Corns and calluses on the feet are thickened areas of skin that can become painful. They are caused by excessive pressure or rubbing (friction) on the skin. The common cause is poorly fitting shoes.
COMMOM FOOT PROBLEMS
A corn is a small area of skin which has become thickened due to consistent pressure. A corn is roughly round in shape with a hard centre. Corns press into the deeper layers of skin and can be painful.
Hard corns: Commonly occur on bony landmarks of the foot, for example on the top of the smaller toes or on the outer side of the little toe. They can also occur on the sole of the foot under the metatarsal heads where theses bony areas grind with the ground.
Soft corns: Sometimes form in between the toes, most commonly between the fourth and fifth toes.
These are softer because of moisture and sweat between the toes. Soft corns can sometimes become infected when the flesh between the toes becomes macerated and broken.
Seed corns: They are tiny and can be singular or in clusters mainly found on the sole of the foot. They are caused by friction particularly on dry skin.
A callus is larger and broader than a corn and has a less well-defined edges. These tend to form on the underside of your foot (the sole). They commonly form over the bony area just underneath your toes or on the rim of the heel. This area takes much of your weight when you walk. They are usually painless but can become painful and unsightly.
Warts are small lumps that often develop on the skin of the hands and feet.
Warts vary in appearance and may develop singly or in clusters. Some are more likely to affect particular areas of the body. For example, verrucas are warts that usually develop on the soles of the feet.
Most people will have warts at some point in their life. They tend to affect children and teenagers more than adults.
Warts are caused by an infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV).
The virus causes an excess amount of keratin, a hard protein, to develop in the top skin layer (epidermis). The extra keratin produces the rough, hard texture of a wart.
Warts aren't considered very contagious, but they can be caught by close skin-to-skin contact. The infection can also be transmitted indirectly from contaminated objects or surfaces, such as the area surrounding a swimming pool. You are more likely to get infected if your skin is wet or damaged. After you become infected, it can take weeks or even months for a wart or verruca to appear. Most warts are harmless and can clear up without treatment. The length of time it takes a wart to disappear will vary from person to person. It may take up to two years for the viral infection to leave your system and for the wart to disappear.
You might decide to treat your wart if it is painful, or if it's formed in an area that is causing discomfort or embarrassment.
Common methods of treatment include:
- salicylic acid
- cryotherapy (freezing the skin cells)
- Duct tape
- Laser Therapy
Wart treatments aren't always effective, and a wart will sometimes return following treatment.
Surgery is not usually recommended for warts.
A bunion is a bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. The medical name is hallux valgus.
The main sign of a bunion is the big toe pointing towards the other toes on the same foot, which may force the foot bone attached to it (the first metatarsal) to stick outwards.
Other symptoms may include:
- A swollen, bony bump on the outside edge of your foot
- Pain and swelling over your big toe joint that's made worse by pressure from wearing shoes
- Hard, callused and red skin caused by your big toe and second toe overlapping
- Sore skin over the top of the bunion
- Changes to the shape of your foot, making it difficult to find shoes that fit
These symptoms can sometimes get worse if the bunion is left untreated, so it's best to see a GP. They'll ask you about your symptoms and examine your foot. In some cases, an X-ray may be recommended to assess the severity of your bunion.
Anyone can develop a bunion, but they're more common in women than men. This may be because of the style of footwear that women wear.
Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection of the foot.
An itchy red rash develops in the spaces between your toes and can spread across the entire foot. The affected skin may also be scaly, flaky and dry. Athlete’s foot is usually mild and can be easily treated using antifungal medication, available from your pharmacy.
What causes athlete's foot?
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 areas. Wearing pool shoes or flip-flops can help guard against contacting the fungus.
PREVENTING ATHLETE’S FOOT
It's not always possible to prevent athlete’s foot. However, good foot hygiene can reduce your risk of developing the condition.
Follow the advice below to help treat and prevent athlete’s foot.
- Wash your feet regularly using soap and water.
- After washing your feet, dry them thoroughly, paying particular attention to the areas between your toes.
- Wear clean cotton socks.
- Change your socks and shoes regularly to help keep your feet dry, particularly after exercising.
- Don't share towels and wash your towels regularly.
Fungal nail infections can affect part or the entire nail, including the nail plate, nail bed and root of the nail. The infection develops slowly and causes the nail to become discoloured, thickened and distorted. The toenails are more frequently affected than the fingernails.
The most common sign of a fungal nail infection is the nail becoming thickened and discoloured. The nail can turn white, black, yellow or green. The nail can thicken and become very dry and prone to crumble. Most fungal nail infections are caused by dermatophyte fungi, which also cause athlete's foot or other types of fungi such as Candid. Most nail fungus can be treated by applying topical treatment directly to the nail. These products are available both over the counter from a pharmacy or on prescription from the G.P.
An ingrowing toe nail occurs when a spike or splinter of nail breaks through the skin or sulcus along the border of the nail. This can cause pressure, pain and inflammation. An ingrown toe nail mainly affects the big toe, however the lesser toe nails can also become ingrowed. Should a bacterial infection develop the G.P may prescribe a course of antibiotics to help clear the infection and reduce swelling prior to the removal of the offending spike on the nail.