Seven summer foot problems a podiatrist can sort

From athlete’s foot to corns, fungal nails and ingrown toenails, AA Podiatry explains how specialist treatment can fix those troublesome feet once and for all.

Summer is here!  But, this might not be great news if you live in dread at the thought of having to get your feet out.  Whether your feet are in need of a little TLC and pampering, or a trouble foot condition is causing your bother, there’s no need to hide your toes from the sun.

Foot conditions may be embarrassing, but they are very common and effective treatments are available.   Leading podiatrist and founder of AA Podiatry, June Harrowell, talks us through some of the most common foot issues she regularly treats:

1. Ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails occur when the nail curls and pierces the skin which becomes red, swollen and tender.   It often develops when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin.  The big toe is often affected either on one or both sides. 

An ingrown toenail may be painful and disruptive, but it can be the cause of further implication during summer.  Being red and swollen, an ingrown toenail may prevent you from confidently wearing sandals.  In more severe scenarios, exposing the affected toenail to communal pool areas that are festered with bacteria may also cause your ingrown toenail to become infected.

AA Podiatrists recommend seeing a specialist early on.   Our experienced podiatrists can perform nail surgery quickly and painlessly, effectively treating your ingrown toenail.  Nail surgery healing time may take up to 6 to 12 weeks, so make sure you plan ahead of your summer holiday.

Read more: Ingrown toenail surgery walk-through

2. Bunions

Bunions are one of the most common forefoot deformities.  Even celebrities like Victoria Beckham get them, and they can be very painful.

What is a bunion?

A bunion (or hallux valgus) is a change to the bone structure at the base of the big toe.  It’s an enlargement of the joint and a change in the direct where the big toe points (towards the second toe.)  This leads to an increase in the size of the joint and often the overlying ‘bursa’.  This is a fluid-filled sac between the joint and the skin which may appear red and swollen.  It is the body’s way of protecting the joint.

Managing any bunion-related pain is a key part of a podiatrist’s role when treating bunions.  The first thing an experienced podiatrist will do is to ensure there is adequate room in any footwear.  In some circumstances foot orthotics can help – these are tailor-made insoles providing padding and arch support that are made by an MSK specialist.

However, in many cases surgery to correct the bunion might be needed.  If bunions are causing you problems, see an AA Podiatrist to discuss referrals.

3. Fungal nail infections

Crusty, thickened yellow toenails are a telltale sign of a fungal nail infection.  It’s important to get them checked out and treated quickly as the infection can spread and be notoriously stubborn.  Fungal nails cause dramatic visual changes which can be unsightly; they make the nail change colour, thicken and break more easily.

Fungal nail infections can also cause more pressure on the end of the toe and become painful.  Apart from the visual changes, as the fungal infection progresses nails may also produce a very distinct odour.  The good news is that fungal nail infections are treatable – although more severe infection may take a while to disappear completely.

There are a variety of treatments, but success depends upon an appropriate and robust treatment plan.  Medication needs to act on the affected areas – which can be difficult with topical preparations.  A podiatrist may thin down a fungal nail or introduce very small holes into the nail and apply the anti-fungal medication.

4. Corns and calluses

Perhaps the most common reason that people seek treatment from a podiatrist is to deal with calluses or corns as they can be very painful and make walking difficult.

Pressure plays a big part in the formation of calluses and corns.  These usually look like very hard, raised area of skin.  Intermittent compressive forces (from walking or exercising) cause the skin to produce callosities and thicken.  This layer can at first be protective and an advantage to the foot.  However, these callosities can very quickly become painful if they worsen.

A corn is a small, usually conical, structure that forms from pressure.  It’s formed within the skin, it’s very hard and can cause a lot of pain.  Common locations for corns are the tops of toes or near the ball of the foot.  An AA Podiatrist can remove a corn in a painless procedure and often prevent them from returning by using orthotics or advising footwear changes.

5. Athlete’s foot

Itchy, sore and easy to catch, athlete’s foot is relatively common – especially amongst gym and pool goers.  It’s a fungal infection of the skin that is usually seen between the toes or on the sole of the foot.  Athlete’s foot can be very uncomfortable at its worst or mildly itchy at its least severe.  It often causes skin to flake, peel or even split. 

Itching the skin increases the likelihood of the skin splitting, which in turn can lead to a secondary infection.  Split skin can also be very painful to walk on.

Gavin explains that the infection is caused by dermatophytes; fungi that thrive in the dark, wet conditions we place our feet in every day.  The environment inside of shoes is dark, warm and moist.  This is the perfect place for a fungal infection to thrive.

Luckily, treatment is quite effective.  Topical preparations (creams and ointments) are usually very successful under the advice of a podiatrist.  Ensuring your socks and shoes are changed frequently can also reduce the risk of the infection returning.

6. Verrucas

Verrucae, or verrucas, are a common complaint among children and adults.  Harrowell explains that a verruca is a small benign skin lesion (usually 1cm in diameter) commonly found on the bottom of the foot.

Over-tithe-counter treatments work, but due to the nature of the virus, some outbreaks can be very stubborn.  If you’re suffering from a persistent or returning verruca, an AA Podiatrist can offer additional treatments – such as caustics, needling, or microwave treatments to help you get them under control.

7. Foot odour

Foot odour is often linked to excessive sweating which creates an environment where bacteria can thrive.  There are a number of causes for sweating which are related to materials in hosiery or shoes, activities, or even a systematic cause.

Read more: How to treat sweaty feet

If overpowering foot odours is becoming a problem, a podiatrist can advise you on the best course of action to reduce the bacterial load and manage sweating.  This may include a simple change in sock materials, footwear changes or orthotics.  More severe cases may require anti-bacterial medication.

Feet can often be a source of embarrassment, but if you’re suffering with any of the above issues, you don’t have to spend all summer stuck in trainers or closed-toe shoes.

A qualified podiatrist will be able to help resolve your foot issues so you can free your feet for summer.

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