Foot Disorders: An Overview

Many foot disorders are caused by abnormalities within the foot’s structure. In other cases, the foot disorder can be caused by or be a symptom of a systemic disorder like diabetes or peripheral vascular disease. Other foot disorders can be caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.

Other common causes of foot disorders include injuries, tumors, birth defects, and arthritis. Acquired foot disorders can be caused by stress or footwear that doesn’t fit properly, as well as injury.

Some disorders have multiple causes. For example, plantar fasciitis is a painful condition affecting the heel or arch that is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue running across the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes. The inflammation is caused by stress on the plantar fascia, and that stress can be caused by obesity, certain exercises, jobs that require a lot of standing, or an abnormal gait. People with high arches or flat feet are also prone to the condition, as are heavy people, runners, teachers, and factory workers.

Other common examples of foot disorders

A bunion is a condition affecting the joints of the big toe. The joints move out of alignment, so the big toe bends towards the second toe. A swollen and tender bony bump develops on the inside of the patient’s foot. A susceptibility to bunions often runs in families, but narrow and tight shoes that jam the toes together increase the chances of developing bunions.

Ingrown toenails have sides or corners that painfully dig into the skin. They are typically caused by trimming the nails at an angle, but they can also be caused by fungal infections, tight shoes, or injury. The simplest ways to prevent ingrown toenails are to trim the nails straight across and to wear shoes that fit properly.

Athlete’s foot is a common and very contagious fungal infection that causes itchy, scaly and dry skin that can also become red and inflamed. While fungal infections can develop almost anywhere, the dark, moist, and warm environment inside shoes make the feet especially susceptible. Many people pick up athlete’s foot at public places like gyms, swimming pools, and locker rooms.

How are foot disorders treated?

Treatment will vary on the type of foot disorder and its severity. In most cases, however, the doctor will start by recommending changes in the patient’s foot wear, for poorly fitting shoes can cause a foot disorder or exacerbate it.

Some patients may need orthotics, which the patient wears inside their shoe to support their foot, improve balance or stability, or to reduce swelling.

The doctor may also prescribe a corticosteroid to relieve inflammation or an anesthetic to relieve pain. If the patient has an infection like athlete’s foot, the doctor will prescribe the appropriate medication. In mild cases, the patient may need only an over-the-counter drug. If the patient has a severe or resistant infection, the doctor will prescribe something stronger.

If the patient has a severe condition or if their foot disorder doesn’t respond to conservative treatment, they may need surgery to correct the problem.