More and more Americans are facing common foot problems and more serious foot conditions every day. The American Podiatric Medical Association recently conducted a study with alarming results – it revealed that some 75% of Americans will undergo some type of foot problems in their lives.
The human foot is one of the best-engineered parts of the body. Each foot has 33 joints, eight arches, 26 bones, more than a hundred muscles, ligaments, and tendons that all work together to distribute body weight and allow movement. Unfortunately, many people pay no attention to their feet – until they start to hurt.
Foot disorders must be diagnosed and treated early, before they become very painful and incapacitating. In some cases, some painful foot abnormalities are already warning signs of even more serious ailments such as diabetes, circulatory disorders, and nerve problems.
Some common foot problems include:
When there is increased stress on the arch, microscopic tears can occur within the plantar fascia, usually at its attachment on the heel. This results in inflammation and pain with standing and walking and sometimes at rest. It usually causes pain and stiffness on the bottom of your heel.
An enlargement on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe (hallux). The enlargement is made up of a bursa (fluid filled sac) under the skin. The term bunion is also commonly used to describe a structural (bony) deformity called hallux abducto valgus (HAV). Bunions can be painful and can be aggravated by activity and wearing tight shoes.
In the foot, a neuroma is a nerve that becomes irritated and swells up. If the nerve stays irritated, it can become thickened which makes the nerve larger and causes more irritation. Pain from a neuroma is usually felt on the ball of your foot.
Corns & Callouses
Corns and callouses are areas of thick, hard skin. They usually develop due to rubbing or irritation over a boney prominence. The hard, thick skin is called a corn if it is on your toe and it is called a callous if it is somewhere else on your foot.
Toenail Fungus (onychomycosis)
Fungi like a warm, moist and dark environment (like inside a shoe). A fungal infection in your toenails may cause the nails to become discolored, thickened, crumbly or loose. There are different causes and it is difficult to treat due to the hardness of the toenail.
Ingrown Toenail (onychocryptosis)
An ingrown toenail can occur for various reasons. The sides or corners of the toenail usually curve down and put pressure on the skin. Sometimes the toenail pierces the skin and then continues to grow into the skin. This may cause redness, swelling, pain and sometimes infection.
A hammer toe is also sometimes referred to as a claw toe or mallet toe. It involves a deformity of the toe where there is an imbalance in the pull of the tendons. Either the tendon on top of the toe pulls harder or the tendon on the bottom of the toe pulls harder. This results in a curling up of the toe.
Plantar Warts (plantar verucca)
Plantar warts are caused by a virus. Plantar means bottom of the foot, but warts can occur other places on the foot and toes as well. Plantar warts can be painful depending on where they are located. Sometimes they are mistaken for callouses because layers of hard skin can build up on top of the wart.
Flat Feet (pes planus)
Just because you have flat feet does not mean you will have problems or pain. If you do have pain, there are various treatment options available. If you only have one foot that has a flat arch, it may be due to another problem and you should get it checked out.
Athlete's Foot (tinea pedis)
Athlete's foot is a common skin condition that can affect everyone, not just athletes. It is caused by a fungus. It may cause redness, itchiness, tiny bumps filled with fluid or peeling skin. It is most commonly located between the toes or on the bottom of the feet.
Achilles tendonitis involves inflammation of the Achilles tendon. If the tendon stays inflamed long enough, it can lead to thickening of the tendon. Sometimes nodules or bumps can form in the tendon. Achilles tendonitis can become a long term problem or can lead to rupture of the tendon.