TREATING FOOT INJURIES
Injuries are unpredictable and can happen at any time. Whether you are walking for exercise or playing sports, your feet are at risk of injury. Some injuries are obvious and painful and require immediate attention. Other injuries may be subtle and initially ignored. In any case, it is important to seek out professional care, even if it is just for an evaluation. While treatment of serious foot injuries will likely be addressed early, it is still important to treat less severe injuries in a timely manner. If left untreated, even these subtle injuries can deteriorate and cause more issues later on.
Types of Injuries
- Achilles tendinitis - inflammation or thickening of the tendon that connects your calf to your heel.
- Ankle instability - includes weakness and general pain to the ankle area, frequently a consequence of undertreated ankle sprains.
- Ankle sprains - the results of a ligament in the ankle being bruised, strained, or torn, usually after a hard twist of the foot or "rolling" your leg over your ankle. These injuries are frequently undertreated, leading to chronic ankle instability. Timely consultation will give you the best chance for recovery.
- Plantar fasciitis - inflammation of a ligament that runs the length of the arch, from the heel to the ball of the foot, and maybe the result of overpronation.
- Stress fractures - a small break, usually in a metatarsal bone that can occur from overuse.
- Shinsplints - pain at the front or along the sides of the leg frequently the result of too much impact strain or abnormal foot function.
TREATING FOOT INFECTIONS
The foot is subject to various types of infections. These infections can be caused by fungi, viruses, or bacteria. While the healthy foot usually fights off these diseases, any breakdown in the toenail or skin barrier can make you susceptible. Infections are often identified by an area of soreness with the addition of redness, swelling, and warmth at the affected site.
Some infections produce pus or discharge. These infections can initially result from injuries and conditions that are either left untreated or inadequately treated. Fungus infections of the toenail may result in the nail plate becoming thickened, discolored, and brittle.
Athlete's foot - an infection of the skin between the toes or at the bottom of the foot that can cause itching and drying of the skin. These infections can be contagious and result from exposure to fungal spores residing on a wet floor, e.g., a locker room floor, or inside of a shoe where it is dark, warm, and moist, the perfect environment for the fungus to develop.
Fungus toenails - this infection can cause toenails to become thick, discolored and brittle, and, at times, uncomfortable. This type of infection is usually more a cosmetic issue than an urgent medical one, although in the patient with diabetes, it can lead to more serious infections.
Warts - Small growths on the skin the result of a virus. This infection can also be contagious and, depending on the location on foot, can be painful.
Abscesses - pockets of pus that can become raised and inflamed, possibly the result of an untreated blister or puncture wound. This type of infection requires timely medical attention
Osteomyelitis - a serious infection of bone usually the result of spread from an infected opening in the overlying skin or skin ulcer. This type of infection can threaten a patient's foot and leg and may sometimes lead to life-threatening sepsis.
Foot Hygiene - Attend to your feet daily. Wash between the toes and pat dry. Restrict walking barefoot. Be aware that walking in stocking feet is the same as walking barefoot, i.e., and you still have no support. Walking barefoot exposes your feet to soiled surfaces and puts you at risk of injuries with foreign bodies, such as splinters, or puncture wounds
Shoe Gear - It may seem simple, but many injuries and foot conditions can be avoided by wearing properly fitted footwear. If your shoes do not fit properly, they can rub against your feet and toes leading to blisters, calluses, corns, and other growths and conditions. Your shoes should fit snug but not tight. Shoes can feel loose around the toes but should fit snug from the ball of your foot through the heel. If you are participating in sports, either competitive or recreational, it is important to wear the right type of shoe for that sport. For example, running shoes are designed to absorb shock and provide support in the straight-ahead movement of running. Tennis shoes, on the other hand, are designed to address the sudden stops, starts, and lateral motion of the sport.
Socks - From a podiatry perspective, socks should be worn at all times. This is especially true for a patient with diabetes. Socks made with acrylic or other synthetic materials wick moisture away from your feet and reduce friction. This may reduce the risk of athlete's foot and blister formation.
Conditions and Diseases
- Ingrown toenails - when a toenail curves into the fleshy border of the nail resulting in pain and possible infection.
- Plantar fasciitis - results when the plantar fascia, a ligament that runs through the arch of the foot, becomes strained and injured.
- Bunions - when the big toe becomes misaligned, resulting in deformity and pain.
- Hammertoes - a deformity that can affect all toes of the foot. The deformity presents as a bend in the joints of the toe (the tip of the toe can hammer into the ground). This deformity can cause the development of painful corns on the top of the toe with pain simply from the deformity itself. This deformity may require surgical correction.
- Corns/calluses - a buildup of hardened, dead skin at prominent areas on the feet or toes caused by friction or pressure.
- Flatfeet - is a condition of a low arch that may be present at birth or develop as an adult with overpronation.
- Neuroma - an enlarged, entrapped, or inflamed nerve that develops between the toes of the feet. This condition may be responsive to orthotics and trigger point injections but may also require surgery.
- Patients with Diabetes - Diabetes mellitus is a disease that can have direct effects on the feet. Diabetic neuropathy can cause loss of sensation in the feet, making them susceptible to injury and the possible development of ulcers or open sores. Infections of these open sores can become a medical emergency and require emergency surgery. Timely consultation is the patient's best chance for recovery. Prevention, with daily inspection of your feet and with regular podiatric foot checkups, is the best strategy for patients with diabetes.