Posts for category: Foot Condition
When most people think about foot deformities they most often think about bunions; however, hammertoes are just as common. This unassuming deformity comes about gradually, so you may not even notice it until it’s too late. “What is a hammertoe?” You might be wondering. A hammertoe affects the middle joint of a toe (often the smaller toes), causing the toe to bend downward. In severe cases, a hammertoe will look almost claw-like.
There are two kinds of hammertoes: flexible and rigid. As you might imagine, a flexible hammertoe is one in which you can still straighten the toe out. If you aren’t able to straighten the affected toe then this is a rigid hammertoe. A flexible hammertoe isn’t as serious as a rigid one; however, it’s important that you take care of your hammertoe to make sure that it doesn’t get worse.
While there is no way to cure a hammertoe there are simple measures you can take to prevent it from progressing. First and foremost, you need to take a look at the shoes you are wearing and make sure that they aren’t too tight. When you slip your feet into your shoes, does it cause your toes to bunch up against one another? If so then this could make your hammertoe worse.
Instead, opt for shoes with an ample toe box, which will allow your toes to wiggle and move around freely. If you have a structural imbalance within the foot this can leave you prone to foot problems such as hammertoes and bunions. To correct this imbalance, talk to your foot doctor about getting custom orthotics (shoe inserts), which can be placed into your shoes to help provide cushioning, support, and shock absorption for your feet.
If pain or stiffness does rear its ugly head you can choose to take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen, which can tackle both pain and inflammation in one fell swoop, or you can place a towel-wrapped ice pack (never put ice directly on the skin, as it can cause severe burns) over the area for several minutes.
Just as you can buy pads to cover a bunion or callus, you can also buy a non-medicated protective pad to cover over a hammertoe. Since the deformed toe joint juts out this can leave the toe prone to calluses, which can cause pain when wearing shoes. To prevent a callus from forming, you can apply a protective pad over the deformed toe joint before putting on shoes.
Of course, if you are dealing with significant or frequent pain, or if the hammertoe is rigid, then you will want to turn to a podiatric specialist. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the disfigured joint.
Maybe you've heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition in the wrist that occurs when swelling or a change in position of the tissue within the carpal tunnel squeezes and irritates the median nerve. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome is tarsal tunnel syndrome, an ankle condition that occurs from the compression of a nerve in a confined space.
What is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome?
The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space located on the inside of the ankle next to the ankle bones. Protected by the tarsal tunnel are many arteries, veins, tendons and nerves, one of which is the posterior tibial nerve - the main focus of tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused from a compression on the posterior tibial nerve. Causes include:
- Injury to the ankle, which may produce swelling near the nerve.
- Abnormal blood vessels or cysts that occupy space within the tunnel.
- Scar tissue that press against the nerve.
- Foot deformities, such as flat feet, which increase strain on the nerve.
- Systematic diseases, such as diabetes or arthritis.
When patients visit us at our office with tarsal tunnel syndrome, they often experience one or more symptoms, usually felt on the bottom of the foot or the inside of the ankle. In some cases, the pain may extend to the heel, arch, toes and calf. Symptoms include:
- Burning or tingling sensation
We Can Help
If you experience pain, burning and tingling in your feet or toes, make an appointment with our office. Left untreated, tarsal tunnel syndrome could result in permanent nerve damage. Treatment for tarsal tunnel syndrome varies depending on the severity of your condition. Anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, immobilization, rest and modifications in footwear are a few methods used to treat the damaged nerve and reduce the pain. When non-surgical treatments are unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended.
Plantar warts are benign growths that develop on the bottom of your feet, and are caused by direct contact with the human papilloma virus (HPV). This is the same virus that causes warts on other areas of the body. Some people are more susceptible than others to HPV, and not everyone will develop plantar warts if they come into contact with the virus. Individuals with weak immune systems or damaged skin on the feet are at a higher risk for plantar warts.
