Foot Pain: Heed the Warning Signs

Foot Pain: Heed the Warning Signs

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When it comes to protecting your feet, preventative care is the way to go. Look for these warning signs, which may indicate the presence of an underlying foot injury or foot deformity.

Severe Toe Pain. Your toe may either be sore to the touch (or sore when you wear shoes), or it may just hurt all the time. If the soreness is coming from the nail area, look for signs of an ingrown toenail (the nail should be imbedded in the skin).

If you notice a white, green or brown film covering the nail, you may have a fungal toenail infection. Look for signs of infection: redness, swelling and clear discharge or pus. If any or all of these symptoms are present, you may need to see a podiatrist. Pain may also result from deformities in the toe structure. If you notice that your big toe is angling toward you baby toe, you may have a foot deformity called hallux valgus (a deformity that is associated with bunions). If you notice that your middle three toes are permanently bent, then you may have a foot deformity known as hammertoe or claw toe.

Severe Arch Pain. If you notice pain in the arch of your foot first thing in the morning (i.e., the first few steps you take out of bed), chances are you have a condition known as plantar fasciitis. This condition results from the inflammation of the soft tissue that makes up the arch of your foot. It may also be accompanied by heel spurs (calcium deposits that attach themselves to your heel bone).

Plantar fasciitis can be treated with rest, orthotics, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections and sometimes surgery. People with high arches (cavus foot) or fallen arches may also experience arch pain. This may indicate that you are not wearing the proper kind of shoes for your feet. Ask your podiatrist about orthotics. People with high arches should look for athletic shoes with plenty of cushioning; people with fallen arches should look for athletic shoes with motion control.

Foot Swelling. Your foot may swell if it becomes infected or if it’s subjected to trauma (i.e., broken bones or stress fractures often cause swelling). Ice and elevate the foot. If the swelling continues to get worse, consult your podiatrist. In rare cases, a swollen foot may indicate the development of a condition called lymphedema. The swelling occurs when the lymph system becomes blocked and stops functioning properly.

If you are a cancer patient or survivor, you may be susceptible to lymphedema.

Toe or Foot Numbness. If your toes or your feet become numb, this may be a sign of a problem in your nervous system. This is especially important for diabetics as it may indicate that they are developing neuropathy in their lower extremities. When combined with poor circulation, neuropathy leads to a condition known as diabetic foot, which makes diabetics much more susceptible to infection and can even lead to amputation.


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