Problems of Hands and Feet

There are numerous minor but common conditions of the hands and feet which bother people. Most people do not understand why they get them. The conditions are not life threatening but they are a nuisance. I will describe few conditions here and briefly discuss their cause and treatment.

Ganglion: A ganglion occurs mainly in the hand and foot and joint areas. It is a cyst containing jelly like substance. It may be soft or tense. It is usually smooth. It arises from the bursa within the substance of a joint capsule or the sheath covering a tendon. Some times this occurs after an injury. Sometimes it may cause pain.

Treatment: There are non-surgical methods to treat ganglion. But surgery usually provides satisfactory results. Occasionally it may recur at the same site.

Plantar warts: These are same as common warts. They grow on the soles of the feet. They grow into the skin because we walk on them. They can be painful on walking. The virus causing the wart is picked up from walking bare foot in locker rooms and swimming pools.

Treatment: They may spontaneously disappear if you wait long enough – months to years. They can be managed by freezing, scrapping or burning. They can recur.

Plantar fasciitis: Also known as “policeman’s heel”. It is common in men aged 40-60years. Exact cause of the condition is not known. There is pain beneath the heel. It is tender when pressure is applied.

Treatment: Pain can be minimized by padding and/or by cortisone injection. This may or may not work. Pain usually gets better in six to twelve months.

Callus and corns: These are thickened areas on the hands or feet caused by pressure or friction. This is usually related to work or sporting activities. Uneven pressure of body weight during walking or ill fitting shoes can cause calluses and corns on the feet.

Treatment: Wear proper fitting shoes and use corn pads to relieve pressure on the corns. Thick calluses can be sliced down to normal skin over a period of time. If the source of friction and pressure is removed then corns and calluses should not recur.

Toenail problems: Mainly involves the big toe. It may be ingrown or overgrown. Ingrown toe nails are commonly due to ill-fitting shoes pressing on an incorrectly cut nail. Poor foot hygiene encourages infection.

Treatment: In an acute stage antibiotic, painkillers and bathing the foot in warm salt water are necessary. Surgery is required in most cases. The problem can be prevented from recurring by keeping the feet clean and wear correctly fitting shoes. Cut the nail straight.

Fungus infection of the nails: Usually affects toenails. The nail is thickened and discolored. It is usually yellowish. The nail may grow in a twisted manner. The infection is picked up in a public place where it is transmitted from person to person. Poor feet hygiene does not help.

Treatment: Anti-fungal therapy is required – orally and locally for three months. Cure rate is around 80 percent. Ongoing meticulous foot care is very important to prevent recurrence.

Our feet are subjected to more wear and tear and hence they get more problems than our hands. Our natural tendency is to take care of our hands more than our feet. Many of these problems are preventable.

In my view, walking bare feet is the worst thing you can do for your feet. Wash your feet at least once a day (twice if your feet sweat a lot) with soap and water. Dry them well with a soft towel. Wear good quality clean socks and proper fitting comfortable shoes.

If you love your feet then take good care of them.

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