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Everyday Foot Care

Our feet are arguably one of the most important parts of the body. When it comes to health and beauty routines, the feet and toenails are usually ignored. You should always practice proper footcare to avoid any fungal infections or ailments that can not only ruin the appearance of your feet, but also cause pain. Ignoring any foot problems could potentially lead to an expensive doctor’s visit.

The most important step in proper foot care is to wash your feet daily. You should wash them with soap and water. Doing this will cleanse your feet of dirt, sweat and bacteria. It is crucial that you clean between the toes and pat your feet dry with a towel afterward. Your toenails are also an important part of the feet and you may find that they get dirtier in the summer when you wear sandals. It is important that you practice proper toenail care in addition to cleaning the rest of your feet. When trimming your nails, you should always trim straight across instead of in a rounded shape. Trimming in a curved shape may lead to ingrown toenails.

Moisturization is also important for foot care, and you should be moisturizing your feet every day. The best way to prevent dry feet is to rub lotion or petroleum jelly on your clean feet at night and put socks over them. In the morning, your feet should be soft and moisturized.

Another crucial step in proper foot care is to wear the right shoes for whichever activity you are going to partake in. In warmer weather, you should wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe. It is best to avoid shoes such as flip-fops that do not provide arch support. Tight shoes may also be harmful, and they may even cause you to develop bunions.

If you plan on taking a shower in a public area, you should be especially careful, so you do not pick up any fungi. Showers are prone to harboring different types of bacteria and fungi. You should always wear shower shoes or flip flops when walking around in locker rooms and public showers. Avoid sharing shoes with other people because this is another way that fungus may be spread.

If you are experiencing any problems with your feet you should speak with your podiatrist to determine the best method of treatment for you.

Rare Foot Conditions

A podiatrist will be able to address a variety of rare foot conditions, particularly the ones that affect children. The most common are Kohler’s disease, Maffucci syndrome, and Freiberg’s disease. They can be properly diagnosed by having an X-ray taken, but in more serious cases an MRI may be needed. Kohler’s disease generally affects younger boys and bone deterioration may result from an interruption of blood supply. Children who have Kohler’s disease may find relief when the affected foot is rested, and a special boot is worn. Benign growths in the long bones of a child’s foot may lead to the development of bone lesions, and this is known as Maffucci syndrome. People who have this condition find mild relief when custom-made orthotics are worn. Freiberg’s disease targets the ball of the foot and can typically affect pre-teen and teenage girls. The metatarsal bone becomes deteriorated and flattened, and common symptoms include swelling and stiffness. A cast is often necessary to wear with this disease as it can help to reduce existing pain. Erythromelalgia is a rare foot condition, and its cause is unknown. Symptoms of this disease can include intense burning pain and the feet may appear red or feel warm. Relief may be found when the affected foot is immersed in ice water. It can also be beneficial to elevate the foot frequently. If your child complains of foot pain, it is strongly suggested that you consult with a podiatrist who can diagnose and treat rare foot conditions. 

Neuropathy

Neuropathy is the weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet due to damage to the peripheral nerves. The peripheral nerves are responsible for sending information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. Causes of Neuropathy include: traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, exposure to toxins, and diabetes.

Diabetes is the most common cause, with more than half of the diabetic population developing some type of neuropathy. There are several types of neuropathy and they vary based on the damage of the nerves. Mononeuropathy is classified as only one nerve being damaged. When multiple nerves are affected, it is referred as polyneuropathy. One of the types of polyneuropathy is distal symmetric polyneuropathy. It is the most common for people with diabetes and starts when the nerves furthest away from the central nervous begin to malfunction. The symptoms begin with pain and numbness in the feet and then they travel up to the legs. A rarer form of polyneuropathy is acute symmetrical peripheral neuropathy, which is a severe type that affects nerves throughout the body and is highly associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the peripheral nervous system and can be fatal. Although there are many types of neuropathy, most of them share the same symptoms such as pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, dizziness, and digestive problems. Since neuropathy affects the nerves, those affected should be careful of burns, infection and falling, as depleted sensations disguise such ailments.

The best way to prevent neuropathy is to manage any medical conditions such as diabetes, alcoholism, or rheumatoid arthritis. Creating and managing a healthy lifestyle can also go a long way. Having a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can keep the nerves healthy. These types of food have the nutrients to prevent neuropathy. Regularly exercising can help as well, but it is best to consult with a doctor about the right amount. In addition to diet and exercise, avoiding risk factors will also prevent neuropathy. This includes repetitive motions, cramped positions, exposure to toxic chemicals, smoking and overindulging on alcohol.

Ingrown Toenail Care

An ingrown toenail is a toenail that grows sideways into the nail bed, causing pain and swelling. Ingrown toenails can worsen and cause drainage, turning into a serious infection.

Several factors affect whether a person is at risk from an ingrown toenail. The many causes include being overweight, diabetes, participating in sports, having a fungal infection of the toe, and cutting your nails too short. Ingrown toenails also have a genetic predisposition, causing some people to be more prone to receive the condition than others. Other causes include improperly fitting shoes and shoes that keep the feet damp.

