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Skin and Toenail Conditions

Skin and toenail conditions include any unusual discoloration, irritation or unusual appearance.

Ingrown Nails

Ingrown nails are nails whose corners or sides dig painfully into the soft tissue of nail grooves, often leading to irritation, redness, and swelling. Usually, toenails grow straight out. Sometimes, however, one or both corners or sides curve and grow into the flesh. The big toe is the most common location for this condition, but it can also occur on other toes. Ingrown toenails may be caused by improperly trimmed nails, they run in your family, shoe pressure that crowds the toes, or repeated trauma to the feet from normal activities.

You should see a podiatrist immediately if any drainage or excessive redness is present around the toenail. Home treatments may help treat ingrown toenails. If there is no improvement after three days, see your podiatrist. If you have diabetes or poor circulation, you should seek immediate treatment at the first signs of an ingrown toenail, as it can lead to more severe complications.

Fungal Infections

Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is an infection underneath the surface of the nail caused by fungi. Symptoms include a progressive change in a toenail's quality and color, which is often ugly and embarrassing.

You should visit a podiatrist when you notice any discoloration, thickening, or deformity of your toenails. The earlier you seek professional treatment, the greater your chance at getting your fungal infection to clear. Treatments vary, but may include an oral antifungal, a topical prescription, or surgery to remove the infected nail.

Warts

Warts are caused by a virus and can appear anywhere on the skin. Those that appear on the sole of the foot are called plantar warts. Your podiatrist can remove warts by a simple surgical procedure or laser treatment, performed under local anesthetic.

Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses are areas of thickened skin that develop to protect that area from irritation. They occur when something rubs against the foot repeatedly or causes excess pressure against part of the foot. If the thickening of skin occurs on the bottom of the foot, it's called a callus. If it occurs on the top of the foot (or toe), it's called a corn. Corns and calluses are not contagious but may become painful if they get too thick. In people with diabetes or decreased circulation, they can lead to more serious foot problems.

Corns and calluses are diagnosed based on appearance and history. If you have mild corns or calluses, your podiatrist may suggest changing your shoes and/or adding padding to your shoes. Larger corns and calluses are most effectively reduced (made smaller) with a surgical blade. A podiatrist can use the blade to carefully shave away the thickened, dead skin—right in the office. The procedure is painless because the skin is already dead. Additional treatments may be needed if the corn or callus recurs.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancers of the feet have several features in common. Most are painless, and often there is a history of recurrent cracking, bleeding, or ulceration. Frequently, individuals discover their skin cancer after unrelated ailments near the affected site.

Podiatrists are uniquely trained as lower extremity specialists to recognize and treat abnormal conditions on the skin of the lower legs and feet. Skin cancers affecting the feet may have a very different appearance from those arising on the rest of the body. For this reason, a podiatrist's knowledge and clinical training is of extreme importance for patients for the early detection of both benign and malignant skin tumors.

Learn the ABCDs of melanoma. If you notice a mole, bump, or patch on the skin that meets any of the following criteria, see a podiatrist immediately:

  • Asymmetry - If the lesion is divided in half, the sides don't match.
  • Borders - Borders look scalloped, uneven, or ragged.
  • Color - There may be more than one color. These colors may have an uneven distribution.
  • Diameter – The lesion is wider than a pencil eraser (greater than 6 mm).
  • To detect other types of skin cancer, look for spontaneous ulcers and non-healing sores, bumps that crack or bleed, nodules with rolled or “donut-shaped” edges, or scaly areas.

Other Conditions

Dry Skin (Cracked Heels)

There are many potential causes of "cracked heels." Dry skin (xerosis) is common and can get worse if you wear open-back shoes, gain weight, or have increased friction from the back of shoes. Dry cracking skin can also be a subtle sign of more significant problems, such as diabetes or loss of nerve function (autonomic neuropathy). Heels should be kept well moisturized with a cream to help reduce the cracking. If an open sore is noted, make an appointment with a podiatrist.

Sweaty Feet

Sweaty feet are a common disorder in which the sweat glands of the feet produce excessive sweat. People with this condition usually have a genetic predisposition or are under stress, which activates the brain to produce more sweat to keep the body cool. Athlete’s foot or smelly feet may accompany sweaty feet. The foot and ankle surgeon can recommend one of a variety of treatments for this condition.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by dry, whitish patches on the skin. Normally, new skin cells rise to the surface of the skin once a month; the old surface skin cells die and fall off while the new cells are moving to the surface. In people who have psoriasis, the new cells move to the surface so rapidly that the dead cells build up on the surface. Some people have mild cases of psoriasis. Others have extensive cases that affect multiple parts of the body.