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Monday, 14 January 2019 00:00

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.

Monday, 07 January 2019 00:00

Your feet endure a great amount of stress each day from constantly allowing us to move around. It is important to stretch your feet to help prevent them from becoming injured. Your toes may easily deform into unhealthful positions if they are not stretched.

One of the most common reasons for toe deformities are the shoes you may be wearing. Shoes that are too tight may fold and shift the toes out of place. Heeled shoes may also push your toes upward. Forcing your toes into an unnatural position which may cause the muscles to tighten and prevent them from reverting to normal length. Another common reason is improper use of foot muscles. Many people fail to use the muscles in their feet or toes when they walk. Lastly, the positioning of your feet while walking may also cause toe deformities. If you walk with your feet facing outward, your “push-off” phase is on the side of your big toe instead of the bottom of your foot. This may cause the big toe to eventually tighten into a new shifted position.

There are many reasons why stretching your toes may be helpful. One reason is that healthy spacing may aid in avoiding calluses and other injuries that are caused by rubbing.  Stretching will also prevent you from developing toes that curl, hammertoes, or bunions.

A great way to stretch your toes is to place them in your hands and bend them all downward; this will help you stretch the top of your foot. Next, you should repeat this process but instead bend them upward enough to feel a nice stretch in the bottom of your foot. You should then try to pull each toe apart from the next and pull any toes that are bent upward until they are back downward.

If you are looking to practice stretching your entire foot, you can try a towel stretch. This is done by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you. Take a towel and wrap it around your toes. Afterward, pull the towel toward you with your toes and hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing. Practice this stretch for three sets. Another stretch your feet are towel lifts. This is done by sitting in a chair and trying to pick a towel up from the ground with your toes. Try lifting the towel with your little toes for five sets before switching feet.

If you are an athlete, or exercise often, it is especially important for you to practice stretching your feet. Those who suffer from foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours of standing at work may also benefit from foot exercises.

Wednesday, 02 January 2019 00:00

Have you ever gotten up from a chair or out of bed in the morning, and upon taking that first step, feel like your heel has stepped on a tack? Many people experience a feeling of sharp pain which radiates into their arch from their heel and which does not allow them to put their heel on the floor. Sometimes they need to sit back down, stand only on their toes and use the wall for balance. If you can take a few steps, it seems to go away and lessen, allowing you to then resume your activity. Later, throughout your day and after a period of rest, it can happen again. If this sounds familiar you may be suffering from your first attack of heel pain.

Heel pain is a debilitating condition that affects day to day activities. Running and walking both causes stress on the heel because the heel is the part of the foot that hits the ground first. This means that the heel is taking on your entire weight. Diagnosis and treatments for heel pain can be easily found through your podiatrist.

Plantar Fasciitis

One of the main causes of heel pain is a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot, from the toe to the bottom of the heel. A rip or tear in this ligament can cause inflammation of these tissues, resulting in heel pain. People who do not wear proper fitting shoes are often at risk of developing problems such as plantar fasciitis. Unnecessary stress from ill-fitting shoes, weight change, excessive running, and wearing non-supportive shoes on hard surfaces are all causes of plantar fasciitis.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is another cause of heel pain. Similar to plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the Achilles tendon will cause heel pain due to stress fractures and muscle tearing. A lack of flexibility of the ankle and heel is an indicator of Achilles tendonitis. If left untreated, this condition can lead to plantar fasciitis and cause even more pain on your heel.

Heel Spur

A third cause of heel pain is a heel spur. A heel spur occurs when the tissues of the plantar fascia undergo a great deal of stress, leading to a separation of the ligament from the heel bone entirely. This results in a pointed fragment of bone on the ball of the foot, known as a heel spur.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018 00:00

A bunion is a bump that forms at the base of the big toe. Bunions form when the big toe pushes against the next toe, which forces the big toe joint to get bigger and stick out.  As a result, the skin over the bunion may start to appear red and it may feel sore.

There are risk factors that can increase your chances of developing bunions. People who wear high heels or ill-fitting shoes are more likely to develop them, in addition to those who have a genetic history of bunions or have rheumatoid arthritis.

