Foot Problems

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From warts to bunions, feet can suffer from some painful conditions. Use this chart to find appropriate self-care options.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
Begin Here

1. Is the person a child or a newborn with a foot deformity?


Yes

Foot deformities are not unusual in newborns. CLUBFOOT is a common disorder in which one or both feet are turned inward or downward.

See your doctor. Treatment is usually more effective when started early.

No

2. Is the person a child or a toddler with toes that point in?


Yes

The cause may be FEMORAL ANTEVERSION, TIBIAL TORSION or METATARSUS ADDUCTUS, commonly called intoeing.

See your doctor.

No

3. Did your foot pain begin after intense physical activity?


Yes

You may have a STRESS FRACTURE of the bones in your foot. The pain from stress fractures usually decreases with rest and increases with activity.

Apply ice to the foot and take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine to relieve pain. See your doctor if you don't feel better within a few days.

No

4. Did your foot pain or swelling begin with an injury or accident?


No

Go to Question 9.*

Yes

5. Is there swelling or redness on top of your foot?


Yes

Your pain may be from DAMAGE TO THE SKIN OR TENDONS on top of the foot.

Use ice and an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine. See your doctor if the pain doesn't get better within a few days.

No

6. Are you unable to stand or walk on your foot and is your foot swollen or bruised?


Yes

Your FOOT or ANKLE BONE may be FRACTURED.

See your doctor. Apply ice to reduce the swelling and take an over-the-counter analgesic such as ibuprofen to help relieve pain.

No

7. Is the pain on the bottom of your foot between the ball and the heel?


Yes

You may have SPRAINED the LIGAMENT in the arch of the foot.

Use shoes with an arch support and take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine. See your doctor if the pain is severe or if you can't walk on the foot.

No

8. Is the pain only in one toe and did it start after you hit, twisted or jammed the toe?


Yes

Your pain may be from TURF TOE (a sprained big toe), from a PULLED LIGAMENT or from a FRACTURE.

See your doctor. Applying ice or taping the sore toe to the next toe can help relieve the pain.

No

*9. Does your foot look flat and are you experiencing foot pain and pain on the inside of your ankle, along with swelling?


Yes

You may have FALLEN ARCHES, a condition known as FLAT FEET.

Wear shoes that have solid support and avoid weight-bearing activities until the pain and swelling go away. See your doctor if your symptoms persist.

No

10. Does your foot hurt somewhere between the heel and the ball of the foot, especially when you take your first steps after getting up the morning?


Yes

Your pain may be from irritation of the arch ligament and tissues, called PLANTAR FASCIITIS.

Try to keep weight off your foot until the inflammation is better. Use an anti-inflammatory medicine to relieve the pain. Rest and apply ice to the sore area. See your doctor if your pain doesn't get better.

No

11. Do you have a small, hard, thickened area of skin on the bottom of the foot or on the sides of the toe?


Yes

These thickened areas are likely to be CORNS. If they appear to have small granules in them, they may be WARTS. A small piece of retained glass can also cause these problems.

Use an over-the-counter corn or wart remover. Remove the dead skin after each treatment. See your doctor if you have diabetes, if the corns or warts are painful or inflamed, or if they're large, very numerous or resistant to over-the-counter medicines.

No

12. Do you have pain in your big toe or in the big toe joint, and does your big toe seem to be deformed, pointing toward the small toes?


Yes

Your toe deformity may be from a collapsing joint, commonly called a BUNION.

Wear comfortable shoes that provide plenty of room for your toes. Avoid high-heeled shoes and apply ice, or try over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve the pain. See your doctor if your condition worsens.

No

13. Do you have a fever and are your joints tender, sore, red or swollen?


Yes

RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS may be the cause of the pain.

See your doctor. Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis may include medications, physical therapy, exercise and, in some cases, surgery.

No

14. Do you have a red, swollen big toe that hurts when anything touches it?


Yes

You may have GOUT.

See your doctor.

No

15. Do you have intense pain near your heel when you put weight on it?


Yes

Your pain may be from a HEEL SPUR, a small bulge from the heel bone, but more likely to be due to PLANTAR FASCIITIS.

See your doctor. He or she can suggest special stretching exercises to help relieve the pain. A soft insole or a firm insole with a hole under the spur may also help.

No

16. Do you have a moist, white area of peeling skin and itching between your toes, and/or scaling and itching skin on your foot?


Yes

These may be symptoms of a fungal infection called ATHLETE'S FOOT.

Use an over-the-counter athlete's foot spray or cream. Wash your feet thoroughly with soap and water twice a day. Be sure to dry your feet completely. If your symptoms aren't better in 1 to 2 weeks, see your doctor. If the affected area is very red and tender, see your doctor sooner.

No

17. Do you have a burning pain at the base of a toe on the bottom of your foot, along with tingling or numbness in your toes?


Yes

You may have MORTON'S NEUROMA, a noncencerous growth of nerve tissue.

Wear wide shoes with soft insoles. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or ice massages may help relieve the pain.

No

18. Is a part of your foot red, swollen, warm and tender?


Yes

You may have an infection called CELLULITIS. If you have diabetes, an infection of your foot may be more common and more dangerous.

URGENT
See your doctor promptly. Cellulitis is usually treated with antibiotics.

No

19. Have your toes been exposed to very cold temperatures?


Yes

FROSTBITE may damage your skin and tissues.

URGENT
See your doctor. Warm the feet by immersing them in warm (not hot) water or by applying warm cloths to the affected area.

No

20. Have you lost sensation in your toes or are they discolored and foul-smelling?


Yes

GANGRENE can occur if a body part loses its blood supply because of diabetes or hardening of the arteries.

URGENT
See your doctor. Good diabetic foot care may prevent some infections that could lead to gangrene and loss of toes.

No

For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.

See complete list of charts.