The foot is a highly complex part of the human body that has an integral role in most activities of daily living. It consists of 26 bones connected with joints, ligaments, and tendons. It is susceptible to injury due to significant stress caused by supporting the weight of the entire body when walking or running.
Types and Causes of Foot Problems
Foot problems can involve any part of the foot. They may involve the skin, tendons, ligament, heels, toes, blood vessels, and joints of the foot. The most common foot problems include:
- Heel Spurs: Heel spurs are bony outgrowths that develop under the heel. Overstretching of the plantar fascia at the bottom of the foot from excessive walking or running causes the tissue to pull at its point of attachment to the heel bone. In response to this, extra bone deposition occurs forming a heel spur.
- Corns: These are hardened buildups of skin that are present on certain parts of the toe or foot. Corns are usually formed due to wearing poor-fitting shoes that place excess stress in certain areas causing significant pain or discomfort.
- Athlete’s Foot: This is a fungal infection that occurs in the foot when your feet are exposed to wet, damp conditions as in locker rooms, swimming pools, or public showers. The symptoms include an itching, burning, and stinging sensation, foot blisters, and dry, cracked skin.
- Bunions: A bunion is a bony bulge formed at the side of the big toe causing the toe to bend towards the other toes making it difficult to walk. They are formed due to hereditary causes or poor-fitting shoes. The condition is mostly seen in women.
- Plantar Fasciitis: This condition is characterized by pain and inflammation that occurs at the bottom of the heel due to overuse injury or stress exerted on the plantar fascia, which connects the heel to the toes.
- Morton’s Neuroma: This is the abnormal thickening of nerve tissue at the base of the toes. It occurs when adjacent bones squeeze the nerve in between them. The symptoms include pain, tingling, and burning sensation in the toes.
- Hammer Toes: In this condition, the toe is curved downwards instead of outwards. It is caused due to genetic factors, poor-fitting shoes, bunions, and arthritis. The symptoms include difficulty in walking, inflammation, and pain.
- Plantar Warts: The condition is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection on the bottom of your feet when exposed to wet conditions. The warts cause difficulty walking and cracking of skin and wounds in the heels.
- Achilles tendon injury: This is an injury or inflammation of the Achilles tendon caused due to overuse of the calf muscle-tendon at the back of the foot from sports or repetitive activity.
- Stone bruise: This condition is also known as metatarsalgia. It mainly affects the ball of the foot and is caused due to poorly fitting footwear, overuse injury, and excess stress on the area. The symptoms include a tingling sensation, sharp pain and numbness, and the sensation of a stone in your shoe while walking.
- Diabetic neuropathy: This condition is caused by damage to the nerves supplying the feet due to uncontrolled high blood sugar levels. The symptoms include a pins and needles sensation, loss of sensation, and difficulty walking.
Diagnosis of Foot Problems
You should see your doctor for a foot problem that does not get better despite rest and avoiding activities that aggravate your symptoms. A diagnosis will be made based on your symptoms and physical examination. If necessary, imaging studies such as X-rays, MRI, and CT may also be ordered.
Treatment for Foot Problems
Treatment for foot problems depends on the specific diagnosis and can vary from changing footwear, use of orthotics or assistive devices, medication to alleviate symptoms, and physical therapy. Only if these conservative measures fail to resolve the foot problems, will surgery be considered as a treatment option.