Everyone has had a minor problem with a toe, foot, or ankle. Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems, but it's not surprising that symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear or overuse. Toe, foot, or ankle problems can also occur from injuries or the natural process of aging.
Your toes, feet, or ankles may burn, sting, hurt, feel tired, sore, stiff, numb, tingly, hot, or cold. You may have had a "charley horse" (muscle cramp) in your foot while lying in bed at night. Your feet or ankles may change colour or swell. You may have noticed an embarrassing odour from your feet. Some changes in your feet and ankles are normal as a person ages or during pregnancy. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms.
Toe, foot, or ankle problems may be caused by an injury. If you think an injury caused your problem, see the topic Toe, Foot, or Ankle Injuries. But there are many non-injury causes of toe, foot, or ankle problems.
Most skin problems that affect your feet are more annoying than they are serious. If you have:
Toe joints are more likely to develop problems than other joints in your feet.
You may develop pain in the front (ball) of your foot (metatarsalgia) or in your heel. Heel problems commonly occur when you overuse calf muscles, wear shoes with high heels, or participate in activities, such as running, that cause repeated pounding on your heels.
Many conditions may affect the nerves of the foot and cause numbness, tingling, and burning.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in children 3 years and older
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons for colour and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal colour returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and this change does not go away.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Pain in adults and older children
Symptoms of infection may include:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
or other emergency services now.
Most minor toe, foot, or ankle problems go away on their own. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Try a non-prescription medicine to help treat your pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a non-prescription medicine:
Try home treatment for these other foot problems such as:
If you are diagnosed with a foot problem, other home treatment steps may help.
Check your symptoms if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following tips may prevent toe, foot, or ankle problems.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineH. Michael O'Connor, MD, MMEd, FRCPC - Emergency Medicine
Current as ofNovember 20, 2017
Current as of: November 20, 2017
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD, MMEd, FRCPC - Emergency Medicine
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