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Monday, 10 February 2020 00:00

Ingrown toenails (onychocryptosis) are a common foot ailment and it is very unpleasant to experience. The condition is caused by an increase in pressure from the ingrowth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. Ingrown toenails commonly cause pain in those who experience them. In some cases, the skin surrounding the ingrown toenail may break which may lead bacteria to enter through and cause an infection. Common symptoms of this ailment include pain, redness, swelling, and warmth around the toe.

An imbalance between the size of the nail and the enlargement of the nail skin edge causes ingrown toenails. This condition is often caused by improperly trimming the toenails. If you are trying you cut your nails, you should always try to trim straight across instead of in a rounded shape. Ingrown toenails can also be an inherited condition and they may also be caused by improper shoe fitting.

Another common cause of the condition is wearing shoes that are either too small or too large. Other causes include poor foot hygiene, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, edema, and fungal infections. There are many risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop an ingrown toenail. Athletes who play “stop and start” sports such as tennis, soccer, and basketball are most likely to have ingrown toenails.

People who have diabetes, a compromised immune system, or poor circulation should immediately seek care from a podiatrist if they have an ingrown toenail. It is also recommended to seek professional assistance if at-home remedies are not successful within a week or if there is persistent pain.

Monday, 03 February 2020 00:00

While not a serious issue, toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition to experience. Toenail fungus is often caused from public areas that harbor fungi and improper cleaning/drying of the foot. Once infected, the fungus grows deeper into the nail and can be very hard to get rid of.

There are different types of fungus that cause toenail fungus. Dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds are the most frequent forms of fungus to infect the toenail. Dermatophytes are the most common among the three. Symptoms associated with fungal nails include the discoloration of the toenail, brittleness, and in some circumstances, a smell. Pain is rarely a symptom caused by toenail fungus.

Diagnosis of fungal nails is generally a rather quick process. However podiatrists will make sure that the cause is not another condition such as lichen planus, psoriasis, onychogryphosis, or nail damage. Podiatrists will make use of fungal cultures and microscopy to verify that it is fungus.

While over-the-counter ointments are readily available, most are ineffective. This is due to the fact that the nail is very protective and that the fungus slips in between the nail plate and bed. Podiatrists can offer oral medication which currently provides the best results.

Ultimately, prevention is the best line of defense against toenail fungus. Avoid unsanitary public showers. If you do use a public shower, use shower shoes to provide your foot with protection. Once you are finished showering, make sure to thoroughly dry your feet. Fungi thrive in warm, dark, and moist places like sweaty, warm feet that are left dark in shoes all day.

Monday, 27 January 2020 00:00

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also help mend existing foot problems and prevent future ones.

The feet, as the body’s foundation, carry the body’s entire weight and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are often common concerns. Foot pain and foot problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits. It is always a good idea, however, to first rule out any serious medical issues with a physician.

Stretching can help relax the feet and alleviate pain, but is especially important before heavy aerobic exercise. Stretching before such activities can help you avoid experiencing painful cramps or strained foot muscles. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds before relaxing.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard; just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing and facing a wall with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel a stretching sensation, and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regularly stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Monday, 20 January 2020 00:00

Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity.  Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.

Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.

Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.

For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.

If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.

Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.  

Monday, 13 January 2020 00:00

Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, is a skin disease caused by a fungal infection.  The infection typically occurs between the toes, and the feet are most subject to this disease because shoes best create the warm, dark, and moist environment in which fungus thrives.  Other areas that create a similar environment, such as swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms; can also promote fungi growth. 

Symptoms of athlete’s foot include dry skin, itching, scaling, inflammation, and blistering.  Sometimes, blisters can evolve into the cracks or breaks in the skin.  The exposed tissue can then create pain, swelling, and discharge.  The spread of infection can cause itching and burning as well.

While athlete’s foot commonly occurs between the toes, it may also spread to the toenails or soles of the feet.  Other parts of the body, such as the groin or underarms, can also become infected if they are touched after the original area of infection is scratched.  Aside from physical contact, athlete’s foot can also spread through the contamination of footwear, clothing or bedsheets.

Proper foot hygiene is essential in preventing athlete’s foot.  You can prevent the fungus from spreading by frequently washing your feet using soap and water, thoroughly drying the feet between the toes, changing shoes and socks every day to reduce moisture, and ensuring that bathroom and shower floors are disinfected.  Other tips include using shower shoes, avoiding walking barefoot in public environments, wearing light and airy shoes, and wearing socks that keep the feet dry.

While treatment for athlete’s foot can involve topical or oral antifungal drugs, mild cases of the infection can be treated by dusting foot powder in shoes and socks.  Any treatment used can be supplemented by frequently bathing the feet and drying the toes.  If proper foot hygiene and self-care do not ease your case of athlete’s foot, contact your podiatrist.  He will determine if the underlying cause of your condition is truly a fungus.  If that is the case, a comprehensive treatment plan may be suggested with the inclusion of prescription antifungal medications.

