We tend to take our feet for granted but pain has a way of invigorating our awareness writes Neil Trainis…
The average person takes between 8000 and 10000 steps a day. The law of averages suggests that somewhere along the line wear and tear will give rise to ailments. This notion is reinforced by statistics which paint an extreme picture such as those stating that the NHS spends £600 million a year on treating foot problems in people with diabetes with a staggering £252 million of that spent on amputation. Those numbers overshadow the statistic compiled by CCS Professional Foot Care a Swedish company specialising in foot care products proposing that the UK foot skincare market is worth around £19m a year. Foot care brands may be quick to push that number up but such a modest figure can get lost in the glare of a high-powered corporate business world where number-crunching ostensibly assumes colossal proportions. Its significance though lies in the fact that it is misleading in determining the extent to which people suffer from foot problems. Other statistics allow us to scratch the surface a little more. Three-quarters of people get foot pain at some point in their lives and women are four times more likely to get foot problems than men largely down to wearing high heels. Cold financial numbers appear it seems as mere façades rather than genuine illustrations of how big the UK foot skincare industry is or potentially could be. Unless there is extreme pain or an unsightly blemish many people with foot problems may find disclosure more of a burden than it is worth much like a routine headache that does not have serious implications and disappears in a short time.
Nonetheless feet are far from immune from the problems encountered by other parts of the body. Corns bunions and blisters all caused by pressure to different areas of the foot are becoming increasingly common. Preventative treatments are thus becoming more significant for pharmacists to recommend and stock.
Indeed diabetes sufferers have an increased risk of infection in their feet because of poor circulation which can cause healing to be delayed and even minor cuts and sores can become infected. Bearing in mind Diabetes UK last month warned that over a million people in the UK are unaware that they suffer from type 2 diabetes the potential pool of sufferers with related foot problems could increase markedly.
The variation in foot ailments as with other bodily complaints increases the potential for new treatments and widens revenue streams. Old favourites are still very much apparent; athlete’s foot corns calluses bunions and veruccas. Treatments for those make up almost half of foot care sales.
Athlete’s foot a type of fungal infection is usually mild and responds quickly to treatment although if left untreated can spread to the toenails and other parts of the body. It thrives in warm moist areas of the body. A popular branded treatment is Canesten HC cream which contains active ingredients clotrimazole and hydrocortisone. Clotrimazole an anti-fungal medicine is used to treat infections with fungi and yeasts and hydrocortisone a corticosteroid is applied to the skin to relieve the symptoms of inflammation.
Clotrimazole also kills fungi and yeasts by disturbing their cell membranes stopping the fungi from producing a substance called ergosterol an essential component of fungal cell membranes.
Other marketable products for athlete’s foot include Daktacort hydrocortisone cream which is effective at treating inflamed athlete’s foot and infections and inflammation between the folds of skin due to overgrowth of Candida fungi Diflucan a medicine used in certain types of fungal infections and which contains fluconazole and Lamisil cream incorporating the active ingredient terbinafine hydrochloride an anti-fungal medicine used to combat infections caused by fungi. Athlete’s foot sufferers bewildered by the array of options are confronted by other treatments on the market such as Loceryl Nizoral Pevaryl and Sporanox.
Corns often suffered by women wearing badly fitting shoes or those who stand a lot during the day are small circles of thick skin that normally develop on the tops and sides of toes. The two main types are hard corns which are the most common and soft corns. Hard corns are pea-sized and have a small hard plug of skin in the centre. The plug can press into the skin and cause pain and swelling. They often occur over a bony area such as the little toe. Soft corns are whitish and rubbery in texture and appear between the toes where the skin is moist from sweat or trapped moisture. They are extremely painful and can become infected by bacteria or fungi.
Rarer types include seed corns clusters of small usually painless corns on the bottom of the foot; vascular corns which develop on blood vessels and bleed if they are cut; and fibrous corns which endure for a long time and become attached to the deeper layers of skin. Corns also appear on bony feet or as a symptom of other foot problems such as bunions. Calluses are hard yellowy or pale areas of skin that can feel rough and are often wider and larger than a corn and do not have such a defined edge.
They can appear where the skin rubs against something such as a bone a shoe or the ground and often form over the ball of the foot which takes a lot of the weight when walking. Calluses can also occur on the side of the foot palms and knuckles. Treatments include special creams to rehydrate thick skin protective corn plasters customised soft padding or foam insoles small foam wedges to place between the toes and special silicone wedges that change the position of the toes or redistribute pressure.
Scholl corn and callus removal liquid has proven to be an effective panacea. It contains salicylic acid which works by breaking down keratin a protein which forms part of the skin structure culminating in the shedding of skin cells from the affected area. It can also be applied to warts and verrucas although patients should refrain from using the product for more than 12 weeks without consulting a doctor.
Bunions bony swellings at the base of big toes caused when the big toe bends towards the middle of the foot and the second toe can be treated with bunion pads and painkillers. Aspirin Codeine/Paracetamol Diazepam Diclofenac sodium Ibuprofen Naproxen and Paracetamol are names which spring to mind. Lifestyle can naturally be preventative. Wearing comfortable well-fitting shoes and avoiding high-heeled pointed and tight shoes help while flat shoes with enough room to move the toes is another shrewd choice. Padding over the bunion may also prevent further rubbing.
Blisters appear when feet get hot and sweaty making socks stick to the feet. The sock and foot rub against one another and the inside of the shoe causing fluid to fill up between layers of skin.
Once a blister forms it is advisable to cover it with an adhesive dressing or gauze and if the blister causes pain cover the area with a soft dressing and change the dressing daily. If it becomes infected a visit to the doctor for a prescription of antibiotics is called for. Nonetheless Scholl Party Feet market a range of effective treatments including blister plasters and gel plasters sprays and pads an ideal concoction for pharmacies to stock. Another foot fiend is the verruca a wart on the sole of the foot. A recent UK study of 1000 children with warts found that 74% had common warts and 24% had verrucas. Boots Verruca Removal Gel Salatac Gel and Scholl Seal and Heal Verruca Removal Gel are noticeable treatments. Yet as with all medications awareness should extend to potential side effects in striving to alleviate pain.