When was the last time we thought deeply about our feet? When was the last time you gave them your care and attention? Our feet are probably the most ignored part of our body. We often take them for granted, yet we use them almost all our waking hours!
Our feet take the weight of our whole body, so foot problems can quickly lead to discomfort and affect the way we walk. This can in turn cause knee, hip, and back pain.
Research from The College of Podiatry shows that 9 in 10 of us experience some sort of foot problem, with one in five admitting to suffering with foot pain often or constantly.
Foot issues such as hard skin, in growing toenails and athlete's foot, will affect 90% of adults at one time or another. These and other such issues can occur at any time of the year and in most instances, can involve simple and effective over-the-counter treatments (OTC) from your local pharmacy.
It is inevitable that your service users will be affected and suffer from any one of these conditions at some point, so it’s important to recognise the signs and symptoms and know how you can help support your service user.
This is a common fungal infection that causes itching between the toes and can often appear red with raw looking skin which sometimes flakes.
This condition can usually be treated with OTC antifungal creams, gels, or sprays. These should be applied directly to the affected areas and the surrounding area too. Though this infection is rarely serious, it can, however, spread to the toes or develop into a secondary bacterial infection. Therefore, it is essential that OTC treatment should be used for a couple of weeks even after all symptoms have cleared. This will prevent any re-infection from occurring. Antifungal powders should be used for dusting in shoes/slippers and socks. It should not be used directly on the toes as this can irritate the skin.
An ingrown toenail develops when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin. The nail curls and pierces the skin, which becomes red, swollen, and tender.
The big toe is often affected, either on one or both sides. Other possible symptoms include:
- Pain if pressure is placed on the toe
- Inflammation of the skin at the end of the toe
- A build-up of fluid in the area surrounding the toe
- An overgrowth of skin around the affected toe
- White or yellow pus coming from the affected area
Nails should always be cut straight across to prevent ingrown toenails. The college of podiatry recommends nail nippers for cutting toenails rather than nail cutters or scissors as they have a smaller cutting blade but a longer handle, giving people more control. If a service user is affected then they can dab antiseptic in the corner of the nail that is affected and cover it with a sterile dressing.
Hard Skin, Calluses and Corns
Hard skin can be treated and prevented by regularly using a moisturiser over the entire foot avoiding the area between the toes. Hard skin can be removed with a pumice stone or foot file.
Corns and calluses are areas of hard, thickened skin that develop when the skin is exposed to excessive pressure or friction. They commonly occur on the feet and can cause pain and discomfort when you walk. Corns are small circles of thick skin that usually develop on the tops and sides of toes or on the sole of the foot. However, they can occur anywhere.
Corns are often caused by wearing shoes that fit poorly and shoes that are too loose can also allow your foot to slide and rub. Calluses are hard, rough areas of skin that are often yellowish in colour. They can develop on the feet, usually around the heel area or on the skin under the ball of the foot. Calluses are larger than corns and don't have such a well-defined edge. As callused skin is thick, it's often less sensitive to touch than the surrounding skin.
Calluses develop when the skin rubs against something, such as a bone, a shoe, or the ground.
If you have a corn or callus on your foot, you should see a podiatrist, also known as a chiropodist, who can advise you about treatment.
- Wash your feet often
- Dry your feet well - especially between the toes as this will prevent fungal infections such as athlete's foot
- Moisturise your feet
- Trim your toenails regularly using proper nail clippers. Cut straight across, never at an angle or down the edges
- Change your socks daily to keep your feet fresh
- Watch out for foot bugs in communal changing areas, wear flip-flops to avoid catching athlete's foot and verrucas when you use public areas
Please note: Service users with diabetes should NOT treat most foot problems themselves without first seeking medical advice. They should ALWAYS be referred to the pharmacist, their GP, diabetes nurse or a podiatrist.
*All information is correct at the time of publishing