Monday, 06 January 2020 00:00

Bunions are large bony bumps at the base of the big toe. Medically known as hallux valgus, a bunion is a misalignment of the metatarsophalangeal joint, or big toe joint. The misalignment will generally worsen with time if left untreated.

The exact cause of bunions is unknown, with genetics seen as a potential cause. High heels and poorly-fitted footwear, rheumatoid arthritis, and heredity all seem to be potential factors behind the exacerbation of bunions. Women have been found to be more likely to develop bunions in comparison to men.

Bunions do not always produce symptoms. The best way to tell is if the big toe is pushing up against the next toe and there is a large protrusion at the base of the big toe. You may or may not feel pain. Redness, swelling, and restricted movement of the big toe may be present as well.

Podiatrists use a variety of methods to diagnose bunions. If there are symptoms present, podiatrists will first consider that it is a bunion. If not, a physical examination will be conducted to check function of the big toe. Finally, an X-ray may be taken to view the extent of the bunion and confirm it is a bunion.

Typically, nonsurgical methods are used to treat bunions, unless the bunion has become too misaligned. Orthotics, icing and resting the foot, roomier and better fitted shoes, taping the foot, and pain medication are usually utilized first. If the bunion doesn’t go away or causes extreme pain, surgery may be required. Surgeons will either remove part of the swollen tissue or bone to straighten the toe out.

If you have a bunion, it is recommended to see a podiatrist. The longer it is left untreated, the worse it may get. Podiatrists can properly diagnose and treat a bunion before it gets worse.

Monday, 30 December 2019 00:00

Elderly Americans are very susceptible to falls as they get older. Everyone experiences decreases in flexibility, balance, strength, and the senses as they age. This correlates to some eye-opening statistics. 1 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. An elderly American is being treated for a fall in an emergency room every 11 seconds, and every 19 minutes, an older person dies from falling. In light of these striking statistics, one can see the importance of taking steps to prevent falls.

Finding an exercise program for the elderly is an excellent way to reduce the likelihood of falls. Look for an exercise program that improves strength and balance. Elderly people who live a more sedentary lifestyle, with little physical activity, are at an increased risk of falling. Wearing well-fitted footwear that provides good foot support and cushion will help prevent falls from poorly fitted shoes. Talking to a podiatrist about your susceptibility to falls and about inspecting your prescriptions will help to avoid any medication that could make falls more likely. Due to a decline in the senses among the elderly, having your eyes and hearing checked is recommended.

Around half of all falls occur in the household. Removing tripping hazards in the home and making it more accommodating to older persons can significantly reduce falls. Some notable household changes include increasing lighting around the house, installing grab bars in the shower and bathroom, and making sure the floor is clear of clutter. Other smart options include installing a shower chair, using rubber-bottomed rugs, and placing railings on both sides of stairwells.  

Finally, discuss with a doctor and your family about your fear of falling. This will help to increase awareness among the population on the need for fall prevention. A lack of awareness on the matter, and a downplaying of importance are what increase the risks of falling. Following these tips can help to reduce the risk for yourself and your loved ones.

 

Monday, 23 December 2019 00:00

Each foot, on average, has about 250,000 eccrine sweat glands that produce half a pint of sweat each day. Sweating is a natural and important bodily function. It regulates the body’s temperature by cooling the skin so that it does not overheat.  In individuals with hyperhidrosis, the sympathetic nervous system works in "overdrive", producing far more sweat than what is required. People with plantar hyperhidrosis experience an excess amount of sweat on their feet. It is estimated that 2% to 3% of all Americans suffer from some form of hyperhidrosis. This condition is often caused by neurologic, endocrine, infectious, and other systemic disease. Other factors that may trigger the condition are heat and emotions.

People with hyperhidrosis may notice an overabundance of sweat on their feet, along with a strong odor. The feet may also have a wet appearance coupled with infections such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus. The sweat may even appear in low temperatures, such as during the winter months. People with plantar hyperhidrosis often need to change their socks several times throughout the day.

The specific cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown, and many believe it may be caused by over-activity. However, others believe the condition is genetic.  Caffeine and nicotine are known to cause excitement and nervousness which are two emotions that may make the condition worse.

If you are looking to treat your hyperhidrosis the most important thing you should do is wash your feet every day.  You may even need to wash your feet twice a day, if necessary.  You should also make sure you are wearing the right socks. Wool and cotton socks are both known to be good for ventilation, meaning they allow the feet to breathe. You should avoid socks made from nylon which trap moisture and lead to sogginess. Other common treatment options are over-the-counter antiperspirants that contain a low dose of metal salt.  In some cases, prescription strength antiperspirants that contain aluminum chloride hexahydrate may be necessary. In severe cases, surgery may be required.

