Pain in the foot can involve any part of the foot, and abnormalities of the skin, nerves, bones, blood vessels and soft tissues of the foot can result in foot pain.
Foot pain and foot disorders are common concerns for older people, as it makes it harder to walk and carry out your daily functions. It can interfere with activities such as getting out of a chair or climbing stairs, and you may also have trouble with your balance, and your chance of falling increases.
Pain that leads to less mobility can result in weight gain, fatigue, and decreased heart function. However, you do not have to put up with foot pain, because, being able to walk well is extremely important since walking is one of the best ways to exercise and keep fit.
We have all experienced pains in the feet at one time or another, because we expose our feet to potential injury in our daily lives. There are many common causes of foot pains, such as blisters and corns, and there are also less common causes of foot pain, such as sciatica and osteomyelitis.
Common Conditions That May Result In Foot Pain And Unhealthy Feet
Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes can cause reduced blood circulation and nerve damage in the feet, and thus put you at greater risk of foot problems. Poor circulation from other reasons such as hardening of the arteries, or peripheral arterial disease, can also cause foot pains.
The Most Common Types of Foot Problems include:
Bunions: A bony growth or misaligned bone at the base of the big toe, or sometimes on the small toe, causing the big toe may bend abnormally toward the small toes.
Calluses And Corns: Dead, yellowish, thickened skin on toes.
Hammertoes: Toe joints that curl up or under, either rigidly or with some flexibility, often resulting in a permanently dislocated joint.
Toenail problems: Ingrown, thickened, or discolored toenails.
Heel pain: This pain is present at the back of the arch, usually as a result of an inflamed ligament along the bottom of the foot.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome: a type of pinched nerve disorder.
Achilles tendonitis: this is an inflammation of the tendon that connects your heel bone to your calf muscle.
Morton’s neuroma: this is a benign nerve growth between the third and fourth toes.
Foot problems related to diabetes, such as stubborn foot ulcers, loss of feeling or circulation problems.
Foot problems associated with deformities that may be caused by arthritis; including rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Peripheral Arterial Disease
According to the American Heart Association, about 8 million Americans have a peripheral arterial disease (PAD). In PAD, a fatty substance called plaque builds up in the arteries in your legs, reducing the flow of blood to your lower legs and feet.
This can cause the muscles in your calves and other parts of your legs to cramp while you’re moving around and the condition can also lead to foot pain and poorly healed foot wounds.
This disease is also associated with hidden damage to the heart and brain, which places those with PAD at much higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Consequently, other risk factors for heart disease and strokes, such as smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, also increase your risk of Peripheral Arterial Disease.
Medications can be used to manage Peripheral Arterial Disease, but changes in diet and lifestyle are very important as well.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gout
According to the Arthritis Foundation, for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, about 90 percent will develop symptoms in the foot and ankle.
Rheumatoid arthritis develops when the body’s natural defense system against disease mistakenly attacks your joints, causing them to become painful and swollen. Symptoms may include severe foot pain, and when the condition affects your feet, pain usually begins in your toes and later spreads to the rest of your feet and ankles.
The joint damage caused by Rheumatoid arthritis can eventually change the shape of your toes and feet, and in some people, foot symptoms are the first hint that they even have Rheumatoid arthritis.
Once diagnosed, Rheumatoid arthritis can often be treated effectively with medications, exercise, and surgery in severe cases.
Diabetes and Foot Pain Problems
About 24 million Americans have diabetes, and if you have this health problem, the glucose or blood sugar that your body normally uses as fuel can build up in your blood.
This build-up of excess sugar can damage nerves and blood vessels in the feet, and eventually lead to decreased sensation and compromised blood flow. Diabetes is a major cause of foot problems in the United States and can lead to the surgical removal of a toe or your foot or lower leg.
Symptoms of high blood sugar include numbness or tingling in your feet as well as severe foot infections.
Fortunately, diabetes and its associated foot complications can be managed with medication, and it is also important for diabetics to quit smoking, wear supportive shoes, and avoid being barefoot to prevent unnecessary foot strain.
What Your Feet Say About Your Health
If your toes are always cold, one reason could be poor blood flow, a problem sometimes linked to smoking, high blood pressure, or heart disease. The nerve damage from uncontrolled diabetes can also make your feet feel cold, and other possible causes include hypothyroidism and anemia.
When feet ache after a long day may be caused by your shoes, but a pain that’s not due to sky-high heels may come from a stress fracture, a small crack in a bone. Additionally, an exercise that was too intense, particularly high-impact sports like basketball may also, weaken the bones. Osteoporosis also increases the risk.
Red, White, and Blue Toes:
Raynaud’s disease can cause toes to turn white, then bluish, and then redden again and return to their natural tone, and the cause is a sudden narrowing of the arteries, called vasospasms. Stress or changes in temperature can trigger vasospasms, but Raynaud’s may also be related to rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s disease, or thyroid problems.
The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. The pain may be sharpest when you first wake up and put pressure on the foot, but arthritis, excessive exercise, tendonitis, and poorly fitting shoes also can cause heel pain. Less common known causes include a bone spur on the bottom of the heel, a bone infection, tumor, or fracture.
This is usually a temporary nuisance caused by standing or sitting too long especially if you are pregnant. However, feet that stay swollen can be a sign of a serious medical condition, and the cause may be poor circulation, a problem with the lymphatic system, or a blood clot.
A kidney disorder or underactive thyroid can also cause swelling of the foot, and if you have persistent swelling of your feet, it is best to see a physician.
A burning sensation in the feet is a common symptom of diabetics with peripheral nerve damage. It can also be caused by a vitamin B deficiency, athlete’s foot, hypothyroidism, peripheral arterial disease (poor circulation in the legs and feet), or chronic kidney disease.
Foot sores that take time to heal are a major warning sign for diabetes. Those sores also are prone to infection, and diabetics should wash and dry their feet and check them for any wounds every day. Slow-healing of sores also can be caused by poor circulation (peripheral artery disease).
Itchy, scaly feet or skin may be athlete’s foot. This is a common fungal infection. Additionally, a reaction to chemicals or skin care products (contact dermatitis) can cause itching, too, along with redness and dry patches.
If the skin on itchy feet is thick, it may be as a result of psoriasis (an over-reaction of the immune system). Medicated creams can help relieve the symptoms.
A sudden, sharp pain in the foot is the hallmark of a muscle spasm or cramp. Overwork and muscle fatigue are common causes, but poor circulation, dehydration, or imbalances in potassium, magnesium, calcium, or vitamin D levels in the body can also lead to it.
The changing hormone levels of pregnancy or thyroid disorders may also play a role in spasms. Strengthening exercises can help with muscle fatigue, but for frequent or severe spasm, see a doctor.
Dark Spot on the Foot
A melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, can develop in areas that are not regularly exposed to the sun, and can even appear beneath the nail, where it might look like a black spot.
A fungal infection often causes thickened yellow toenails, which can also be a sign of an underlying disease, like lymphedema (swelling related to the lymphatic system), lung problems, psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Examples of Medications for Foot Pain
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children’s Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children’s Fever/Pain)
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
- celecoxib (Celebrex)
- Efinaconazole, Jublia
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
After a long day of standing at work, it’s common to experience some foot discomfort, but if you notice severe foot pain that seems out of proportion to your physical activity, inform your doctor immediately, because, what starts as a minor foot problem could indicate a more serious underlying medical condition.