Common Foot Problems

Ingrown nails

What are ingrown nails?

Ingrown nails, the most common toenail problem, occur when the nail borders curve into the soft tissue of nail grooves. Ingrown nails cause pressure and pain along the nail borders. The edge of the nail may cut into the skin, causing redness, swelling, pain, drainage and infection.

What causes ingrown nails?

Ingrown toenails are most commonly caused by shoe pressure. Ingrown toenails are also caused by:

How can I prevent ingrown nails?
How can ingrown nails be treated?

Following the preventive steps above can help you avoid the need for treatment. To relieve discomfort from ingrown toenails, soak your foot in a solution of lukewarm water and salt or lukewarm soapy water, then apply an antiseptic and put a bandage on the area.

If self-care measures are unsuccessful or if you have a nail infection, you may need a doctor's care. Ingrown nails may be corrected with surgery by removing part of the toenail and growth plate. Continuing to care for your nails properly and wearing well-fitting footwear can help you prevent ingrown nails from returning.

Mycotic nails

What are mycotic nails?

Mycotic nails are nails that become infected with a fungus. The nail may be discolored (yellowish-brown or opaque), thick, brittle, and separated from the nail bed. In some cases, the nail may crumble.

What causes mycotic nails?
How can mycotic nails be prevented?
How can mycotic nails be treated?

If you notice an infected nail, do not try to remove any part of it. Also avoid over-the-counter medications unless they are prescribed by your health care provider.

Fungal nail infections are difficult to treat. Topical medications (applied to the nail directly) are available, but they only help a small number of fungal nail problems. Oral medications may be prescribed instead, including griseofulvin (Fulvicin®), terbinafine (Lamisil®), and itraconazole (Sporanox®).

Other treatment methods include periodic removal of the damaged nail tissue and preventive management techniques.

Corns

What are corns?

Corns are a build-up of callus tissue (hard skin) near a bony prominence (bulge) of a toe or between toes.

What causes corns?

Corns may be the result of pressure from shoes, which rubs against the toes or causes friction between the toes.

How can corns be prevented?
How can corns be treated?

If you have a corn, do not try to cut it or remove it with a sharp object. Instead, soak your feet first in lukewarm, soapy water and then use a pumice stone to gently remove the build-up of tissue. Do not use over-the-counter remedies to dissolve corns.

Corns may be treated by wearing shoes with increased height or width in the toe area and using cushioned pads and insoles. Medications may also be prescribed to treat corns.

When other treatments have not been successful, surgery may be recommended.

Corrective surgery involves removing internal pressure by removing a piece of the bone or changing the position of the bone so corns do not form.

Calluses

What are calluses?

Calluses are a build-up of hard skin, generally beneath weight bearing bony surfaces. Calluses generally occur on the surface under the foot.

Note: Some degree of callus formation on the sole of the foot is normal.

What causes calluses?

Calluses are caused by an uneven distribution of weight, generally on the bottom of the forefoot or heel. Calluses can also be caused by improperly-fitting shoes or a skin abnormality.

How can calluses be prevented?
How can calluses be treated?

If you have a callus, do not try to cut it or remove it with a sharp object. Instead, soak your feet first in lukewarm, soapy water and then use a pumice stone to gently remove the build-up of tissue. Use cushioned pads and insoles. Medications may also be prescribed to soften calluses.

When other treatments have not been successful, surgery may be recommended. Corrective surgery involves removing internal pressure by removing a piece of the bone or changing the position of the bone so that calluses do not form.

Blisters

What is a blister?

A blister is a shell on the skin surface that often contains a clear liquid. Blisters can become infected.

What causes blisters?

Blisters can form when the skin is repeatedly rubbed; for instance, when your shoes keep rubbing the same spot on your foot, when you wear shoes that don't fit properly, or when you wear shoes without socks.

How can blisters be prevented?
How can blisters be treated?

Plantar warts

What are plantar warts?

Plantar warts look like calluses on the ball of the foot or heel. They may appear to have small pin holes or tiny black spots in the center. They are usually painful and may develop one at a time or in clusters.

What causes plantar warts?

Plantar warts are caused by a viral skin infection that occurs on the outer layer of skin on the soles of the feet.

How can plantar warts be prevented?
How can plantar warts be treated?

Do not use over-the-counter medications to dissolve the wart. If you are not sure if you have a plantar wart or a callus, let your doctor decide.

Plantar warts are difficult to treat with a 100 percent cure rate, since warts generally have an average lifespan of about 18 months, depending on the infecting virus. There is no vaccine to prevent plantar.

In a doctor's office, topical medications and pads are often used to soften the thickened skin and relieve some discomfort. Freezing the plantar wart with liquid nitrogen is another form of treatment. Surgery may also be considered when other treatment methods are not successful.

When to see your doctor

If you have continuing foot pain, redness or swelling, it is important to visit your doctor. Self-diagnosis and treatment with over-the-counter remedies or "bathroom surgery" may delay treatment and cause more problems. Some foot problems are inherited or could be the sign of another health condition.

References

 

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit www.clevelandclinic.org/health/ or www.clevelandclinicflorida.org. This document was last reviewed on:

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