Caring for ingrowing toe nails and more

What can occur on your feet?

There are a number of skin conditions that can affect your feet

  • Calluses (hyperkeratosis)
  • Corns (heloma durum)
  • Plantar warts (verrucae pedis)
  • Cracked heels (fissured hyperkeratosis)
  • Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)

What are calluses?

Ingrown toe nails in RydeCalluses also known as hyperkeratosis are areas of hard skin that develop as a result of  increased pressure, rubbing or friction around the foot. Calluses form to protect skin and underlying anatomy from this excessive pressure or friction

Calluses may present as a burning sensation under the ball and heel of the foot. If the pressure or friction is not addressed, the hard skin will continue to develop and create greater pressure on the small underlying nerves and blood vessels.

What are corns?

Corns are also commonly known as hard corns (heloma durum), soft corns (heloma molle),seed corns (heloma milliare) form as hard skin.  Corns commonly present as feeling like a small pebble, splinter or a shard of glass within the foot or on a toe.

What are plantar warts?

Plantar warts (verrucae pedis) are skin lesions caused by a virus (human papiloma virsus) which generally invades the skin through small or invisible cuts and abrasions.

These lesions are often painless and are regularly mistaken for corns or calluses, which are thick layers of cauliflower like skin that builds up to protect an area that is being irritated continuously. These lesions, however, can become painful  if they present on boney prominent areas such as the heels or balls of the feet.

Plantar warts are often grey or brown with a centre that appears to be black.

Plantar warts are often contracted by walking barefoot on infected surfaces, in warm, moist environments or also by being in direct contact with highly contagious surfaces  such as beauty nail salons, swimming pools or communal day spas.

If left untreated, warts can grow in size and multiply, spreading into clusters over several areas and can be transferred to other parts of the body.

What causes heel cracking?

Cracked heels are splits in the skin of the heel. The cracks form due to excessively dry skin, anhydrosis or callus which has lost its elasticity. This callus, if left untreated, can become deep raw or bleeding with painful cracks.

Cracked heels can develop from excessive pressure, due to structural problems or mal-alignments of the feet and the lower limbs such as excessive pronation or flat feet.  Other causes of dry skin may be due to diabetes, vascular disease, neuropathic conditions or certain medications such as Warfarin.

Commonly, however, people develop dry heels due to footwear such as open heel/back shoes, sandals, thongs or sling-back high heels.

What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a common fungal infection that appears on the soles of the feet and, commonly, in between the toes. Athlete’s foot can appear as red, itchy, flaking, peeling and or cracked skin.

This fungus is commonly found in warm moist areas such as communal showers, change rooms, swimming pools, nail salons or day spas and is highly contagious on contact.

What can go wrong with your toenails?

There are a number of problems that can occur with toenails:

  • Ingrown toenails (onychocryptosis)
  • Fungal nail (onychomycosis)
  • Thickened brittle toenails (onychochauxis or onychogryphosis)

What is an ingrown toenail?

Ingrown toe nailsAn ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) is often a painful nail condition when a sliver/spike of nail grows into and punctures the side of the nail bed (paronychia).

This condition is often painful and can result in infection, which can cause redness,swelling, bleeding and pus.

Ingrown toenails can occur due to multiple causes such as trauma, picking or ripping, neglect, poor cutting technique or abnormal nail shape whereby the nail curls down the side.

What is a fungal nail?

Fungal infections of the nails or onychomycosis presents as thick, brittle and or yellow, brown, black in appearance and/or crumbling toenails.

Fungal nails can be caused by many things such as direct contact with footwear, ageing with poor health and circulation, history of trauma, immunosuppression (such as HIV, or MS), communal bathing and beauty nail salons that do not sterilise instruments between clients.

Initially the nails cause no pain or discomfort, however, as the nail distorts and thickens the pressure from footwear causes bruising and ulcers in the nail bed.

What causes the thick and brittle toenail?

The most common causes of thickening is the growth of fungus, trauma to the root of the nail and skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Although a thickened nail may appear very similar to fungal or yeast infections, a pathology test may be required for a diagnosis.

There are a number of topical ointments on the market for affected nails, however, having the nails extensively reduced, drilled and burred followed by an appropriate management plan can be effective.

Does arthritis affect your feet?

Arthritis can result in foot deformities such as, enlarged swollen joints or toes becoming crooked and causing problems when walking in shoes.

Pain associated with arthritic changes in the feet will vary with the type and duration of the condition. The pain may be acute as in the initial stages of gout with the affected joints becoming inflamed and swollen.

It is important to recognise that arthritis can affect other areas of the body, which results in poor posture and restricted movements.

With arthritis, it is sometimes difficult to reach the feet in order to maintain them. Foot health plays an important role in allowing feet to operate correctly.

What are chilblains?

Chilblains are usually the result of an abnormal vascular reaction to the cold.

Chilblains can occur at any age and symptoms usually include itchiness, redness and swelling. In some cases the reaction can be more intense, causing breaks in the skin or ulceration.

If you have difficulty in maintaining warmth in your feet during the colder months, try to wear warm socks to bed or slippers around the house. Sudden changes in temperature should be avoided, like taking hot baths as well as standing on excessively cold surfaces.

Frequent exercise will also help prevent the feet from getting cold. For any broken chilblains apply a dressing over the area and visit Eastwood Podiatry Clinic as soon as possible.