Is That a Sliver in Your Foot?


Dear Foot Blogger Chick,
The weather was finally nice over the weekend and I was out cleaning the deck. I hate to admit it but I was in my bare feet. I think I might have gotten a splinter in my foot. The bottom of my foot is swollen and red. I can’t see anything. Should I just wait and let the splinter work its way out of my foot?
My Face is Red
Dear Red,
I love medical terminology. Did you know that having a splinter is referred to as having a foreign body? I would have thought that one would want a foreign body but it seems this is a whole different matter.
Splinters not only hurt; they can cause a lot of problems. In fact, all foreign bodies that enter the foot can cause problems. The items that can fall into the category of foreign bodies are as follows:  wood splinters, thorns, nails, tacks, toothpicks, glass shards, metal shavings, sand, stones, and my two personal favorites – pet hair and human hair. Yes, pet hair and human hair can, if stepped on at just the right angle, penetrate the skin. With these items, you sometimes don’t even know that you have an injury until the area reacts to the foreign body.
When something penetrates your skin, your body will attempt to build a shield around the object to keep it separate. This encapsulation of the object is what can be causing the problem more than the foreign body itself.  The increased encapsulation tissue can cause a lump to form and then cause pain when you step on it.
Red, you need to go see your friendly local podiatrist. The doctor will conduct a thorough examination of your foot to find the puncture wound. You will be asked about how long it has been since you had your last tetanus shot. In most cases, if you have had your tetanus shot in the last 10 years you are covered. There are exceptions to that though. If your foot was punctured when it was in dirt, the doctor may want you to have a new tetanus shot if it has been longer than 5 years.
 The doctor may have an x-ray of the area done so that they can try to find the object in your foot. The object will have to be removed.  In most cases, this can be done with a local anesthetic. You will soon be back to normal.
There are two problems with foreign body’s your foot. First off, it can make it hard to walk. Secondly, the risk of infection is very high. There can be infection from the item being dirty, there can be infection from the open wound, and there can be infection from other items going in the wound with the puncturing item. For example, if you are wearing flip flops and you step on a nail. The nail goes into your foot but so does part of the flip flop that was stuck on the nail on its way into your foot.  Each of those sources can cause infection.
And this is another time when I will stand on my soapbox about diabetics wearing shoes. Please, please always wear shoes if you are diabetic. You stand the risk of not feeling something going into your foot and getting infected without you knowing it. It is not worth going barefoot if you have to have your foot amputated due to infection. Also, you need to visually check your feet twice a day to make sure they look okay.
In summary, you need to head to your friendly local podiatrist if you have a puncture wound in your foot. It should be checked so that you can prevent infection and have the item removed.
Because it is fun to share stories, I will share one about foreign bodies. A patient came into the office and complained that she had a large callus on her toe and that it hurt.  The doctor listened to her symptoms and thoroughly examined the area. He numbed her toe and started hygienically shaving down the callus. In working on the callus, he found a cat hair was embedded in her toe. The callus was not the problem, it was the cat hair. Once the cat hair was removed, the pain was also.
So you just never know.
 Your pal,
Foot Blogger Chick
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to send them to or leave them in the comment section below. I am not a doctor but I check with one before answering questions.
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