Some foot problems are actually fairly common, and normally you can take good daily care of your feet by following some simple foot care tips. But there are a few everyday foot problems that can turn serious if you don’t take the time to head over to your local podiatrist (that’s a foot and ankle doctor). How do you know when you can handle it at home and when it’s time to make an appointment? Here are some tips for a few of the most common issues:
- Ingrown Toenails
At Home: Ingrown toenails occur when the nail (often on the big toe, though not always), begins to grow under the surrounding skin and tissue. If you notice this happening, you can start to soak your feet in warm water once or twice a day, and lift the offending nail away from the skin using dental floss or a small piece of gauze. Wear sandals (weather permitting) or shoes with a wide toe box to give the area plenty of breathing room.
Find a Podiatrist: If the site goes beyond reddish inflammation and starts to ooze a yellow pus, that’s a sign of infection — and that you need a professional’s help. You should also see a podiatrist if the nail becomes painful enough to inhibit walking, or if you are changing your gait to accommodate the tender site.
- Plantar Warts
At Home: Plantar warts are caused by the humanpapiloma virus, but you shouldn’t let those intimidating words scare you. Plantar warts are harmless, so you can try over-the-counter medications to freeze or peel them away. And if the way they look doesn’t bother you, then you can simply wait for them to go away in a few months.
Find a Podiatrist: Plantar warts sometimes cause pain with standing or walking (almost like stepping on a pebble). If you’re having trouble walking normally, you should see a podiatrist to avoid further complications.
- Ankle Sprain/Strain
At Home: A ankle sprain or strain is a very common injury, often caused by a twisting motion (a sprain refers to tiny tears in the ligament, while a strain refers to tiny tears in the muscle). In most cases, you should follow the RICE procedure at home — rest, ice, compression and elevation — and take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. The redness, pain and swelling should be alleviated in a few days.
Find a Podiatrist: If your ankle and foot aren’t rapidly getting better, then you should go to a podiatrist for x-rays. It’s possible that you might have a break or even a small stress fracture in one of the ankle or foot bones.
What are some other signs it’s time to seek medical attention for seemingly innocuous foot injuries? Discuss in the comments.