Ingrown toenails can be preventable with certain measures. For starters, allowing your toe nails to grow slightly longer in length will help prevent them from becoming ingrown. If you have already developed an ingrown toenail, soak the affected toe in warm water. This will alleviate the pain and help prevent an infection from forming. Antibiotic soap or Epsom salts may be added to further help the relieving process and avoid infection. Placing cotton beneath the affected area is also suggested, as this may help the toenail grow upwards and not into the nail bed. Swelling and redness can be reduced by resting with your feet elevated.

A podiatrist should be seen if the pain becomes so serious that it prevents you from doing your everyday activities. If a red streak running up your leg appears or if you suspect your infection has spread, contact a podiatrist immediately. Fast treatments can be undertaken to lessen your pain and have you walking comfortably.

An ingrown toenail can be easily treated with a Band-Aid. Simply wrap the affected toe with a Band-Aid to prevent infection and keep the nail from growing out at a painful angle.

In more serious cases, your podiatrist may decide to make a small incision to remove a portion of your toenail. To prevent the nail from growing back, medication will be placed directly into the nail bed. This procedure would be performed under local anesthesia and is a faster method to alleviate discomfort from an ingrown toenail. Post-procedure directions will have you stay off the affected foot for a day. Afterwards, normal activities can be resumed.  

Biomechanics in Podiatry

Podiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the study, diagnosis, and treatment of foot and ankle conditions. There are various subdivisions in podiatry; biomechanics is one of them. Biomechanics is the way in which the bones, muscles, and joints of the feet and lower limb interact with each other.

Our feet play crucial roles in the way we move, and it is rare to have feet that are completely symmetrical. Common biomechanical issues include high or low arches or uneven leg heights. Excessive pronation often leads to fallen arches, or flat feet, and is a common cause of running injuries. People whose feet are over-pronated tend to have flexible and unstable feet. Pain is usually experienced during walking and running.

At times, people may be able to adapt to these abnormalities without any difficulties, but in other cases, these issues can cause a great deal of pain. This pain occurs because the joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons are put under an excess amount of stress during movement. Common symptoms of biomechanical problems stemming from the feet include hip pain, knee pain, leg cramps, ankle pain, lower back pain, weak ankles, tripping, heel pain, Achilles pain, and shin splints.

Many biomechanical issues can be treated with orthotics. Orthotics are shoe insoles that are used to help control the way the foot operates.  They can provide relief from foot pain, heel pain, and knee pain. Depending on your specific case, you may need to purchase over-the-counter orthotics or custom orthotics to fit your feet. Your podiatrist will be able to prescribe the perfect orthotic for your feet to help you walk around with ease.

Gait is defined as the way we move our bodies from one point to another. This is usually done by either walking or running. Gait analysis is a method used to assess the way we walk or run to highlight biomechanical abnormalities. Gait analyses are a great way to take a detailed look at how you walk and how your foot moves while you walk. An examination of the feet will help your podiatrist understand why you are suffering pain in other parts of your body.

All About Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are warts that are only found on the feet, hence the term “plantar”, which means “relating to the foot.” They are caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, and occur when this virus gets into open wounds on the feet. The warts themselves are hard bumps on the foot. They are easily recognizable, mostly found on the heels or ball of the foot. Plantar warts are non-malignant, but they can cause some pain, discomfort, and are often unsightly. Removing them is a common step toward treating them.

Plantar warts can cause some pain while standing, sometimes felt as tenderness on the sole of your foot. Unless the wart has grown into the foot behind a callus, you will be able to see the fleshy wart. A podiatrist should only be consulted if there is an excessive amount of pain. Plantar warts are not cancerous or dangerous, but they can affect your walking and continually reappear. Anyone who suffers from diabetes or a compromised immune system disease should seek out care immediately.

Podiatrists are easily able to diagnose plantar warts. They usually scrape off a tiny bit of the rough skin to make tiny blood clots visible and examine the inside of warts. However, a biopsy can be done if the doctor is not able to diagnose them from simply looking at them. Although plantar warts usually do not require an excessive amount of treatment, there are ways to go about removing them. A common method is to freeze them off using liquid nitrogen, removing them using an electrical tool, or burning them off via laser treatment. For a less invasive treatment option, topical creams can be used through a doctor’s prescription. This treatment method takes more time, however. Keep the wart covered for protection in between daily treatments.

The best way to avoid developing plantar warts is to avoid walking barefoot in public places. Avoid this especially if you have open sores or cuts on your feet. It is also important to avoid direct contact with warts in general, as they are highly contagious.

Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

Stress fractures are small breaks in the bone that are caused by repetitive stress. They typically occur due to overuse, forcing the bones of the foot or ankle to continually absorb the full impact of each step taken. Stress fractures can also be caused by abnormal foot structure, osteoporosis, bone deformities, or wearing improper footwear during exercise.

Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Those who run, play tennis or basketball, or practice gymnastics tend to experience these fractures more frequently. Anyone is susceptible to this problem, though. Individuals who are normally sedentary and suddenly begin an intense, high impact workout may sustain stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not yet strong enough to handle and cushion the intensity of their activity. Osteoporosis may also cause someone to get stress fractures, because the disease weakens an afflicted person's bones and makes it easier for them to break down.

Pain from stress fractures typically occurs in the general area of the fracture. Pain can also manifest as “pinpoint pain” or pain that is felt when the site of the injury is touched, and can be accompanied by swelling. It may occur during or after activity, and it may disappear while resting and return when standing or moving. Engaging in any kind of activity, high impact or otherwise, will aggravate the pain. If the intensity of the activity increases before the stress fracture has properly healed, it can cause a full fracture.

Treatment can vary depending on the individual and the degree of injury. The primary way to treat a stress fracture is to rest the hurt foot. Some fractures will heal quickly with only a little bit of rest, while others may require a long rest period and the use of crutches, immobilization, or physical therapy. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.

If you are undergoing a new exercise regimen in running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. Make sure to wear supportive shoes to better protect you feet.

If you begin to experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If the symptoms persist, consult with your podiatrist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.

Sever's Disease

Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis is a common bone disorder that occurs during childhood. The disease is defined as an inflammation of the growth plate in the heel. When a child has a growth spurt, his heel bone grows faster than the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in his leg. This disease is a result of overuse. The people who are most likely to be affected by this disease are children who are in a growth spurt, especially boys who are from the ages of 5 to 13 years old. 60% of children with Sever’s disease have both heels involved.

Symptoms of this disease are heel pain that intensifies during running and jumping activities. The pain is typically localized to the posterior part of the heel. Symptoms may be severe, and they can easily interfere with daily activities. Children who play soccer, baseball, and basketball are more likely to develop Sever’s disease.

Your doctor will diagnose your child based on his or her symptoms, x-rays are generally not helpful in diagnosing this disease. Your doctor may examine both heels and ask your child questions about his or her activity level in sports. Your doctor may then use the squeeze test on your child’s heel to see if there is any pain. Nevertheless, some doctors might still use x-rays to rule out any other issues such as fractures, infections, and tumors.

Sever’s disease can be prevented by maintaining good flexibility while your child is growing. Another prevention method is to wear good-quality shoes that have firm support and a shock-absorbent sole. Sever’s disease can be treated by ceasing any activity that causes heel pain. You should apply ice to the injured heel for 20 minutes 3 times a day. Additionally, orthotics should be used for children who have high arches, flat feet, or bowed legs.

If you suspect your child has Sever’s disease, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist to have his or her foot examined. Your doctor may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain. In more severe cases, your child may need a cast to rest his or her heel. Fortunately, Sever’s disease does not cause long-term foot problems. After treatment, your child should start to feel better within two weeks to two months.

Everything You Need to Know About Gout

Gout, typically found in diabetic patients, is an unusually painful form of arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. The condition typically strikes the big joint on the big toe. It has also been known to strike the knees, elbows, fingers, ankles and wrists—generally anywhere that has a functioning, moving joint.

The high level of uric acid in a person’s bloodstream creates the condition known as hyperuricema—the main cause of gout. Genetic predisposition occurs in nine out of ten sufferers. The children of parents who suffer gout will have a two in ten chance of developing the condition as well. 

This form of arthritis, being particularly painful, is the leftover uric acid crystallizing in the blood stream. The crystallized uric acid then travels to the space between joints where they rub, causing friction when the patient moves. Symptoms include: pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Additional side effects may include fatigue and fever, although reports of these effects are very rare. Some patients have reported that pain may intensify when the temperature drops, such as when you sleep.

Most cases of gout are easily diagnosed by a podiatrist’s assessment of the various symptoms. Defined tests can also be performed. A blood test to detect elevated levels of uric acid is often used as well as an x-ray to diagnose visible and chronic gout.

Treatment for gout simply means eliminating symptoms. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (Colchicine and other corticosteroid drugs, etc.) will quell the redness, the swelling, and the inflammation. However, managing your diet, lifestyle changes, and using preventative drugs are all helpful toward fully combating the most severe cases.

 Those that lead an inactive lifestyle are at a higher risk for gout. Any amount of exercise decreases the probability of repeat encounters with the condition. Reducing your consumption of red meat, sea food, and fructose-sweetened drinks also reduces the likelihood of chronic gout as well.

Ingesting Vitamin C, coffee, and particular dairy products can help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are new drugs out on the market that inhibit the body’s production of uric acid-producing enzymes. However, reducing or eliminating your overall levels of uric acid is the best remedy to ensuring you lead a gout-free life.

Athlete's Foot

Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.

Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow and spread, this is the most commonly affected area.  It is, however, known to grow in other places. The term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.

The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. The extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.

Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.

Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. You can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, to prevent the growth of tinea. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, opt for using topical medicated creams, ointments or sprays. These treatments help eliminate and prevent it from coming back.

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