North Wales Foot Care treats a wide range of foot related problems such as corns, callus, nail cutting, fungal and thickened nails, athlete’s foot and verrucas. It also offers advice on specific conditions which may affect the feet, such as diabetes, as well as advice on general foot care.
Corns and Calluses
Corns are small circles of thick skin that usually develop on the tops and sides of toes or on the sole of the foot. However, they can occur anywhere. They are often caused by wearing shoes that fit poorly or certain designs that place excessive pressure on an area of the foot.
Corns often occur on bony feet as there’s a lack of natural cushioning. They can also develop as a symptom of another foot problem, such as:
- • a bunion – where the joint of the big toe sticks outwards as the big toe begins to point towards the other toes on the same foot
- • hammer toe – where the toe is bent at the middle joint
Calluses are hard, rough areas of skin that are often yellowish in colour. They can develop on your foot, most often around the heel area or on the skin under the ball of the foot. They can also develop on the palms of the hands and knuckles.
Calluses are larger than corns and do not have such a well-defined edge. As callused skin is thick, it is often less sensitive to touch than the surrounding skin.
Calluses develop when the skin rubs against something, such as a bone, a shoe or the ground. They often form over the ball of your foot because this area takes most of your weight when you walk. This is particularly the case when high heels are worn regularly.
Excessive pressure on bony areas of the foot, badly fitting shoes and dry skin are all possible causes of calluses.
Treating corns and calluses
If you have a corn on your foot, you should see a foot health practitioner, who can advise you about treatment.
Corns on feet will not get better unless the cause of the pressure is removed. If the cause is not removed, the skin could become thicker and more painful over time.
Your foot health practitioner may be able to treat corns or badly callused areas using a sharp blade to remove the thickened area of skin. This is painless and should help reduce pain and discomfort. They can also provide advice on self-care and prescribe special insoles.
It is not known exactly what causes bunions, but it is linked to your family history. Wearing badly fitting shoes is thought to make the condition worse.
It is also thought that bunions are more likely to occur in people who have unusually flexible joints, and that this flexibility may be inherited. This is why bunions sometimes occur in children.
In some cases, certain health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout, may also be responsible.
How are bunions treated?
There are a range of treatments for bunions available.Usually, non-surgical treatments will be tried first, including painkillers, orthotics (such as insoles), and bunion pads. However, these are only able to reduce the symptoms of bunions, such as pain. They do not improve the appearance of your foot.
Surgery may be considered if your symptoms are severe and do not respond to non-surgical treatment. The type of surgery used will depend on the level of deformity, how severe the symptoms are, your age, and any other associated medical conditions.
Harmless bacteria and fungi live naturally on your skin, but if these organisms multiply, your skin can become infected. A group of fungi called dermatophytes is responsible for athlete’s foot. Dermatophytes live in and feed off dead skin tissue. Your feet provide a warm, dark and humid environment – ideal conditions for the fungi to live and multiply.
Athlete’s foot spreads very easily. It can be passed from person to person through contaminated towels, clothing and surfaces.
The fungi can survive and multiply in warm and humid places, such as swimming pools, showers and changing rooms.
Treating athlete’s foot
Most cases of athlete’s foot are mild and can be treated at home using self-care techniques (see below) and antifungal medication.
With effective treatment, athlete’s foot usually only lasts for a few days or weeks. Antifungal medication clears the fungi that cause the infection. It’s available as:
- • creams
- • sprays
- • liquids
- • powders
- • tablets
Most cases of heel pain are caused when a band of tissue in the foot, known as the plantar fascia, becomes damage and thickened. Plantar fasciitis is the medical term for the thickening of the plantar fascia.
The plantar fascia
The plantar fascia is a tough and flexible band of tissue that runs under the sole of the foot. It connects the heel bone with the bones of the foot, and acts as a kind of shock absorber to the foot.
Sudden damage, or damage that occurs over many months or years, can cause tiny tears (microtears) to develop inside the tissue of the plantar fascia. This can cause the plantar fascia to thicken, resulting in heel pain.
