Are you shy about your feet? Foot conditions like athlete's foot, bunions, and corns may cause you to keep your feet hidden. Set your feet free by taking care of any foot flaws.
- Foot flaw: Plantar warts are flat growths that develop on the heels and balls of the feet. This happens when a certain strain of a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) gets into the body through direct contact with the skin. Plantar warts usually go away on their own, but skin shed from untreated warts can spread to the rest of the foot and to other people.
Fix it: Combine over-the-counter wart medications with some pumice-stone exfoliation of the dead skin and wart tissue. Or, try the folk remedy of duct tape. It's actually been proven by scientists that covering a wart with duct tape for 6 days, followed by a soak and a pumice scrub, can get rid of plantar warts. The process used in the study required repetitions for up to 2 months, but it's an option if freezing the wart is not your thing. If self-treatments don't get rid of plantar warts (some treatments can take up to 12 weeks to work), or if there is a change to their colour or appearance, check with your doctor.
- Foot flaw: Fungus is very common. Among the most common is a fungal infection called athlete's foot, also known as Tinea pedis. But it's not just for athletes: wherever we step with bare feet – gym showers, locker rooms, pools, Jacuzzis, saunas – we are at risk. Athlete's foot usually creeps into the warm, moist spaces between the toes and leads to symptoms like itching, stinging, blisters, peeling skin, and crumbly, ragged toenails.
Fix it: There are a variety of over-the-counter antifungal medications that can treat mild conditions. Severe athlete's foot should send you to the doctor in search of something stronger than topical treatment, like an antifungal taken orally, or an antibiotic if you get a bacterial infection along with the fungal infection.
Along with the proper medication if needed, ward off fungal infections by keeping the area clean and dry. Wear cotton socks, and change them throughout the day if you notice your feet sweat (which tends to happen if you wear tight-fitting footwear, like construction boots).
- Foot flaw: If your big toe seems to be getting bigger, you may have bunions. Thickening skin, soreness, and swelling are signals. Often caused by body mechanics that affect the way you walk or by wearing ill-fitting shoes, bunions can be painful and can eventually lead to bursitis, a form of arthritis.
Fix it: A foot soak can ease some of the pain, as can a massage. Soothe the pressure with bunion pads or ice the inflamed spot. Over-the-counter pain medications can relieve some of the soreness. Doctors will sometimes tape up a person's foot to try to get the toes and foot back into a more natural position. Others will recommend shoe inserts or physical therapy. Some people may require prescription orthotics, which are padded shoe inserts. To prevent bunions from coming back, choose more sensible shoes. If you're a high-heel lover, toss them in the closet and opt for flats or sneakers for a while.
- Foot flaw: An ingrown toenail seems like such a small, trifling problem. After all, it's just a toenail, right? However, the rigid edge of a toenail growing back into the soft fleshy pad of your toe can actually be pretty painful. The redness and swelling can sometimes give way to full-on infection. Although it's rare, people (especially those who have diabetes) have gotten bone infections or foot ulcers that require amputation. So a little ingrown toenail can be a big deal.
Fix it: While your toe is on the mend, choose shoes that let your feet breathe a bit. Don't burrow into the skin to try to get the nail out, as this could leave you open to infection. Rather, try soaking your foot in warm, soapy water or, if you'd prefer, salt water. Either may soothe that tender toe and soften the skin and nail and you can perhaps reach under the ingrown nail and lift it slightly to help the nail grow above the skin edge. To prevent further ingrowns, trim your nails straight across and don't trim them too short. They should be long enough to line up with the top of your toe. If the area gets infected or is difficult to manage, check with your doctor.
- Foot flaw: We're busy people, and our feet may bear the mark of all our rushing-around. Corns and calluses come about due to pure and simple friction. All that rubbing of toe flesh against the inside of shoes, especially when worn without socks, can cause thick, rough, or dry and flaky patches of skin. When these patches develop on the tops and sides of your feet, they're called corns, and their hard centre can be surrounded by inflamed and achy skin. Calluses come from the wearing down on skin of the heels and balls of the feet. They're not painful – just kind of unsightly.
Fix it: Soak your feet in warm, soapy water to soften up that friction-toughened skin. Once it's softer, you can slough off dead skin. Try a washcloth first before using harsh pumice stones or shaving corns and calluses, which can raise your risk of infections. Rub some lotion onto your feet to keep the skin more supple. Speak to your pharmacist about purchasing medicated pads that, when applied, can help break down all the thick, rough skin. And keep future corns and calluses away by treating your feet more kindly – think comfy shoes, well-fitted socks, and protective pads.
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