Foot Wounds

What are foot wounds?

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There are several possible foot wounds. This article will cover foot crush injuries, ingrown toenails, diabetic foot infections, stress fractures, ankle sprains, and plantar fasciitis.

  • Foot crush injuries occur when force or pressure injures the foot.
  • Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail grows into the skin next to the nail.
  • Diabetic foot infections occur when a foot wound becomes infected.
  • Stress fractures are tiny cracks or severe bruising in a bone.
  • Ankle sprains occur in the ligaments between and around the leg and foot.
  • Plantar fasciitis is pain in plantar fascia, or ligament that connects the front of the foot to the heel.

What causes foot wounds?

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Feet are susceptible to several wounds and injuries. Some foot wounds are exacerbated by existing health conditions, while others are largely accidental.

  • Foot crush injury causes include vehicles driving over the foot, objects falling on the foot, or impact on the foot from work-related manufacturing equipment.
  • Ingrown toenail causes include bad foot hygiene, toenail injury, tight footwear, incorrectly cut toenails, and genetic predisposition. Sports like soccer, ballet, or football.
  • Diabetic foot infections are a result of neuropathy, or nerve damage. A person with diabetes might not feel a small foot injury, which means it could develop into something more serious. Possible causes of a diabetic foot infection include scrapes, blisters, or scuffs that develop into diabetic foot infections or diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Stress fracture causes include repetitive activity and overuse, especially in an athletic setting. Stress fractures can occur during a change in activity: starting something new, increasing intensity, or changing environments/surfaces of a workout.
  • Ankle sprains occur when the foot suddenly or unexpectedly twists or rolls in an awkward way, which moves the ankle joint from its normal position.
  • The cause of plantar fasciitis is unknown.

What are symptoms of foot wounds?

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Each foot wound presents uniquely. Understanding these symptoms and knowing how to address each wound can help you take better care of your feet.

  • Foot crush injury symptoms include bleeding, fracture, swelling, laceration, pain, nerve injury and bruising.
  • Early symptoms of ingrown toenails are pain, fluid build-up, and the skin next to the nail becoming hard, tender, or swollen. Infected ingrown toenail symptoms include bleeding, pus, skin overgrowth, and pain.
  • Diabetic foot infections present like other infections, with symptoms that include shortness of breath, stiff neck, sweats and chills, fever, nasal congestion, or a new mouth sore. Black tissue might crop up around the infection. Partial or complete gangrene might surround the infection.
  • Stress fracture symptoms include tenderness, pain, bruising, or swelling on top of the foot or the ankle.
  • Ankle sprain symptoms include swelling, bruising, tenderness, pain, stiffness, or skin discoloration. People with ankle sprains are usually unable to put weight on the affected ankle.
  • Plantar fasciitis symptoms include pain in the bottom of the heel or mid-foot area. The pain grows over time and can take on a range of sensations. Some people with plantar fasciitis experience dull pain, and some experience sharp pain. This pain can also present as burning or aching.

Are there any risk factors or groups for foot wounds?

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The groups most at-risk for foot wounds are seniors and people with conditions that cause neuropathy, like diabetes. People within these risk groups should regularly visit with a podiatrist to keep any foot wounds under control.

How are foot wounds diagnosed?

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Some foot wounds might present obviously, while others operate under the radar. A trained professional is best at noticing and diagnosing an issue. A podiatrist will conduct physical exams, like strength and balance evaluations, and take imaging, like x-rays, to determine the best treatment for a foot wound.

How are foot wounds treated?

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Early-stage foot wounds are largely treatable at home. As the condition of the foot wound worsens, the need for professional medical treatment increases.

