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Overview of Foot Problems

by Kendrick Alan Whitney, DPM

Some foot problems start in the foot itself, for example, from a foot injury. Others result from disorders that affect many parts of the body, such as diabetes, gout, or other types of arthritis. Problems can occur in any bone, joint, muscle, tendon, or ligament of the foot. Foot fractures are fairly common (see Foot Fractures). Discoloration of the toenails should always be evaluated because it may be caused by certain disorders, including a fungal infection (see Nail Disorders).

People who have diabetes or peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to the legs, arms, and possibly internal organs) should check their feet daily for signs of infection or ulcers and should have a doctor or foot doctor (podiatrist) check their feet at least once a year (see Caring for the Feet).

Many foot disorders are treated by changing a person’s footwear, such as wearing different shoes or using inserts or other devices placed in the shoe that change the position or range of movement of the foot to relieve pressure on affected joints or painful areas (called orthotics or orthoses). Injections of an anesthetic into the affected joint or painful area can often relieve pain and decrease muscle spasms so that joints can move more easily, and a corticosteroid may also be injected to decrease inflammation. If these treatments are not successful, sometimes surgery is needed to improve joint alignment and function and relieve pain.

Some Common Foot and Ankle Disorders by Location

Ankle

Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tibialis posterior tendinosis

Ball of the foot

Interdigital nerve pain (Morton neuroma)

Freiberg disease

Metatarsal joint pain

Sesamoiditis

Heel (bottom)

Inferior calcaneal bursitis

Plantar fasciosis

Heel (back part)

Achilles tendon enthesopathy

Achilles tendon bursitis

Medial plantar nerve entrapment

Sole

Plantar fibromatosis

Toe

Bunion

Hammer toe

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