Bunions, even Posh gets 'em… How to solve our common foot problems, according to an expert

Leading podiatrist Tony Gavin talks us through some of the most common foot issues.

1 Bunions, even Posh gets ’em…

“A bunion, or hallux valgus, is a change to the bone structure at the base of the big toe. It’s an enlargement of the joint and a change in direction of where the big toe ‘points’, towards the second toe,” explains Gavin. This leads to an increase in the size of the joint, and often the formation of an overlying ‘bursa’ (a fluid-filled sac between the joint and the skin), which may be red and swollen. “It’s basically the body’s way of protecting the joint,” notes Gavin.

“Managing any pain is a key part of a podiatrist’s role when treating bunions,” Gavin continues. “The first port of call is to ensure that there is adequate room in any footwear; in some circumstances foot orthotics (tailor-made insoles, padding and arch supports) can help.”

However, in many cases, surgery to correct the bunion might be needed.

2 Funal nail infections…

Crusty, thickened yellow toenails are a telltale sign of a fungal nail infection – and it’s important to get them checked out and treated quickly, as the infection can spread and be notoriously stubborn. “Fungal nails cause dramatic visual changes, which can be unsightly,” says Gavin. “They can make the nail change colour, thicken, and break more easily.”

They can also cause more pressure on the end of the toe and become painful. “As the fungal infection progresses, they can produce a very distinct odour too,” adds Gavin.

The good news is, fungal nail infections are treatable – although more severe infections may take a while to disappear completely. “There are a variety of treatments, but success depends upon an appropriate plan. Medication needs to act on the affected areas, which can be difficult with topical preparations. A podiatrist may thin down a fungal nail or introduce very small holes into the nail and apply an anti-fungal medication,” says Gavin.

3 Corns and calluses…

“Perhaps the most common reason that people seek treatment from a podiatrist is to deal with calluses or corns,” says Gavin.

Pressure plays a big part in the formation of calluses and corns, which often look like very hard, raised areas of skin. “Intermittent compressive forces (from walking) cause a response from the skin to produce callosities,” Gavin explains. This layer can at first be protective and an advantage to the foot, but they can very quickly become painful if they get worse.

A corn, meanwhile, is a small, usually conical structure that forms from pressure.

A podiatrist can remove a corn in a painless procedure, and often prevent them returning by using orthotics or advising footwear changes.”

4 Athlete’s foot…

Itchy, sore and easy to catch, Athlete’s foot is relatively common. “It’s a fungal infection of the skin, usually seen between the toes or on the sole of the foot,” says Gavin. “Athlete’s foot can be very uncomfortable at its worst, or mildly itchy at its least severe. It often causes skin to flake, peel or even split too.

“Itching the skin increases the likelihood of the skin splitting, which in turn can lead to a secondary infection. Split skin can also be very painful to walk on.”

Gavin explains that the infection is caused by dermatophytes, fungi that thrive in the conditions we place our feet in every day – our shoes.

Luckily, treatment is usually quite effective.”Topical preparations [creams] are usually very successful under the advice of a podiatrist,” says Gavin. “Ensuring your socks and shoes are changed frequently can reduce the risk of the infection.”

Leading podiatrist Tony Gavin, founder of Osgo (osgo.co.uk)

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