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How to look after your feet

Image of a woman massaging her foot
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Feet often get forgotten when it comes to self-care. But there are many conditions that affect your feet that can easily go unnoticed, and impact on your overall health. Keep your feet sweet and read on to discover the most common foot conditions, and how to treat them.

Most common foot conditions

  • What is athlete’s foot? Not just for athletes, this fungal condition is contagious and easily spread, causing skin to crack, itch and flake. It is treatable with over-the-counter products.
  • What are bunions? Bunions are bony lumps that form on the side of the foot, at the base of the big toe. It’s not clear how these occur, but it’s thought that avoiding tight and/or high-heeled shoes can help. Special bunion plasters and padding can be worn inside the shoe to prevent discomfort. Pain and swelling can be brought down with ice and rest, but ultimately only surgery can remove bunions.
  • What is toenail fungus? Fungal conditions in toenails can be unsightly and uncomfortable, causing tell-tale thick, cracked or yellow-looking nails. Like many fungal conditions, it can spread from person to person. So avoid going barefoot in public and keep your feet clean and dry. You can get anti-fungal treatment to treat toenail fungus from your pharmacist.
  • What are verrucas? Verrucas are small, rough lumps that form on the sole of the foot, often with black-looking dots inside. Verrucas can disappear on their own, or you may seek verruca treatment from a pharmacist or doctor.
  • What are corns? Often mistaken for verrucas, corns are rough patches of skin that build up on the foot. They can sometimes be caused by tight shoes that repeatedly rub against the foot. They can be treated with corn plasters, and foot care.

What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is a common fungal foot condition. Like many types of fungus, it thrives in damp, warm conditions, so often starts between the toes. It usually begins with white, itchy or flaky patches, but skin can redden, thicken and become cracked. The skin can become very sore or blistered.

How to treat and prevent athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is unlikely to go away without treatment. There are a range of over-the-counter athlete’s foot treatments, but not all are suitable for everyone, so ask your pharmacist for advice. It can spread from person-to-person, but also around the feet and body. Spreading to the toes can cause fungal nail infections.

To prevent athlete’s foot, or stop it reoccurring:

  • Keep feet clean and dry - avoid putting moisturiser between the toes (you want to keep the skin dry here)
  • Don’t walk barefoot in public places - use flip flops in changing rooms or showers
  • If you already have athlete’s foot, use a separate towel for drying your feet and wash it in between uses
  • Don’t scratch the affected areas then touch other parts of the body, as this can spread the fungus
  • If you are living with someone with athlete’s foot, don’t share towels, bedding or footwear, and avoid being barefoot in communal spaces

Corns and calluses on your feet

Corns and calluses can often be mistaken for other conditions such as verrucas. They are patches of rough, thickened skin on the feet. Whilst usually not serious, they can be sore if they rub against shoes, or create pressure when standing or walking. To prevent and treat corns:

Verrucas on the soles of your feet

Verrucas are rough, raised lumps, usually on the soles of the foot. Also known as plantar warts, they are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They are spread by physical contact with an affected person, or direct contact with a surface that has been contaminated with the virus – such as a floor in a swimming pool or changing room. They may be skin coloured, or whitish/grey in appearance and can have little black-looking dots at the core. These are blood capillaries gathering in the verruca. They can appear flattened, due to the pressure caused when standing, which can also create discomfort. Verrucas sometimes go away by themselves, but if they are bothering you:

  • Visit your pharmacist for over-the-counter treatments. Treatments for warts and verrucas are usually applied topically to the skin and feature salicylic acid. You may wish to soak the verruca to soften it and use a pumice stone to remove the hardest top layer, so that your verruca treatment can absorb better.
  • Visit your doctor for other treatments such as cryotherapy – where the verruca is frozen off using liquid nitrogen.
  • Keep existing verrucas covered.
  • Avoid touching them (wash your hands thoroughly after touching) as they can spread to other parts of the body.

How to look after your feet with diabetes?

Foot issues for those with diabetes can be more serious. With any of the conditions mentioned above, if you have diabetes, consult your doctor. Health issues such as foot ulcers can develop even from small blisters in diabetes sufferers.

Diabetes can restrict blood flow and sensation in your feet, amongst other things, so it’s important that you check your feet daily and get to know what is normal for you. This way any changes in your feet can be dealt with quickly. An annual foot check is recommended for those with diabetes.

A daily check of your feet should be an essential part of your wellness routine. You should look out for:

  • Swelling
  • Changes in colour or shape of the feet
  • Temperature – any ‘hot spots’ or coldness
  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Hard or cracked skin
  • Ulceration
  • Blisters
  • Tight or shiny skin
  • Pain
  • Loss of sensation

Remember products such as wart treatments, corn plasters or athlete’s foot products may not be suitable, and you must consult a doctor for treatment of any of the mentioned foot conditions.

Tips for healthy feet

Knowing what is ‘normal’ for you is essential. Get to know your feet with regular checks so you can respond quickly to any troubling changes:

  • Keep feet clean
  • Moisturise (but not between the toes as you want to keep this area dry to prevent fungus growth)
  • Cut or file nails straight across to help prevent ingrown toenails
  • File down or exfoliate away hard skin
  • Wear good fitting, comfortable shoes
  • Use insoles and arch support where necessary
  • Wear well-fitting tights and socks that aren’t too loose, or too snug

When to see a doctor about your feet

If you have any concerns about a foot condition, or are experiencing foot pain, you should seek medical advice. This is especially important if you have diabetes. If you suspect you may have an infection, or you tried an over-the-counter treatment that hasn’t worked, you should see a doctor.

Don’t forget your feet as an essential part of your self care. Lloyd's Pharmacy have products for head-to-toe wellbeing, so check out our range of foot care products. Click for more information on the importance of foot care for diabetics.

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