The most common skin conditions of the feet that can be problematic and require medical intervention include:
- Athlete’s Foot
- Corns and Calluses
- Ganglion Cysts
- Plantar Warts
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that affects the upper layer of skin on your foot. The infection usually begins between the toes but can also develop along the soles, arches, and sides of the feet. Athlete’s foot is contagious and easily spreads in public places like indoor and outdoor swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers, where conditions are warm and moist.
People who have a weak immune system or diabetes are more susceptible to developing athlete’s foot and should receive treatment immediately.
Cause of Athlete’s Foot
Trichophyton fungus causes athlete’s foot. It is commonly found on floors and in clothing.
Since fungi can thrive and multiply under damp and warm conditions, there is a greater risk of developing athlete’s foot if you wear thick, tight shoes that squeeze the toes together or if you wear socks that are damp and the feet are warm.
Athlete’s foot can spread by direct skin-to-skin contact and by indirect contact with contaminated surfaces, such as floors, blankets, bedsheets, towels, or doorknobs.
Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot
The symptoms of athlete’s foot may include one or more of the following:
- Scaly rash
- Flaking of the skin
- Burning sensation
- Scaling and redness between the toes
Diagnosing Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is diagnosed by testing a sample of infected tissue to check for the type of fungus present. The doctor scrapes off a small sample of infected tissue from your foot and places it under potassium hydroxide (KOH). The KOH solution destroys human cells, leaving only the fungal cells to make it easy to identify the type of fungal infection. If the presence of the Trichophyton fungus is seen, athlete’s foot is confirmed.
Treatment for Athlete’s Foot
If the symptoms of athlete’s foot are mild, the condition can be treated using over-the-counter medication. For more severe cases, Dr. Tea will prescribe a more powerful antifungal medication.
It is important to receive treatment for athlete’s foot as soon as your symptoms appear because it can spread to other toes or a nail and cause a fungal nail infection.
Depending on the treatment, athlete’s foot can take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks to get rid of it.
Tips for Preventing Athlete’s Foot
Here are a few tips on how you can prevent athlete’s foot:
- Wash and dry feet thoroughly, even between the toes.
- Use powder to keep the feet dry.
- Keep socks and footwear clean and dry.
- Change socks several times daily.
- Wear footwear made of breathable materials that allow air to circulate around the feet.
- Avoid constrictive footwear, stockings, and socks, as they can trap moisture and perspiration on the feet.
- Never share socks or footwear.
- Wear flip-flops or shower shoes in public areas such as showers, pools, and locker rooms. Don’t walk around barefoot in these areas.
Corns and Calluses
Corns are cone-like bumps caused by the buildup of hard, dead skin that forms on the toes due to repetitive pressure and friction on the toes caused by footwear or repetitive activities like running, climbing stairs, or even skiing. Hammertoes and bunions may also be the cause of corns.
Calluses are thick hard skin that forms on the heel, ball of the foot, or sides of the foot due to repetitive pressure and friction on the foot from shoes, sports, daily activity, or from the way you walk. Your outer layer of skin has special skin cells called keratinocytes, which produce calluses.
Wearing shoes that fit properly and have ample support in the toe box can take the pressure off your corn or callus, and it may go away. If corns and calluses don’t go away on their own or with over-the-counter treatments, you should see Dr. Tea for an evaluation and treatment recommendations.
Ganglion Cysts of the Foot
Ganglion cysts are non-cancerous soft tissue masses that develop when a small sac of fluid forms near joints and tendons in the foot. Inside the cysts are a thick, sticky, clear, jelly-like material, forming the characteristic ball-like bump under the skin. Ganglion cysts can form on the top or bottom of your foot.
Cause of Ganglion Cysts on the Foot
Ganglion cysts form due to an out-pouching of synovial fluid from either a joint or tendon that is protruding towards the skin surface. These may arise as a result of a single traumatic event or from repetitive microtrauma. Typically, these lesions are not painful and do not require treatment unless they are painfully applying pressure on nearby structures.
Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts
Ganglion cysts usually appear as a bump (mass) that changes in size, anywhere from 1-3 cm in diameter. They are generally soft and not moveable. If the cysts are touching a nerve, they can cause a tingling or burning sensation.
For many patients, cysts make it challenging to wear shoes due to irritation between the lumps and the shoes.
Diagnosing Ganglion Cysts
Dr. Tea will thoroughly examine your foot and press on the lump to see if it is moveable. She may also remove a small amount of fluid for evaluation. In some instances, she may order an x-ray and other imaging studies to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for Ganglion Cysts
Treatment for ganglion cysts includes both non-surgical and surgical options. Non-surgical options can include one or more of the following:
- Monitoring cysts, but no treatment. If the cysts do not cause any pain or discomfort, Dr. Tea may choose to watch them over a period of time.
- Shoe Modifications. Dr. Tea may recommend that you wear different shoes that don’t rub or irritate the cysts. She may also advise you to place a pad inside the shoe to reduce any pressure against the cysts.
- Aspiration and Injection. Dr. Tea may drain the fluid from the cysts and inject a steroid medication to shrink the masses.
In some cases, non-surgical treatment options are not effective, or the cysts keep returning. In these instances, Dr. Tea may recommend that the cysts be surgically removed.
Plantar warts, also known as Verruca Plantaris, are small growths that develop when a virus infects the skin. Warts can develop anywhere on the foot, but they typically appear on the bottom (plantar side) of the foot. Plantar warts are generally seen in children, adolescents, and the elderly.
Types of Plantar Warts
Plantar warts can be of two types:
- A solitary wart is a single wart. Often, the wart will increase in size and may eventually multiply, forming additional “satellite” warts.
- Mosaic warts are clusters of several small warts growing closely together in one area. Mosaic warts are more difficult to treat than solitary warts.
Causes of Plantar Warts
Plantar warts are caused when there is direct contact with the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus can cause warts in other areas of the body as well.
Symptoms of Plantar Warts
Plantar warts grow deep into the skin and grow slowly over time. Warts generally start small and become more prominent over time. The symptoms of plantar warts include:
- Thickened skin. Plantar warts often resemble a callus because of their tough, thick tissue.
- Pain. Walking and standing may be painful. Squeezing the sides of warts may also cause pain.
- Tiny black dots. These often appear on the surface of warts. The dots are dried blood contained in the capillaries (tiny blood vessels).
Diagnosing Plantar Warts
During your consultation, Dr. Tea will examine your foot and look for signs and symptoms of plantar warts.
Treatment for Plantar Warts
Although plantar warts may eventually clear up on their own, most patients desire quicker results. In this case, Dr. Tea may suggest topical or oral medication, laser therapy, cryotherapy (freezing), acid treatments, or surgery to remove warts. Dr. Tea will discuss all options available before choosing the best option for you.
Whatever treatment Dr. Tea recommends for you, you must follow her instructions, including all home care and medication that has been prescribed, as well as follow-up visits with her. Warts may return, requiring further treatment.
If there is no response to treatment, further diagnostic evaluation may be necessary. In such cases, Dr. Tea performs a biopsy to rule out other potential causes for the growth.
Although there are many folk remedies for warts, patients should be aware that these remain unproven and may be dangerous. Patients should never try to remove warts themselves. Trying to remove warts yourself can do more harm than good.
If you have a skin condition on your foot and would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tea, please call Pacific Point Podiatry at (831) 288-3400. For your convenience, you may also request an appointment online.