Hello and welcome to our next blog post! Today we will talk about 6 most common foot health issues we see in our practice, how can you manage them at home and when to see a podiatrist.
1. Thickened Toenails
It is completely normal for the nails to become tougher as we get older. This happens mostly because over time the rate of growth of the nails slows down. It means that we end up with a built up of nail cells called ‘onychocytes’ as these do not have a chance to grow out as much. Nails, however, may harden for other reasons too, for example from trauma, impaired circulation, or fungal infections.
If you have difficulty cutting your toenails at home if they are a little thick it is a good idea to soak the feet first before cutting. This can help to soften the nails and make them easier to cut. However, if your nails are very thickened and too hard to cut, a podiatrist can use an electric file to help thin down the nail and make them easier to cut.
2. Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of the toenail curls down and can grow into the skin and soft tissue. They usually occur on the big toes but can occur on any toes of the foot. Ingrown toenails can be caused by tight footwear, cutting the toenails incorrectly, trauma to the nail and genetics. Ingrown toenails can be very painful and can cause swelling, redness and pus to be present in the nail bed. Ingrown toenails can be treated at home but if there are any signs of infection or you are having trouble cutting the nail, it is important to see a podiatrist.
The nails should be trimmed regularly making sure there are no spikes of nail left and that they are not cut in a rounded shape. The nails should be soaked in a basin of warm salty water after cutting an ingrown toenail to help to disinfect the area. You can also try inserting a small piece of cotton wool on the side of your nail, between the nail and the the skin to reduce any pressure on the area. Make sure to wear wide fitting footwear to avoid any extra pressure on the toes.
3. Corns and Callus
Corns are small areas of callus that often have a cone shaped centre or a root. They often develop due to pressure on any prominent areas of the foot. They can also occur due to pressure caused by footwear. Corns usually develop on the ball of the foot, on the toes and even between the toes. If you are healthy and corns are painless then there is no need to treat them. If they cause pain, eliminating the cause of pressure such as tight footwear can prevent them or slow down their return. Corn plasters are sold in pharmacies, however, these are not recommended as they contain an acid which can affect the healthy skin surrounding the corn and may cause blistering and irritation.
Callus is hard skin on the foot. They’re often painless and bigger in size than corns.
Felt padding, non-medicated corn plasters and some bandages can be used to protect and offload pressure from vulnerable areas. An emery board or pumice stone can be used to file down any hard skin or corns. It is a good idea to do this in between podiatry appointments to help slow down the return of the callus. Soaking the feet before filing the hard skin helps to soften it and applying a moisturizing foot cream after will help to keep the skin on the feet soft. It is important not to put any foot cream between the toes as this can add moisture and increase the risk of athlete’s foot.
4. Athletes Foot
This is a very common skin condition caused by fungus. Fungus thrives in warm, moist environments so the feet are a commonly affected area. It causes an itchy, red and flaky rash and usually starts with a small crack in the skin between your 4th and 5th toes. It is important to keep the feet clean and dry, especially after a shower. Patients with very sweaty feet can use an antiperspirant to prevent fungal infections.
Antifungal products are available over the counter in most pharmacies. However, some antifungal products such as azoles, eg daktarin only stop the growth of fungi but do not kill them. Other antifungal products, such as those containing terbinafine (eg lamisil) kill the fungi meaning the treatment course is shorter. Treatment using terbinafine takes just one week in most cases.
5. Fungal Nail Infections
Fungal nail infections can be stubborn and difficult to clear. There are some topical antifungal treatments which can help to clear the infection. These treatments need to be done once a week and can take 9 – 12 months to clear as it takes time for the full nail to grow out. Fact: Toenails grow at a rate of 1.3 mm per month. So the treatment results take time to show. Curanail is an example of an over the counter antifungal lacquer with amorolfine being the main antifungal agent. It is painted onto the surface of the nail once a week for the duration of the treatment.
At South Dublin Podiatry, we provide an innovative treatment regimen for fungal nail infections called the Lacuna Method. Click here to find out more.
Tips on preventing fungal infections:
- Do not share nail clippers/ files etc and always clean them after use.
- Change shoes daily i.e. wear pair A one day and pair B the next day. This give your shoes a chance to fully dry.
- Change socks and wash your feet daily.
- Make sure to dry well between your toes.
- Wear flip flops in the common areas such as swimming pools and changing areas.
- If you like wearing nail polish make sure to give your nails a break between the applications. If you attend a beauty salon ensure that their equipment is cleaned and sterilised after each use.
Verrucae are plantar warts caused by the Human Papilloma Virus. The virus enters the skin through broken skin. Podiatrists often treat verrucae using 60% salicylic acid. This is not available over the counter, however, patients can get a lower dose of the acid from a pharmacy. Salactol contains 16.7% salicylic acid and can be safely used at home. Patients should bathe the foot in warm salt and water, file down the Verucca and then apply the salactol. A felt pad with a cutout or a non-medicated corn plaster should be applied before the salactol in order to protect the healthy skin surrounding the verruca. Because the verracae are caused by a virus, it may take a couple of weeks before the area clears.
Sometimes it may be challenging to distinguish a verruca from a corn. If in doubt, always consult your podiatrist. Acids or any corrosive medicaments should not be used by persons with diabetes or those with poor healing.
Click Here or call 0838241454 to book your appointment today and get your feet feeling and looking great!