There are several systemic diseases, or diseases that affect the whole body, that either display symptoms in the feet or affect the health of the feet. Common systemic diseases that affect the overall health of the feet, and the patient’s ability to walk comfortably, include gout, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders, and arthritis, among others.
In gout, which is caused by an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body, the most common symptoms of pain, inflammation, and redness occur at the metatarsal/phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. Any excess levels of uric acid crystallize and are deposited in tendons, joints, and surrounding bone and muscle tissue. Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation and other drugs to lower uric acid levels in the body. Gout most commonly affects those who are overweight, have low protein diets and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
Diabetes mellitus is an increase in the level of blood sugar in which the body cannot counteract with naturally occurring insulin in the body. The three types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes, are all signs the body is either not producing enough insulin or is not efficiently using the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant and have never, prior to pregnancy, exhibited symptoms of the disease.
There are two main issues that affect the feet that are commonly caused by diabetes. They include diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to damaged nerves and affect the feet through numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral vascular disease restricts the flow of blood to the foot and can, in extreme cases, lead to the necessity of amputating the foot. Peripheral issues that are caused by diabetes and can affect the foot include athlete’s foot, nail infections, corns, blisters, bunions, severe dry skin, plantar warts and ingrown toenails. These can all be attributed to the decrease of blood flow to the foot.
Neurological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can also have severe impact on the health of the feet. Neurological disorders can affect the nerves in the main structure of the foot and cause loss of sensation and possible decreased muscle response. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the bones and joint structures of the foot, making it impossible to walk normally without serious pain.
All systemic diseases that affect the foot can effectively be treated to minimize joint and muscle damage if they are diagnosed early and treated with medication and lifestyle therapy. Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their physician to keep their levels as close to normal as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should work with their physician to ensure the proper medications are being taken to reduce the amount of damage to the joints of the body.
Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.
Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow and spread, this is the most commonly affected area. It is, however, known to grow in other places. The term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.
The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. The extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.
Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.
Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. You can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, to prevent the growth of tinea. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, opt for using topical medicated creams, ointments or sprays. These treatments help eliminate and prevent it from coming back.
Our feet are important in our everyday lives. The problem is that we tend to neglect them. When this becomes a habit, it can cause significant trouble. Ignoring foot problems can mean pain, limited mobility, and expensive doctor's visits. On the other hand, if feet are cared for and looked after regularly, they will perform without pain or complication.
Routine hygiene is the most basic way to care for the feet. Wash and dry them thoroughly daily. Remember to get between the toes and keep the toenails trimmed and short. If the feet feel dry or there are signs of dryness or cracking, use a moisturizer designed for the feet.
When using moisturizer on the feet, try to avoid applying between the toes. If cream or lotion sits too long, they can cause fungal and bacterial growth. When moisturizer is used between the toes, it can also cause the skin to soften too much.
Shoes are also an important aspect of foot care. When one is picking out shoes, make sure they are the correct size. Shoes need to be snug, but not too tight. On the other hand, if shoes are too loose they can cause foot problems as well. It is highly recommended that shopping for new shoes be done later in the day. The reason for this is that the feet will have settled and swelled to their full size by then. To keep your feet at their most healthy, avoid wearing high heels or flip flops too often. Instead, choose shoes that are good for your feet. Good shoes pad the soles of your feet and support the arches and ankles.
Socks should also be worn daily with closed-toe shoes. They may feel hot during the summer months, but they absorb sweat and moisture off the feet. Without socks, the build-up of sweat in a closed-toe shoe can cause fungal problems and athlete's foot.
The best thing to remember in every day foot care is that shoes do make a difference. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, make sure that your shoes show no signs of wear. Shoes should offer ample support for the arches and the overall foot. Additionally, try to make foot cleaning and maintenance a daily habit. If you keep these things in mind, your feet will stay healthy and safe.