Feet Problems – From Corns to Bunions
Corns, calluses and warts
Corns and calluses refer to hardened thick skin that develops due to constant pressure or friction (rubbing).
Corns on the feet usually occur due to ill-fitting shoes. Tight-fitting shoes result in the toes pressing one another while loose shoes cause friction (rubbing) to the feet. Corns are usually small, sharply demarcated and raised yellowish-gray lesions, which have a central core. Corns can be quite painful because they may press on the nerve endings.
Calluses can occur anywhere on the body but they usually appear over the joints and weight-bearing areas, especially skin areas which are subject to repeated pressure, e.g. palms of the hands and the sides and soles of the feet. Calluses are generally not painful.
Warts (also known as verrucae) are rough growths on the skin or mucous membrane caused by viral infection. Most warts are usually painless. However, plantar warts, which occur on the sole because of pressure on the foot, can be painful if left untreated. Unlike corns or calluses, warts are contagious.
Generally, corn, callus or wart removal products contain salicylic acid, which is used to soften the outer layer of the skin to get it to shed off. These products are available in liquid form or medicated plasters which can be obtained from pharmacies as over-the-counter products.
However, self-treatment for corns and calluses is not advisable if you are:
- Having peripheral circulatory disease (poor blood circulation)
- Having corns/calluses with abnormal discharge or bleeding
- Having history of rheumatoid arthritis
- Having severe painful corns and calluses
Bunion is a foot condition in which the bone or some tissues are enlarged at the big toe. The most common cause of bunions is the big toe angling in towards the other toes, a condition called hallux valgus. The resulting firm bump may become painful, swollen and tender. Bunions are more common in women, and the cause is usually the wearing of tight-fitting shoes which have a narrow toe box (the area in the front which provides protection for the toes).
The main treatment for bunions is choosing a pair of well-fitting shoes and the use of foot products (e.g. bunion splints which prevent the toe from bending in). Protective padding can be used to decrease inflammation and discomfort around the bunion area. However, protective padding should not be used on bunions when the skin is broken or blistered.
If the discomfort of the bunions persists after 2 to 3 weeks of implementing self-care measures, you should consult a podiatrist or orthopedist about the problem.
Hammertoe is a deformity of the toe joints, caused by frequent wearing of short, narrow shoes that are too tight. Hammertoe forces the middle joint of the toe to bend downward, with toes appearing raised near the foot.
Hammertoe is quite common in children who continue to wear shoes they have outgrown or women who wear extremely high-heeled shoes. Well-fitted footwear with the correct amount of space in the toe box and shoe supports may offer relief while surgery may be required for more severe conditions.
Some tips on selecting the right pair of shoes
Get a pair of shoes in the proper size in which you feel comfortable (make sure that toes do not feel cramped in the toe box and the shoe is not too rigid). The toe box should be wide enough to allow your toes to wiggle.
- Base shoe length on the longest toe of your longer foot and make sure the toes do not bump into the front of the shoe.
- If you have abnormalities of the toes or use protective padding in your shoes, you may wish to choose a shoe with adequate depth of the toe box to prevent rubbing of the tops of the toes.
- If your feet tend to swell, it is best to select shoes during the late afternoon or evening time as your feet swell to their largest size at that time.
If you are unsure as to how you can minimise or resolve your feet problems, ask your pharmacist for help.