possible.

Other “do-it-yourself” treatments, including any attempt to remove any part of an infected nail or the use of over-the-counter medications, should be avoided. Nail problems should be evaluated and treated by your podiatrist, who can diagnose the ailment, and then prescribe medication or another appropriate treatment.

A podiatrist will resect the ingrown portion of the nail and may prescribe a topical or oral medication to treat the infection. If ingrown nails are a chronic problem, your podiatrist can perform a procedure to permanently prevent ingrown nails. The corner of the nail that in-grows, along with the matrix or root of that piece of nail, are removed by use of a chemical, a laser, or by other methods.

Fungal Nails

Fungal infection of the nail, or onychomycosis, is often ignored because the infection can be present for years without causing any pain. The disease is characterized by a progressive change in a toenail’s quality and color, which is often ugly and embarrassing.

In reality, the condition is an infection underneath the surface of the nail caused by fungi. When the tiny organisms take hold, the nail often becomes darker in color and foul smelling. Debris may collect beneath the nail plate, white marks frequently appear on the nail plate, and the infection is capable of spreading to other toenails, the skin, or even the fingernails. If ignored, the infection can spread and possibly impair one’s ability to work or even walk. This happens because the resulting thicker nails are difficult to trim and make walking painful when wearing shoes. Onychomycosis can also be accompanied by a secondary bacterial or yeast infection in or about the nail plate.

Because it is difficult to avoid contact with microscopic organisms like fungi, the toenails are especially vulnerable around damp areas where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers, for example. Injury to the nail bed may make it more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails. Other contributing factors may be a history of athlete’s foot and excessive perspiration.

Prevention

  • Proper hygiene and regular inspection of the feet and toes are the first lines of defense against fungal nails.
  • Clean and dry feet resist disease.
  • Washing the feet with soap and water, remembering to dry thoroughly, is the best way to prevent an infection.
  • Shower shoes should be worn when possible in public areas.
  • Shoes, socks, or hosiery should be changed more than once daily.
  • Toenails should be clipped straight across so that the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe.
  • Wear shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe.
  • Avoid wearing excessively tight hosiery, which promotes moisture.
  • Socks made of synthetic fiber tend to “wick” away moisture faster than cotton or wool socks.
  • Disinfect instruments used to cut nails.
  • Disinfect home pedicure tools.
  • Don’t apply polish to nails suspected of infection—those that are red, discolored, or swollen, for example.

Treatment of Fungal Nails

Treatments may vary, depending on the nature and severity of the infection. A daily routine of cleansing over a period of many months may temporarily suppress mild infections. White markings that appear on the surface of the nail can be filed off, followed by the application of an over-the-counter liquid antifungal agent. However, even the best over-the-counter treatments may not prevent a fungal infection from coming back.

A podiatric physician can detect a fungal infection early, culture the nail, determine the cause, and form a suitable treatment plan, which may include prescribing topical or oral medication, and debridement (removal of diseased nail matter and debris) of an infected nail.

Newer oral antifungals, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, may be the most effective treatment. They offer a shorter treatment regimen of approximately three months and improved effectiveness. Podiatrists may also prescribe a topical treatment for onychomycosis, which can be an effective treatment modality for fungal nails.

In some cases, surgical treatment may be required. Temporary removal of the infected nail can be performed to permit direct application of a topical antifungal. Permanent removal of a chronically painful nail that has not responded to any other treatment permits the fungal infection to be cured and prevents the return of a deformed nail.

Trying to solve the infection without the qualified help of a podiatric physician can lead to more problems. With new technical advances in combination with simple preventive measures, the treatment of this lightly regarded health problem can often be successful.

Nail Care Tips

  • Proper hygiene and regular inspection of the feet and toes are the first lines of defense against fungal nails.
  • Clean and dry feet resist disease.
  • Washing the feet with soap and water, remembering to dry thoroughly, is the best way to prevent an infection.
  • Shower shoes should be worn when possible in public areas.
  • Shoes, socks, or hosiery should be changed more than once daily.
  • Toenails should be clipped straight across so that the nail does not extend beyond the tip of the toe.
  • Wear shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe.
  • Avoid wearing excessively tight hosiery, which promotes moisture.
  • Socks made of synthetic fiber tend to “wick” away moisture faster than cotton or wool socks.
  • Disinfect instruments used to cut nails.
  • Disinfect home pedicure tools.
  • Don’t apply polish to nails suspected of infection—those that are red, discolored, or swollen, for example.

