Common Foot Problems

Symptoms and Treatment of Foot Ailments

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Here are some common foot problems, their symptoms and treatments:

Pronating or supinating (walking on the inner or outer edges of your feet) can induce aching hips and/or knees. Both conditions are readily corrected with orthotics — plastic inserts that conform to into the bottom of your shoes and do for your feet what eyeglasses do for your eyes. Once your foot is properly aligned, chances are your knees and hips will be, too. 

Bunions, the most common foot problem, affect between 25 million and 30 million Americans. A bunion is the enlargement of bone in the joint at the base of the big toe. As the enlargement advances, the big toe drifts toward the second toe. Increasing disfiguration can trigger associated foot problems like hammertoes, terrible calluses, and heel and arch pain. The tendency to form bunions is hereditary but can be worsened by walking and wearing tight shoes. Bunion surgery once involved hospitalization and a prolonged recovery period: up to four months of minimal walking and six months of moving about shoeless. Occasionally a full leg cast and crutches were requirement during recuperation. Nowadays, a new outpatient procedure known as a tricorrectional bunionectomy does away with the extended recovery time, casts and crutches. The bone is realigned and a surgical screw is put in to keep it in place. Patients can normally walk the same day and continue fitness activities in about three weeks.  

Hammertoes happen when muscle imbalance or an abnormal bone length, induce tendons to contract and the toe to buckle over. They're also stimulated by bunions and in some cases are hereditary. (Corns, a buildup of dead skin cells where shoes press and rub against the feet, are a common side effect of hammertoes.)

 Hammertoes are surgically treated through one of two procedures: Having tenotomy capsulotomy, the top and bottom tendons and joint capsules are cut to free up the buckling; with arthroplasty, the joint is surgically removed and the toe later straightens.

Ingrown toenails are nails that have grown into the skin at one or both corners or sides. When both sides of the toenail are ingrown, the whole nail and growth plate are removed surgically or chemically through a procedure known as total matricectomy. When only one corner of the nail is ingrown, the podiatrist may do a partial matricectomy. After surgery, the body produces a "false nail" — tough skin that looks like a real nail in a few months and may even be polished much like a real nail. Having the toe securely bandaged, patients can continue regular activity within a week or so.

If you suffer from mysterious pains in your knees, shins, hips or lower back, or if your feet just aren't as pretty as you would like them to be, take them to a podiatrist. He or she can give your feet the helping hand they deserve.

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