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Most foot problems easily treated

Many foot problems can be prevented or easily treated.

Disease, poor circulation, improper footwear and age can all cause foot problems, but there are many things you can do to keep your feet healthy.

Not enough blood in your toes

In many cases, improving circulation can help feet feel better right away. Blood flow to the feet can be reduced by exposure to cold or water, tight shoes, sitting for a long time or smoking.

According to Health in Aging and other experts, you can improve circulation by standing, walking, exercising or quitting smoking, or with massage and footbaths.

Avoid cruel shoes

Comfortable, well-fitting shoes also prevent many foot ailments. Foot width may increase with age, so feet should always be measured before buying shoes.

Shoe uppers should be made of soft, flexible material to reduce the chance of skin irritation. Shoes should also have good traction, thick soles for better comfort, and low heels for both comfort and safety.

Common foot problems

Fungal and bacterial conditions occur when feet are in a dark, damp, warm environment. These infections can cause redness, blisters, peeling and itching. Delaying treatment can lead to a chronic problem. To prevent foot fungus and bacteria, keep your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes. If you're prone to fungal infections, dust your feet with fungicidal powder regularly.

Dry skin can cause itching, burning feet. Use lotion on your legs and feet every day if you have dry skin (be careful when you stand, if you have hard floors). Lanolin or a lotion with petroleum jelly work best. Wash with a mild soap.

Corns and calluses are caused by friction and pressure when the foot's bony areas rub against shoes. A podiatrist or other doctor can recommend treatment, which may include different shoes or special pads. Over-the-counter medicines treat only the symptoms, not the underlying problem. They may sometimes reduce the need for surgery, but treating corns or calluses yourself can be harmful, especially if you have diabetes or poor circulation.

Warts are skin growths caused by viruses. They can be painful and may spread if left untreated. Warts require professional care as over-the-counter remedies rarely work. Warts can be medicated, burned or frozen off, or removed surgically.

Bunions develop when joints in the big toe are out of line and become swollen and tender. They may be caused by poor-fitting shoes that press on a deformity or by an inherited weakness in the foot. If a bunion is not severe, shoes cut wide through the instep and toes may provide relief. Protective pads may also help to cushion the area. Bunion treatments include applications or injections of medications, whirlpool baths and sometimes surgery.

Ingrown toenails occur when a piece of nail cuts into the skin. They are especially common in the big toe and are generally caused by improperly trimmed toenails. Toenails should be cut straight across at the top. A doctor or podiatrist can remove an ingrown toenail.

Hammertoe is caused by a shortening of the tendons that control toe movement. The toe knuckle usually becomes enlarged, drawing the toe back. Eventually the joint enlarges and stiffens, possibly affecting balance. Wearing shoes and socks that provide plenty of toe room is recommended in the treatment of hammertoe. In advanced cases, however, surgery may be needed.

Spurs are calcium growths that develop on the foot bones and are caused by muscle strain. They are irritated by long periods of standing, badly fitting shoes and being overweight. They range from painless to severely painful. A foot-care specialist may recommend treatments including heel pads or heel cups to better support the foot.

Check your feet regularly for signs of foot problems, and report anything unusual to your doctor.

Reviewed 9/26/2022

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