A Biological Masterpiece, But Subject To Many Ills

The human foot is a biological masterpiece. Its strong, flexible and functional design enables it to do its job well and without complaint-if you take care of it and don't take it for granted. In order to keep your feet healthy, you should be familiar with the most common ills that affect them. Remember, though, that self treatment can often turn a minor problem into a major one, and is generally not advisable. You should see a podiatric physician when any of the following conditions occur or persist.

Athlete's foot is a skin disease usual starting between the toes or on the bottom of the feet, which can spread to other parts of the body. You can help prevent infection by washing your feet daily with soap and warm water, drying carefully especially between the toes, and changing shoes and hose regularly to decrease moisture.

Heel pain can generally be traced to faulty biomechanics which place too much stress on the heel bone or nerves in the area. Stress could result while walking or jumping on hard surfaces, or from poorly made footwear. Some general health conditions-arthritis, gout, and circulatory problems, for example, also cause heel pain.

Ingrown nails are nails whose corners or sides dig painfully into the skin. Toenails should be trimmed straight across, slightly longer than the end of the toe, with toenail clippers.

Bunions are misaligned big toe joints, which can become swollen or tender. There are conservative and preventative steps which can minimize the discomfort of a bunion, but surgery is frequently recommended to correct the problem.

Corns and calluses are protective layers of compacted, dead skin cells. They are caused by repeated friction and pressure from skin rubbing against bony areas or against an irregularity in a shoe. Never cut corns or calluses with any instrument and never apply home remedies, except under a podiatrist's instructions.

The American Podiatric Medical Association operates a toll-free telephone line, 1-800-366-8227 (1-800-FOOTCARE), offering free information on a range of foot health topics. (NAPSI)

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