Most of us don’t pay much attention to our feet unless we have a sprain or sore that demands attention – or we step barefoot on one of our kids’ Legos. As a podiatrist with Lakeshore Health Partners–Foot & Ankle, however, Ritu Mathur, DPM, has a lot to say about your feet … and what they about you!
“Your feet mirror your general health,” she says. “Foot ailments can be the first sign of more serious medical problems like arthritis, diabetes and nerve and circulatory disorders, so it’s important to consult your physician if you think you have a problem.”
Fortunately, many foot and ankle problems are more mundane … that is, until it’s you who is suffering from them! Dr. Mathur offers answers to some common foot-related questions.
Q. What’s the word on ingrown toenails? I try to keep my nails trimmed but one or two keep getting ingrown anyway.
A. An ingrown nail occurs when the nail grows into the surrounding skin. Common causes are improper cutting and too-tight shoes, but they can also be due to inherited deformities, injury and fungal infection. The first sign of an ingrown toenail is that the skin around the nail becomes inflamed. Untreated, the nail can go under the skin. If it becomes infected, treatment by a doctor is needed.
Tip: The easiest prevention is to trim nails straight across and leave them slightly longer than the tips of toes. If the ingrown nail keeps recurring despite good foot care, your doctor may recommend narrowing the nail with a surgical procedure.
Q. I have a wart on the bottom of my foot that I was hoping would go away by itself, but instead it’s getting more painful. Help!
A. Plantar refers to the sole of the foot, so what you have is a plantar wart. Like all warts, they are caused by a virus (and so are contagious) – but the constant pressure from being walked on makes them grow inward, causing them to be more painful. Often the part under the skin is twice as big as what you see on the surface.
Tip: Warts generally go away by themselves within a few years; however, podiatrists often recommend having plantar warts removed because they are painful. Treatments include multiple applications of a mild acid solution, laser treatment, cryotherapy (freezing), and surgical removal. (Over-the-counter remedies are not recommended for plantar warts.)
Q. My grandmother has bunions and, much as I love her, I don’t want to end up in her shoes. How can I stay bunion-free?
A. A bunion is an enlarged bone on the side of the big toe. The condition is hereditary (sorry!), and fashions such as high heels and pointy-toed shoes can add to the problem.
Tip: The good news is that even though you might be predisposed to developing bunions, early use of custom-fitted orthotics (orthopedic shoe inserts) may help slow or prevent the progression of the condition. In cases of bunions that have progressed to the point of causing severe discomfort, surgical removal may be required.
Q. I have an open sore on my foot that doesn’t seem to heal. What should I do?
A. What you have may be a foot ulcer, which can result from a lack of blood supply to the foot due to poor circulation. Diabetes is a common cause of foot ulcers, and severe infection is a real danger. If you suspect you have one, see your doctor or podiatrist immediately.
Tip: People with diabetes can help prevent foot ulcers by practicing good foot care. Keep your feet clean and dry, check them daily for cracks or sores, and wear well-fitting shoes. Good control of blood sugar levels is also important. See your doctor regularly.
For more information, contact Dr. Mathur, Lakeshore Health Partners–Foot & Ankle Specialist, at (616) 399-1369.