Untreated hyperhidrosis can easily lead to complications.  Some complications that may arise from the disorder include nail infections, warts, and bacterial infections.  Consequently, it is important that you seek treatment from your podiatrist if you suspect that you may have plantar hyperhidrosis.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019 00:00

The purpose of the body’s circulation system is to transport blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. A reduction of blood to a specific part of the body may cause one to experience symptoms of poor circulation. The most common causes of poor circulation in the feet are obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions such as peripheral artery disease (PAD). Common symptoms of poor circulation include tingling, numbness, throbbing, pain and muscle cramps.

Peripheral artery disease is a common cause of poor circulation in the legs. Symptoms of PAD are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. This pain tends to go away with rest and starts back up when you begin to walk.  It is a condition that causes the blood vessels and arteries to become narrow. Although PAD is more common in adults over the age of 50, it may also occur in younger people.  A similar condition called atherosclerosis causes arteries to stiffen up due to a buildup of plaque in the arteries and blood vessels.

Blood clots are also a common cause of poor circulation in the feet. Clots may obstruct blood vessels and if they occur in the legs, they may eventually lead to pain and discoloration. This occurrence is commonly known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and it may travel to the lungs. Varicose veins are another condition that may lead to poor circulation, and it is caused by incompetence of the valves in the veins. Women who are overweight are prone to developing this condition. Lastly, diabetes, which is correlated with poor blood sugar metabolism may lead to chronic poor circulation. Those with diabetes often suffer from cramping in the legs, calves, thighs and buttocks.

If you are looking for ways to avoid poor circulation there are some tips you can follow. One tip is to avoid sitting for too long. If you plan to sit down for a long period of time, you should try standing up occasionally, to improve your circulation. Another great way to avoid poor circulation is to exercise. Exercise is an excellent way to pump the heart and increase blood flow. Those who suffer from poor circulation should also avoid smoking, reduce their salt intake, and try to lose weight.

If you are experiencing symptoms from poor circulation in your feet, you should consult with your podiatrist to determine the best method for treatment for you. He or she may prescribe medication in addition to recommending specific lifestyle changes to improve your circulation.

Monday, 09 December 2019 00:00

Morton's Neuroma, also called Intermetatarsal Neuroma or Plantar Neuroma, is a condition that affects the nerves of the feet, usually the area between the third and fourth toe. Neuroma refers to a benign growth that can occur in different parts of the body. Morton's Neuroma strictly affects the feet. This condition causes the tissue around the nerves that lead to the toes becoming thick, causing pain in the ball of the foot.

This condition can be caused by injury, pressure or irritation. Normally no lump will be felt, but instead burning pain in the ball of the foot will be experienced. Numbness and tingling may also occur. With the onset of this condition, a person may feel pain when tight or narrow shoes are worn. As the condition worsens, the pain may persist for days, or even weeks.

Persistent foot pain should always be a concern. The foot should be examined by a podiatrist if pain persists longer than a few days with no relief from changing shoes. The earlier the foot is examined and treated, the less chance there will be for surgical treatment.

There are some factors that can play a role in the development of Morton's Neuroma. These include wearing ill-fitting shoes that cause pressure to the toes, such as high heels. Also, high impact exercise may contribute to the cause of this condition. Morton’s Neuroma may also develop if the foot sustains an injury. Another cause includes walking abnormally due to bunions or flat feet. This causes excessive pressure and irritates the tissue. At times, people are affected for no determinable reason.

Podiatrists can alleviate the effects of this condition using a treatment plan to help decrease the pain and heal the foot tissue. Depending upon the severity of the Morton's Neuroma, the treatment plan can vary. For cases that are mild to moderate, treatments may include applying padding to the arch to relieve pressure from the nerve and reduce compression while walking. Ice packs can also help reduce swelling. The podiatrist may also create a custom orthotic device to support the foot and reduce compression and pressure on the affected nerve. The doctor will probably advise against partaking in activities that cause constant pressure on the affected area. They may provide wider shoes to ease the pressure from the toes. If these treatments do not relieve the symptoms of this condition, the doctor may use injection therapy.

Surgical treatment may be recommended by the podiatrist if all other treatments fail to provide relief. Normally, the podiatric surgeon will decide on either a surgical procedure that involves removal of the affected nerve or will choose surgery to release the nerve. After examination, the surgeon will decide on the best approach to treat the problem.

Recovery varies according to the type of surgical procedure. The patient will also be instructed on the best shoe wear to prevent the return of this condition, along with changes to workout routines, if this was a cause. Preventative measures are important in ensuring the condition does not return.

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