Dictionary of Common Foot Ailments

•    Athlete’s Foot.  A skin disease caused by a fungus and characterized by dry, itchy, flaky skin.  Prevent athlete’s foot by washing the feet regularly and wearing sandals in public showers.

•    Bunions.  A hereditary condition characterized by a bump protruding from the big toe’s metatarsal bone on the side of the foot.  Bunions can be treated by purchasing footwear that accommodates the deformity, or through surgery.

•    Calluses and Corns.  Patches of thick, dry, hard skin that form as the foot attempts to protect itself from above average pressure or friction.  Corns can be distinguished from calluses by their hard centers surrounded by soft, irritated flesh.  Calluses and corns are symptoms of ill-fitting shoes, or wear and tear on the feet.  They can be treated by soaking the feat, moisturizing the feet, exfoliation (using an instrument such as a pumice stone), or by a doctor.  

•    Cavus Foot.  Cavus Foot is characterized by high arches.  It may be caused by a neurological disorder, and it often results in secondary foot deformities such as hammertoe and claw toe.  Pain and instability are common complaints of people with Cavus Foot.  The condition is treated using orthotics, orthopedic footwear and sometimes with surgery.  

•    Claw Toe.  A condition where the toes are permanently curled, like in a clenched fist.  Claw toe is usually the result of ill-fitting shoes.  

•    Fungal Toenail.  Fungal infections in the nails are usually acquired in public swimming pools or locker rooms.  Treat fungal nails with oral or tropical anti-fungal medication.

•    Hallux Valgas.  A foot deformity that results in the big toe angling towards the little toe so that it loses its proper alignment.  Hallux Valgas is associated with bunions.  

•    Hammertoe.  A foot deformity where the second joint of the second, third or fourth toe remains in a permanently bent position (like a hammer).  Hammertoe is usually caused by ill-fitting shoes and may be uncorrectable without surgery.  

•    Ingrown Toenail.  Nails that dig into the skin are known as ingrown toenails.  They can cause infection and sometimes need to be removed by a doctor.  Prevent ingrown toenails by trimming straight across the nail and by avoiding shoes that are too tight.   

•    Plantar Fasciitis.  The stretching or tearing of the plantar fascia, which supports the arch of the foot.  Treat plantar Fasciitis with heel pads, splinting and physical therapy.  Sometimes shock wave treatments are used as an alternative to surgery.

•    Ulcer.  An open wound on the foot.  Foot Ulcers are especially common and especially dangerous among people with diabetes and lymphedema.  They must be treated aggressively to ensure infection does not spread.