The surrounding tissue and the heel bone can also sometimes become inflamed.
Treating heel pain
There are a number of treatments that can help relieve heel pain and speed up your recovery. These include:
- • resting your heel – try to avoid walking long distances and standing for long periods
- • regular stretching – stretching your calf muscles and plantar fascia
- • pain relief – using an icepack on the affected heel and taking painkillers, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- • wearing good-fitting shoes that support and cushion your foot – running shoes are particularly useful
- • using supportive devices such as orthoses (rigid supports you put inside your shoe) or strapping
Around four out of five cases of heel pain resolve within a year. However, having heel pain for this length of time can often be frustrating and painful.
In around one in 20 cases, the above treatments are not enough and surgery may be recommended to release the plantar fascia.
There are several possible causes of an ingrown toenail, including:
- • incorrectly cut toenails
- • tight-fitting shoes, socks or tights
- • excessive sweating or poor foot hygiene
- • injury
- • nail infections
- • natural shape of the toenail
Treating ingrowing toenails
There are several things you can do yourself to treat mild ingrown toenails and prevent them from getting worse, including:
- • practise good foot hygiene by taking care of your feet and washing them regularly using soap and water
- • gently push the skin away from the nail using a cotton bud (this may be easier after using a small amount of olive oil to soften the skin)
- • wear comfortable shoes that are not too tight and provide space around your toes
- • painkillers, such as paracetamol, can be used to help relieve any pain (children under the age of 16 should not take aspirin)
Where necessary, your foot health practitioner will remove the part of the nail that has grown into the skin. If the toe has become infected, they may recommend that you see your GP who might suggest a course of antibiotics to remove the infection.
Surgery may be recommended in cases where an ingrown toenail is very severe. This may involve either removing a section of the affected toenail or removing the whole nail.
What are verrucas?
Verrucas are warts that develop on plantar surfaces — that is, the soles (or bottom) of the feet. The pressure from normal standing and walking tends to force the warts into theskin, and this can make the warts painful. Like all warts, they are harmless and may go away even without treatment, but in many cases they are too painful to ignore.
What causes verrucas?
Verrucas, like all warts, are caused by a virus that invades the skin through tiny cuts or scrapes. It can take some weeks, or even months, for a verruca to appear after you have caught the infection. This is called the incubation period. Like other viral infections, verrucas are contagious, commonly spread from the surface of floors in public pools, communal showers, or even your shower at home. Because most people build immunity to the virus with age, verrucas are more common in children than in adults.
What are the symptoms of verrucas?
The symptoms of verrucas include:
- • Small, bumpy growths on the soles of the feet, often with a tiny black dot, or dots, on the surface.
- • Pain in the soles of the feet when standing or walking.
What are the treatments for verrucas?
Remedies for treating warts and verrucas abound, and there is no single treatment that works every time. Conventional treatment focuses on removal, while alternative approaches emphasise gradual remission. Whatever you do, do not try to cut off a verruca yourself, because you may injure yourself.
At your treatment, your practitioner will remove as much of the verruca as possible with a blade before applying silver nitrate. You may be given some silver nitrate to continue applying at home before your next appointment. It is important to realise that treatment may take several weeks to be effective.
Fungal and Thickened Nails
Our toenails naturally thicken as we get older, although it can happen at any age. When thickened toenails occur in younger people, it is normally due to injury. If the thickening is caused by a fungal infection, the nail may turn a yellow or brown color before it begins to thicken. Fungal infections often have a foul odor, and may cause fluid to collect under the nail
While major trauma to the nail is an obvious cause of thickening, it is more often the result of repetitive pressure on the nail during everyday activities. The continual striking of the nail against the shoe causes it to separate from the nail bed.
If a fungal infection is present, your practitioner may recommend a topical treatment such as Clearzal. If the thickening is due to injury or age, the nail will be reduced in size with a burr and then trimmed as normal.