Many Conditions Affect the Rearfoot

Many conditions can affect the back portion of the foot and ankle. Fortunately, many of these problems can be resolved through conservative treatments. However when pain persists or deformity occurs, surgical intervention can often help alleviate pain, reduce deformity, and/or restore the function of your foot or ankle.

Heel Surgery

Two common conditions that can cause pain to the bottom of the heel are plantar fasciitis and heel spur(s). Although there are many causes of heel pain in both children and adults, most can be effectively treated without surgery. When chronic heel pain fails to respond to conservative treatment, surgical care may be warranted.

Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation of a fibrous band of tissue in the bottom of the foot that extends from the heel bone to the toes. This tissue can become inflamed for many reasons, most commonly from irritation by placing too much stress (such as excess running and jumping) on the bottom of the foot.

Heel Spur(s) or heel spur syndrome are most often the result of stress on the muscles and fascia of the foot. This stress may form a spur on the bottom of the heel. While many spurs are painless, others may produce chronic pain.

Based on the condition and the chronic nature of the disease, heel surgery can provide relief of pain and restore mobility in many cases. The type of procedure is based on examination and usually consists of plantar fascia release, with or without heel spur excision. There have been various modifications and surgical enhancements regarding surgery of the heel. Your podiatric physician will determine which method is best suited for you.

There are many other causes of heel pain, which has become one of the most common foot problems reported by patients of podiatric physicians. Many of them have a basis in heredity, as do a lot of other foot conditions. Among the causes are stress fractures and stress-fracture syndrome, entrapped nerves, bruises, bursitis, arthritis (including gout), deterioration of the fat pad on the heel, improper shoes, and obesity, just to name some. Most of these conditions will be treated nonsurgically, though surgery may be recommended in some instances.

Haglund’s Deformity (pump bump)

This deformity is characterized by a bony enlargement on the back of the heel. Although not always painful, it may become so if bursitis develops near the Achilles tendon secondary to footwear irritation. If attempts at shoe modification and other medical treatments fail to improve this condition, surgical correction may be beneficial. Based on X-ray evaluation and other tests or examinations, your podiatric surgeon will select an operative treatment to alleviate the condition.

Insertional Achilles Clarification/Spur

This deformity differs from Haglund’s deformity, in that spur formation or calcification at the insertion of the achilles tendon is the cause of pain. Often associated with achilles tendinitis, this deformity can often be difficult to treat medically and therefore surgical treatment may be necessary in chronic cases. There are many causes of this condition, including arthritis, but the most common appears to be overuse syndrome, where trauma occurs where the achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone. Surgical treatment includes removal of the bone spur and/or calcification, along with repair of the achilles tendon.

Reconstructive Surgery

Reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle consists of complex surgical repair(s) that may be necessary to regain function or stability, reduce pain, and/or prevent further deformity or disease. Unfortunately, there are many conditions or diseases that range from trauma to congenital defects that necessitate surgery of the foot and/or ankle. Reconstructive surgery in many of these cases may require any of the following: tendon repair/transfer, fusion of bone, joint implantation, bone grafting, skin or soft tissue repair, tumor excision, amputation and/or the osteotomy of bone (cutting of bones in a precise fashion). Bone screws, pins, wires, staples, and other fixation devices (both internal and external), and casts may be utilized to stabilize and repair bone in reconstructive procedures.

Preoperative Testing and Care

As with anyone facing any surgical procedure, those undergoing foot and ankle surgery require specific tests or examinations before surgery to obtain a successful surgical outcome. Prior to surgery, the podiatric surgeon will review your medical history and medical conditions. Specific diseases, illnesses, allergies, and current medications need to be evaluated. Other tests that help evaluate your health status that may be ordered by the podiatric physician include blood studies, urinalysis, EKG, X-rays, blood flow studies (to better evaluate the circulatory status of the foot/legs), and biomechanical examination.

A consultation with another medical specialist is sometimes advised by a podiatric physician, depending on your test results or a specific medical condition.

