Foot health care

What problems can affect your feet?

  • Calluses
  • Corns
  • Plantar warts (verrucae pedis)
  • Cracked heels 
  • Athletes foot (tinea pedis)

What are calluses?

Calluses also known as hyperkeratosis are areas of hard skin that develop as a result of  increased pressure, rubbing or friction around the foot. Inadvertently these calluses form to protect skin and underlying anatomy from this excessive pressure or friction

These calluses may present as a burning sensation under the ball and heel of the foot. If the pressure or friction is not addressed, the hard skin will continue to develop and create greater pressure on the small underlying nerves and blood vessels.

What is a Corn?

Corns are also commonly known as hard corns (heloma durum), soft corns (heloma molle),seed corns (heloma milliare) form as hard skin.  Corns are commonly present as a feeling like a small pebble, splinter or a shard of glass within the foot or on a toe.

What are verrucae or plantar warts?

Plantar warts (verrucae pedis) are skin lesions caused by a virus (human papiloma virsus) which generally invade the skin through small or invisible cuts and abrasions.

These lesions are often painless and are regularly mistaken for corns or calluses, which are thick layers of cauliflower like skin that builds up to protect an area that is being irritated continuously. These lesions however can become painful  if they present on boney prominent areas such as the heels or balls of the feet.

Plantar warts are often grey or brown with a centre that appears to be black.

Plantar wart are often contracted by walking barefoot on infected surfaces, in warm, moist environments or also by being in direct contact with highly contagious surfaces  such as beauty nail salons, swimming pools or communal day spas.

If left untreated, warts can grow in size and multiply spreading into clusters over several areas and can be transferred to other parts of the body.

What causes cracked heels?

Cracked heels are splits in the skin of the heel. The cracks form due to excessively dry skin, anhydrosis or callus which has lost its elasticity. This callus if left untreated can become deep raw or bleeding and painful cracks.

Cracked heels can develop from excessive pressure on the heels, due to structural problems or malalignments of the feet and the lower limbs such as excessive pronation or flat feet.  Other causes of the dry of the skin maybe be due to diabetes, vascular disease, neuropathic conditions or certain medications such as Warfarin.

Commonly however people develop dry heels due to footwear such as open heel/back shoes, sandals, thongs or sling-back high heels.

What is athletes foot?

Athlete's foot (tinea) is a common fungal infection that appears on the soles of the feet and commonly in between the toes. Athlete's foot can appear as red, itchy, flaking, peeling and or cracked skin.

This fungus is commonly found in warm moist areas such as communal showers, change rooms, swimming pools, nail salons or day spas and is highly contagious on contact.

What can go wrong with your toenails?

There are a number of problems that can occur with toenails:

  • Ingrown toenails 
  • Fungal toe nails (onychomycosis)
  • Thickened brittle toenails

What is an ingrown toe nail?

An ingrown toenail (onychocryptosis) is often a painful nail condition by which a sliver/spike of nail grows into and punctures the side of the nail bed (paronychia).

This condition is often painful and can result in infection, which can cause redness,swelling, bleeding and pus.

Ingrown toenails can occur due to multiple causes such as trauma, picking or ripping, neglect, poor cutting technique or abnormal nail shape whereby the nail curls down the side.

What is a fungal toe nail?

Fungal infections of the nails or onychomycosis develop as thick, cracked and or yellow, brown, green, black or cloudy appearance and or crumbling toenails.

There are a number of causes for fungal nails such as direct contact, ageing with poor health and circulation, history of trauma, immunosuppression (such as HIV, or MS) communal bathing, beauty nail salons (that do not sterilize instruments between clients.

Initially the nails cause no pain or discomfort however as the nail distorts and thickens and the pressure from footwear cause cause bruising or ulcers in the nail bed.

What causes the thick and brittle toe nails?

The most common causes of thickening is the growth of fungus, trauma to the root of the nail and skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Although a thickened nail may appear very similar to fungal or yeast infections, a pathology test may be required for a diagnosis.

There are a number of topical ointments on the market for affected nails, however having the nails extensively reduced drilled and burred and then an appropriate management plan can be put into place .