1. Corns and calluses
Calluses are areas of thick hard skin. They are usually caused by friction which causes an acceleration of the process of skin production. The dead cells are retained on the surface for longer and desquamation (skin shedding) is delayed causing a build up of thick skin. They are often painful as the hard skin is pressed back into the foot when walked upon. There can be many causes, e.g. badly fitting shoes, - high heels - flip flops (the constant "slapping" of the heel against the shoe) and postural problems i.e. knee or hip injuries. The callus needs to be removed and ideally the cause examined to prevent future build up.
Corns occur when the pressure caused by the callus is enough to exclude blood supply. The dead skin forms a horn shaped nucelus (Latin "cornu" = a horn). Every movement of the live skin will cause pain exactly as if a piece of glass is embedded in the skin. More callus then forms a protective layer over this in an attempt to isolate the corn and protect the living tissue.
There are several types of corn:
- "hard corns" - the most common
- "soft corns" - often found between the toes
- "seed corns - typically found on very dry skin
Corns needs to be professionally removed. This does not hurt beause the skin being removed is dead and gives instant relief. However the cause of the corn needs to be examined.
2. Fungal Nails (Onychomycosis)
Fungi are plant like micro organisms without leaves or green parts. They thrive in a warm, dark, moist environment and can take several forms. The nail becomes either littered with white "islands", or, if the infection is well established the nail becomes yellowish/green and crumbles. Debrading the nail surface can help which allows treatments to penetrate more effectively.
Superficial infections can be treated initially with Vic although if it has taken a hold then topical treatments from the chemist or GP can be applied. A visit to the GP can provide an opportunity fo a sample to be taken and sent for analysis to determine the fungal type. A GP may give antibiotics.
It is recommended that all footwear is treated with anti fungal sprays or tea tree.
NOTE Diabetics, pregnant women or those on medication should always consult their GP before applying or taking over the counter treatments.
3. Athlete's foot
This is caused by a fungus which causes redness and itching between the toes. Again the fungus thrives in a moist, damp climate and care needs to be taken to keep the areas dry and exposed to air as much as possible. Topical sprays or powder can be obtained from the chemist. Again foot wear needs to be treated with an anti-fungal spray or tea tree oil.
NOTE Diabetics, pregnant ladies or those on medication should always consult their GP before applying or taking over the counter treatments.
4. Hammer toes
A hammer toe can also be referred to as a claw or mallet toe. It is a deformity of the toe where the toe appears to retract to form a claw. The top of the toe can often come into contact with the ground causing secondary problems such as corns and blisters. Correction is usually only achieved by surgery but protection can be used in the form of gel cushions.
Verrucaes are simply warts and are a very common viral infection. As they often occur on the sole of the foot, pressure causes them to become flat and press into the surrounding fresh skin causing pain.
They are caused by the human papova viruses (HPV) and their frequency seems to be related to the provision of swimming baths, sports centres and gyms. They are highly infectious.
There is no simple way to eradicate verrucae. In time they will eventually disappear by themselves. However, there are both physical and chemical methods for dealing with them:
Physical methods includes paring with a scalpel blade which gives immediate relief from
sensation caused by “pressing in” of the verruca. It is the best way to prepare a clean surface
for chemical treatment.
Chemical methods include the use of salicylic acid (willow bark). This is applied weekly
and allows removal of a considerable volume of infected tissue. (6-8 applications but not to
be continued indefinitely).
Another treatment is with silver nitrate an astringent which is applied to the verruca forming
a mass that separates bring a layer of infected tissue with it. This is a slow and shallow
Chemicals are only for use on healthy feet and must not be used by diabetics or patients with circulatory deficiencies.
Potassium Permanganate footsoaks can help as an antibacterial – soak for 10 minutes each day - then rinse in clean water. Revise in 3 weeks. If not repeat for a further 3 weeks but with 15 minutes per day immersions. Green Tea also has powerful antioxidents and can be used as an alternative.
Verruaces and corns can often be confused - if in doubt seek professional diagnosis!