Postoperative Care

Surgery of the rearfoot requires close care following surgery. To assure a rapid and uneventful recovery, it is important to follow your podiatric surgeon’s advice and postoperative instructions carefully. Rest, ice, compression and elevation of your foot/ankle postoperatively is often advised. The usage of bandages, splints, casts, surgical shoes, crutches, or canes may be necessary after surgery. Your podiatric surgeon will also determine if and when you can bear weight on an operated foot.

What are Plantar Warts?

Warts are one of several soft tissue conditions of the foot that can be quite painful. They are caused by a virus, which generally invades the skin through small or invisible cuts and abrasions. They can appear anywhere on the skin, but technically only those on the sole are properly called plantar warts.

Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to warts than adults; some people seem to be immune.

Identification Problems

Most warts are harmless, even though they may be painful. They are often mistaken for corns or calluses—which are layers of dead skin that build up to protect an area which is being continuously irritated. The wart, however, is a viral infection.

It is also possible for a variety of more serious lesions to appear on the foot, including malignant lesions such as carcinomas and melanomas. Although rare, these conditions can sometimes be misidentified as a wart. It is wise to consult a podiatric physician when any suspicious growth or eruption is detected on the skin of the foot in order to ensure a correct diagnosis.

Plantar warts tend to be hard and flat, with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries; warts are generally raised and fleshier when they appear on the top of the foot or on the toes. Plantar warts are often gray or brown (but the color may vary), with a center that appears as one or more pinpoints of black. It is important to note that warts can be very resistant to treatment and have a tendency to reoccur.

Source of the Virus

The plantar wart is often contracted by walking barefoot on dirty surfaces or littered ground where the virus is lurking. The causative virus thrives in warm, moist environments, making infection a common occurrence in communal bathing facilities.

If left untreated, warts can grow to an inch or more in circumference and can spread into clusters of several warts; these are often called mosaic warts. Like any other infectious lesion, plantar warts are spread by touching, scratching, or even by contact with skin shed from another wart. The wart may also bleed, another route for spreading.

Occasionally, warts can spontaneously disappear after a short time, and, just as frequently, they can recur in the same location.

When plantar warts develop on the weight-bearing areas of the foot—the ball of the foot, or the heel, for example—they can be the source of sharp, burning pain. Pain occurs when weight is brought to bear directly on the wart, although pressure on the side of a wart can create equally intense pain.

Tips for Prevention

  • Avoid walking barefoot, except on sandy beaches.
  • Change shoes and socks daily.
  • Keep feet clean and dry.
  • Check children’s feet periodically.
  • Avoid direct contact with warts—from other persons or from other parts of the body.
  • Do not ignore growths on, or changes in, your skin.
  • Visit your podiatric physician as part of your annual health checkup.

Self Treatment

Self treatment is generally not advisable. Over-the-counter preparations contain acids or chemicals that destroy skin cells, and it takes an expert to destroy abnormal skin cells (warts) without also destroying surrounding healthy tissue. Self treatment with such medications especially should be avoided by people with diabetes and those with cardiovascular or circulatory disorders. Never use them in the presence of an active infection.

Professional Treatment

It is possible that your podiatric physician will prescribe and supervise your use of a wart-removal preparation. More likely, however, removal of warts by a simple surgical procedure, performed under local anesthetic, may be indicated.

Lasers have become a common and effective treatment. A procedure known as CO2 laser cautery is performed under local anesthesia either in your podiatrist’s office surgical setting or an outpatient surgery facility. The laser reduces post-treatment scarring and is a safe form for eliminating wart lesions.

Self-treatment is generally not advisable. Over-the-counter preparations contain acids or chemicals that destroy skin cells, and it takes an expert to destroy abnormal skin cells (warts) without also destroying surrounding healthy tissue. Self-treatment with such medications especially should be avoided by people with diabetes and those with cardiovascular or circulatory disorders. Never use them in the presence of an active infection.

Tips for Individuals with Warts

 

  • Avoid self-treatment with over-the-counter preparations.
  • Seek professional podiatric evaluation and assistance with the treatment of your warts.
  • Diabetics and other patients with circulatory, immunological, or neurological problems should be especially careful with the treatment of their warts.
  • Warts may spread and are catching. Make sure you have your warts evaluated to protect yourself and those close to you.

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