The Danger of Self Diagnosis of the Feet!

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Bearing in mind how important our feet are to us and how we rely so heavily on them, it never ceases to amaze me just how little attention we afford them. If you think about it, if you had tooth ache would you be tempted to have a go at solving the problem yourself? So why then is it that many people have no qualms at all about a bit of self diagnosis and treatment of the feet?

These are typical examples

A friend of a friend says that her husband has something on his foot – between the two of them they think it’s a verruca – it’s been painful and his GP and Pharmacist both agree that it is a verruca from the description he gives. The treatment recommended? A salicylic acid home preparation to ‘burn it out’.

Now I have to start by saying that our GPs are very knowledgeable but how on earth can they specialise in every aspect of health – of course they can’t and that is why seeking out a really good foot specialist (Podiatrist or Chiropodist) is really worthwhile. The same applies with the Pharmacist who is led by the patient as far as the history and description of the problem is concerned – no disrespect, but never a reliable starting point. What can be missed in such instances is that the patient is in his early seventies, where the skin and healing are not what they used to be and the use of acid on skin at this age is very dangerous and can be very problematic, even though the preparation is available over the counter.

Problem number two lies in the fact that common sense will tell a ‘good’ foot person that verrucae seldom appear in the older person whose skin is not generally moist and who rarely uses communal changing facilities. Luckily this was picked up quickly and the acid stopped before too much damage could be done. The foot was looked at by one of my team, and a corn was diagnosed and treated.

Now if the acid had been continued an ulcer could easily have formed over the site and for this to happen on an otherwise healthy person is difficult enough to control, but if you apply these same circumstances to someone who is perhaps borderline diabetic and isn’t aware of it, or takes medication, including steroid treatment, you could be looking at something as serious as amputation of the foot. It sounds like I am scare mongering but really I am not!

Another typical example is the self diagnosis of Athlete’s Foot. How many times have I seen a patient who has been told that they have Athlete’s foot between their toes only to find this isn’t the case. The patient is complaining of pain and stinging and can’t easily locate the point of pain on the foot, and actually this is proving so painful that the patient really can’t settle and is jumping around. Athlete’s foot preparation is used and the condition is briefly improved, only to recur with vengeance. The diagnosis? It is a Heloma Molle – or soft corn between the toes and using a moist antifungal cream on this area is absolutely the worst thing to do. As the soft corn gains momentum the area is reddened, inflamed and hugely painful. Now how on earth can we expect the GP to diagnose that one? The treatment is pain free and straightforward, though two or three appointments may be necessary to get this under control; however I can tell you, there is never a more grateful patient than one who has been suffering with a soft corn between the toes and who after one treatment can walk again pain free!

The other common false diagnosis is how you can diagnose fungal nails just by looking at them – well actually you can’t, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The biggest culprit for discoloured nails in females actually is migrating fake tan – as simple as that (easily removed by the use of a nail buffer across the nail). However, if in doubt your foot specialist will organise fungal testing. This is tested under the microscope for provisional results, but almost always needs a culture study for a full diagnosis which takes up to 6 weeks, to complete. What treatment is required and the results that you can expect can only be discussed and begun after the diagnosis.

And what about the painful big toe nail. It is causing a bit of aggravation so why not take clippers to it, and dig it out yourself. Job done – well for around 12 hours, and then hey presto you have a full blown ingrown toe nail, complete with oozing and infection. In our experience around 60% of ingrown toe nails are caused by home treatment.

The moral of the story – our feet walk 10,000+ steps a day, and actually they deserve a little credit for it. It really doesn’t take much to look after them, but please don’t be tempted to self diagnose, the feet really deserve better! And when they are better, keep them fit and healthy by the use of our wonderful product range to fuse health and beauty of the feet.

Margaret Dabbs | , , , , ,