Plantar warts most often develop on the weight-bearing areas of the foot - the heel or the ball of the foot - causing sharp, burning pain. They can appear as a single wart (solitary) or a cluster of warts (mosaic). Common symptoms may include:
- Pain or discomfort when walking or standing
- Thick, scaly skin that often resembles a callus
- Hard, flat growths with well-defined boundaries
- Tiny black specks (clotted blood vessels) that often appear on the surface of the wart
Most warts disappear with home care and do not require medical treatment. You can take steps to prevent and treat plantar warts, which include:
- Changing your shoes and socks daily
- Keeping your feet clean and dry
- Avoid picking at warts as the virus may spread
- Avoid direct contact with an individual who has plantar warts
- Checking your child's feet periodically
- Refrain from walking barefoot, especially in public areas like showers, swimming pools and locker rooms
- Never ignore skin growths or changes in your skin
You should always seek care from a podiatrist when warts interfere with your daily life, aren't responding to home treatments, or if you have circulatory disorders. Contact us if your warts:
- Change color or shape
- Cause unbearable pain and discomfort
- Interfere with activities
- Multiply or reappear
Without treatment, plantar warts can grow, spread and prompt new warts to grow as fast as the old ones disappear. If you can't confidently identify a growth on your foot, visit your podiatrist to ensure a correct diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can decrease the risk of the wart spreading and multiplying.
Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the long, dense band of connective tissue (the plantar fascia) that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot.
Repeated strain on the plantar fascia can cause tiny tears in the ligament. As tension and tearing increases, so does inflammation and irritation of the affected area. Risk factors of plantar fasciitis include foot arch problems (flat foot and high arches); excess weight; running; and a tight Achilles tendon.
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is gradually developing pain on the bottom of the heel. The pain is usually worst in the morning and after sitting or standing for a long period of time. For some, the pain subsides after walking or stretching.
To reduce pain associated with plantar fasciitis:
- Rest. Limit and/or avoid activities that make your heel hurt.
- Ice. Reduce pain and swelling by icing the affected area each day.
- Stretch. Stretch your heel throughout the day, especially when you first wake up in the morning.
- Footwear modifications. Wear shoes that provide good arch support and a cushioned sole. Ask your podiatrist about pads and shoe inserts to relieve your heel pain.
When conservative treatments aren't effective, or your pain persists for more than a few weeks, schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options. A podiatrist can recommend an appropriate treatment plan for your individual needs. This may include stretching exercises, shoe padding, orthotic devices, night splints or therapy. Most patients respond to non-surgical treatments, but for pain that won't go away, surgery may be required.
With proper rest and treatment, recovering from plantar fasciitis can take just a few months. Visit us when you first experience pain for a diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan for your individual needs.
A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue that can develop in various parts of your body. In the foot, the most common occurring neuroma develops at the base of the third and fourth toes. This condition is referred to as Morton's neuroma.
There are typically no physical signs of Morton's neuroma, such as a lump or a knot. Instead, symptoms may include:
- A sharp, achy or burning pain in the ball of your foot
- Numbness, tingling, or cramping in the toes or forefoot
- Feeling as if you're standing on a pebble in your shoe
While the exact cause of Morton's neuroma is unknown, the growth of the neuroma seems to occur in response to injury, pressure or irritation to one of the nerves that lead to the toes. People with foot deformities such as bunions, hammertoes and flat feet are at higher risk for developing a neuroma. Women are also more likely to develop this condition, as wearing high-heels or narrow-toed shoes can increase pressure on the toes. Other potential causes are activities that involve repetitive irritation to the ball of the foot, such as running.
Morton's neuroma can make walking and performing normal activities difficult and painful. Treatment options vary with severity, and identifying the neuroma in its earliest stage of development is important to avoid more invasive treatments or surgical correction. Left untreated, neuromas tend to worsen, so it's always best to visit our office at the first sign of pain.
Early treatments aim to relieve or reduce pressure on the area around the affected toes. Depending on the severity of your neuroma, a podiatrist may recommend:
- Modifications to footwear. Wide-toed shoes relieve pressure on the neuroma.
- Shoe inserts or padding to provide support for the arch of the foot, which removes pressure from the nerve.
- Anti-inflammatory medications can help ease any pain and inflammation. Ask your doctor first.
- Icing to reduce inflammation.
- Rest to lessen repetitive pressure on the neuroma.
In the most severe cases, surgery may be recommended for patients who do not respond to conservative treatments. We can help you determine the best approach for your specific condition.