  • Foot crush injuries should be cleaned and bandaged to reduce risk of infection. Treatment could include a combination of casting, ice and heat, medication, kinesiology taping, physical therapy, or surgery. If you experience a foot crush injury, get medical attention right away. The pressure from the foot injury could cause a build-up of cardiac pressure, resulting in a cardiovascular event.
  • Ingrown toenails at-home treatment includes over-the-counter medicines, topical antibiotics or steroid creams to prevent infections, a cotton ball soaked in olive oil to push skin away from toenail, and a warm water soak for 15-20 minutes three to four times per day. If the pain stays the same or worsens after a few days, see a podiatrist. Partial or total nail removal surgery might be necessary.
  • Diabetic foot infection treatment includes cleaning the wound and removing the ulcer and dead skin. A podiatrist will dress the infected area with a topical treatment. An antibiotic medication will help fight the infection. An antiplatelet or anti-clotting medication might be necessary if the infection does not abate.
  • Stress fracture treatment includes casting, modified activities, or protective footwear, like a brace shoe or stiff-soled shoe. Treatment could include surgery if the fracture is severe enough.
  • Mild ankle sprains respond well to at-home treatments like elevating the foot, resting, wearing a brace, using crutches, and wrapping the ankle. Ankle sprain surgery is rare, but necessary when the sprain does not heal with at-home treatment.
  • Plantar fasciitis pain management might initially include icing, rest, braces, or anti-inflammatory drugs. If pain management does not work, a podiatrist might inject corticosteroid into the damaged area. Physical therapy can help stretch and strengthen areas that will support the plantar fascia. Extracorporeal shock therapy is a treatment for plantar fasciitis cases that have not responded to at-home treatments or corticosteroid injections. Surgery is the last step for the most aggressive plantar fasciitis cases.

What are lifestyle changes that could prevent foot wounds?

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Foot care is of the utmost importance, especially in old age. These simple lifestyle changes could help prevent foot wounds

  • Wear comfortable footwear that properly fits
  • Keep feet from becoming too dry or too wet
  • Use appropriate shoes for work or exercise
  • Stretch and strengthen foot and leg muscles
  • See a podiatrist regularly in old age
  • See a podiatrist regularly if you have a condition that limits circulation, like diabetes

Should you see a podiatrist for foot wounds?

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A podiatrist visit is usually beneficial depending on the severity of the foot wound. In fact, regular podiatrist visits can help prevent, identify, or treat foot wounds.

  • A podiatrist must properly diagnose a foot crush injury for the most effective treatment.
  • At-home treatment should effectively treat minor ingrown toenails. See a podiatrist if at-home treatment has not worked after a few days or weeks, depending on severity.
  • Diabetic foot infections require a podiatrist’s attention and treatment. People with diabetes should complete daily foot checks and see a podiatrist regularly to prevent foot infections.
  • Stress fractures require x-ray imaging to accurately diagnose. Severe cases might need more professional oversight.
  • Ankle sprains heal best under the oversight of a podiatrist, even though treatment largely takes place at home.
  • Plantar fasciitis will likely heal faster under the supervision of a podiatrist. At-home treatments might help with pain management, but some cases of plantar fasciitis require more serious medical care.

What is the outlook for people living with foot wounds?

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Most foot wounds are not life-threatening. However, if left untreated, even the most benign foot wound could have lifelong health implications.

  • Foot crush injuries can create lasting and serious complications if they are not properly treated. See a podiatrist for an easier return to day-to-day activities.
  • An untreated ingrown toenail can turn into a bone infection in the toe. It can also cause open sores, foot ulcers, and loss of blood flow to the infected toe. People with diabetes might suffer more, and longer, from an ingrown toenail.
  • Diabetic foot infections can be life-threatening. Infection can spread to other parts of the body. Swift treatment is the best way to minimize the effect of a diabetic foot infection on the body.
  • Stress fractures should heal within 6-8 weeks, though severe fractures could take longer. Reinjury can cause lifelong issues and prevent the fracture from ever healing properly.
  • Ankle sprains are not typically serious and will fully heal with proper treatment. A podiatrist might recommend some stability exercises to help the injured ankle regain full strength and stability.
  • Plantar fasciitis should heal within a few months to 2 years. At-home treatments combined with physical therapy and corticosteroid injections are enough to heal most plantar fasciitis cases.