Recognizing issues and knowing what is happening in your feet is important for being able to take care of the problem. This is the case when it comes to toenail and skin conditions that can arise in your lower limbs. Even more important, understanding these conditions can help you take measures to prevent them from happening in the first place. Of course, always remember to come see us here at Wilks Advanced Foot Care whenever you need professional treatment for any lower limb problems, including skin and toenail conditions!
Potential Skin Issues for Feet
Skin issues can arise virtually anywhere on the body, but your feet are particularly susceptible for a couple of different reasons. First, unlike other areas of the body, your feet rely on sweat glands for moisture (instead of oil ones). Second, feet face tremendous amounts of pressure throughout the course of an average day. Finally, your feet are frequently enclosed in socks and shoes, and this can lead to problems when footwear is either too tight or too loose.
Some of the more common skin problems for feet include:
- Athlete’s foot. When your feet become itchy and reddened, the most likely explanation is this common fungal infection. In spite of the name, you do not have to be an athlete (or even like sports) to contract the infection. Instead, you simply need exposure to the offensive fungus and a hospitable environment, like that provided by feet and toes.
- Blisters. When shoes are too large and your feet slide around within them, layers of skin can begin to separate. As this happens, the space between the separated layers is filled with a clear fluid to protect the wound until the skin underneath has healed.
- Corns and calluses. These are related conditions and both are formed by hardened patches of dead skin, but there are differences in causes and appearances. Calluses are flat, waxy, and develop in areas subjected to excessive pressure (ball of the foot, under the heel). Corns are raised, cylindrical, and form in response to friction in non-weight-bearing areas (like between toes and the sides and tops of feet).
- Cracked heels. As noted, feet rely on sweat glands for moisture. This is not as effective at keeping the skin moist as oil. Additionally, all the forces we place on our feet can contribute to them drying out. Fissured heels are not only painful – they also increase your risk of infection.
- Plantar warts. Warts are quite common and generally harmless. The growths are caused by certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) and can go away on their own in time, but this might take up to a couple of years.
It is debatable as to how important toenails really are, but the fact remains that they do exist. In most instances, this is fine. When problems arise, though, they do need to be addressed. Some toenail problems you might sustain include:
- Black nails. Beyond fungal infections, toenail discoloration can also be the result of either bruising or bleeding from the soft tissue residing underneath a nail. This is subungual hematoma and, if blood pools between the nail and nailbed, it can lead to separation of the nail. It is especially important to come if for a diagnosis because, in rare cases, a black toenail is an indication of a serious form of skin cancer (malignant melanoma).
- Fungal toenails. Fungal toenail infections are somewhat common, but it doesn’t make them any less embarrassing. You can recognize this condition by toenails that are darkened, dull, discolored, distorted, crumbly, or thickened. In some cases, there is also a pungent odor. The infection does not go away on its own, so treatment is necessary.
- Ingrown toenails. Out of the problems you might develop with your toenails, ingrown nails tend to be the most common. When the edge of a toenail—normally the big toe’s—starts growing into the soft skin flanking it, there can be discomfort, pain, and increased infection risk.