Begin with a Visual Assessment
Your feet are important, but many tend to neglect them until it is too late. Instead of waiting for a condition to suddenly and unexpectedly get out of hand, take the time to slip off your shoes and socks and take a good look at your feet.
Check the heels and sides of your feet, particularly the areas near your large toes. Are they calloused, red or peeling? Are there painful or swollen areas? Remove old nail polish from your toenails, so you are able to conduct a more thorough inspection of them. Are the nail beds clear, beige and clean, or yellow and cracked? Are there ingrown nails or tender areas at the edges of the toes? All of these can be indications of a problem that needs to be addressed before the condition worsens.
Try to avoid using razors on calluses since cutting too close might risk an infection. Instead, use a pumice and a homemade salt or sugar scrub over any problem areas on heels, soles and along the sides of your feet. Cracked or peeling heels develop when pressure or weight is applied to the pad, which causes the skin to split. Moisturize daily or, even better, apply lotion or coconut oil to your feet before bedtime. The best time to smooth dry, chapped feet is after a warm bath or shower. A long soaking with a little coconut oil goes a long way. Afterward, wear socks to seal in the moisturizer while you sleep.
When trimming your nails, resist the temptation to clip at a curve along the toe since this can promote painful ingrown nails. Instead, use a nail clipper to trim in a straight line and file the edges to soften any points or jagged edges. If you have identified problem areas or soreness, they could be caused by:
- Ingrown toenails
- Poorly fitting shoes
Signs of infection include redness, swelling, and discharge. Once a toenail begins to bite into the side of the toe, it generally worsens with time. This often affects the big toe more than any of the others. If the nail is infected, it can be surgically addressed in a doctor’s office with a simple resection of the border and destruction of the affected portion of the nail. This procedure usually takes less than 15 minutes and requires local anesthesia. Individuals are usually able to return to work or school the next day.
Yellowing or discolored toenails are a common symptom of aging and do not always indicate fungus, but it is important to still have your feet examined to be certain. The American Podiatric Medical Association describes toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, as an infection beneath the nail surface. Nails might discolor or thicken over time making them difficult to trim. A simple nail clipping can be used to test for fungus. If it is a fungal condition, solutions often include laser treatment, antifungal oral and topical medications. Nail fungus is contagious and, in severe cases, can lead to toe amputation.
A bunion, or hallux valgus, is a painful bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. Bunions are caused by foot type and the way an individual walks, though they can worsen when one wears ill fitted or high heeled and narrow-toed shoes. Treatment options for bunions include wearing wider shoes, shorter heels, foot padding, anti-inflammatories for pain reduction, custom made orthotics, and surgery if all other conservative treatments fail. Most bunion cases are considered moderate and do not require casts after surgery. Those who do go through surgery are often able to wear regular shoes after 4 to 6 weeks. For severe bunions, cast immobilization may be required and recovery time is slightly longer. In all cases, this outpatient surgery can be done at a hospital, surgery center, or with minimally invasive surgery at our Kirkland office.
Get the Help You Need from a Seattle Podiatrist
If you have been experiencing foot or ankle pain and are interested in learning more about the solutions we offer, call Integrative Foot & Ankle Centers of Washington today.
Our Seattle podiatrists can help assess your current discomfort and determine whether or not a minimally invasive procedure or other non-surgical option might be the right path for you. To set up an initial appointment with us, call our office at (425) 678-3877 or fill out our contact form.