With its intricate system of bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, the foot is one of the most complex human body parts. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the foot is susceptible to a number of different injuries, infections, and other unpleasant or even painful conditions. Many people suffer from a foot problem at some stage in their lives. The most common foot problems include bunions, corns, plantar fasciitis, plantar warts, and athlete’s foot.
Bunions are a painful foot problem which, unfortunately, affects many people. Essentially, a bunion is a bony bump which forms on the lower joint of the big toe. Often the result of too-tight shoes, bunions push on the rest of the toes, making standing and walking uncomfortable. The pain of mild bunions may be eased simply by wearing properly fitting shoes or using cushioned shoe inserts. Severe bunions, however, may require surgical correction.
Corns, or hard patches of skin which occur on the toes, are another common foot problem. As with bunions, corns frequently affect those who wear ill-fitting shoes. When the affected foot is inserted into a shoe, the toes can exert pressure on the corn, resulting in pain. Protective corn pads and salicylic corn solutions are available over the counter, and these treatments may be sufficient to treat the condition. If over-the-counter options prove ineffective, a doctor can resolve the condition by prescribing antibiotics or trimming the hardened skin.
Another frequently occurring foot problem is plantar fasciitis, or the inflammation of the tissue which links the toes to the heel. This inflammation may be caused by repeated impact to the heel, as happens during running, or by excess pressure to the heel area, which may occur in overweight individuals. Those with plantar fasciitis usually experience sharp heel pains during walking or running. The condition may be successfully treated with over-the-counter painkillers or may require therapeutic or surgical intervention.
Plantar warts, or small, painful growths on the bottoms of the feet and toes, are another frequently experienced foot problem. These growths are caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV. This virus is contagious, and plantar warts are often contracted in damp areas that make frequent contact with bare feet, such as locker rooms. Over time, a plantar wart will usually disappear without treatment. Those who wish to immediately eliminate a wart should consult a physician, who may surgically remove it or “freeze” it with liquid nitrogen.
Finally, athlete’s foot is an uncomfortable foot problem caused by a fungal infection. The growth of this fungus on the foot usually leads to itching, burning, and cracked skin. Like plantar warts, athlete’s foot is contagious, and the fungus which causes it flourishes on warm, damp surfaces. Often, athlete’s foot can be eliminated through the use of an over-the-counter anti-fungal treatment. If the condition persists, a physician may prescribe a stronger topical anti-fungal treatment or an oral medication.