The most obvious way to tell if you have a bunion is to look for the big toe pushing up against the toe next to it. Bunions produce a large protrusion at the base of the big toe and may or may not cause pain. Other symptoms are redness, swelling, and restricted movement of the big toe if you have arthritis. 

Nonsurgical methods are frequently used to treat bunions that aren’t severe. Some methods of nonsurgical treatment are orthotics, icing and resting the foot, taping the foot, and pain medication. Surgery is usually only required in extreme cases. However, if surgery is needed, some procedures may involve removing the swollen tissue from around the big toe joint, straightening the big toe by removing part of the bone, or joining the bones of your affected joint permanently.

Your podiatrist will diagnose your bunion by doing a thorough examination of your foot. He or she may also conduct an x-ray to determine the cause of the bunion and its severity.

Monday, 17 December 2018 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, 10 December 2018 00:00

A new treatment for fungal nails, or onychomycosis, which has grown in popularity in recent years, is laser treatment. Laser treatment involves the use of a laser that kills fungus in the toenail with heat. Laser therapy causes no side effects and does not affect nearby healthy tissue.

Toenail fungus afflicts almost 10 percent of the U.S. population and is more common among the elderly. The most common symptom of toenail fungus is the discoloration and thickening of the nail. The nail can also become brittle and a foul smell may be produced. In rare cases, pain might be present. While it is not a serious condition, it can lead to a perception of disgust amongst those it affects. There are several different fungi that cause fungal infections. These include dermatophyte, yeast, and mold. The most common of these is dermatophyte.

Diagnosis for fungal nails involves a podiatrist utilizing microscopy and fungal cultures. This will allow the doctor to determine whether it is a fungus or another condition, such as lichen planus, psoriasis, nail damage, and onychogryphosis.

Fungus in the nails can be hard to get rid of with over-the-counter drugs. This is due to the nail being hard and protective, with fungus able to slip between the nail bed and plate. Furthermore the slow growth of the nail increases the difficulty of fungus going away. Laser treatment seeks to get around this by directly penetrating through the nail and killing the fungus. The laser is used on each infected nail for a couple of minutes. Patients then typically return several weeks or months later for another laser treatment. During this time the podiatrist will routinely observe the foot and infection. It is also recommended to wear clean socks and shoes and allow the feet to dry and breathe to prevent toenail fungus.

Laser treatment is still a relatively new treatment and not all podiatrists have laser machines. Ask your podiatrist if they do laser treatment for toenail fungus and if it is right for you.

Monday, 03 December 2018 00:00

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.

Monday, 26 November 2018 00:00

Heel spurs are calcium deposits that cause bone protrusions on the heel bone. Heel spurs are usually associated with plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the plantar fasciitis in the foot becomes inflamed. Typically, heel spurs don’t cause any symptoms. However, they can produce chronic or intermittent heel pain. Those who have had the condition often describe the irritation as a stabbing pain.

There are risk factors that may make you more likely to develop heel spurs. People who have abnormal walking gaits, run and jog on hard surfaces, are obese, or wear poorly fitting shoes are more likely to develop heel spurs.

Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid developing heel spurs. One of the best ways to do this is by wearing well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent soles. Another preventative technique is to choose running shoes if you plan on running, and walking shoes if you plan on walking. Shoes are made for different activities and it is important to research a shoe before you purchase a pair.

The pain associated with heel spurs often decreases the more you walk. However, a recurrence of pain after an extended period of rest or walking is likely to occur with this condition. Those with severe heel spur pain may opt to go the surgical route for treatment.  However, more than 90% of those with the condition get better without surgical treatment. If you have a heel spur and want to know if surgery is right for you, you should go to your podiatrist and he or she will be able to conduct a pre-surgical test or exam to determine if you are an optimal candidate for surgery.

Monday, 19 November 2018 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, 12 November 2018 00:00

Blisters are small pockets of fluid that occur on the top layers of the skin for several reasons. Friction, burns, and diseases are all known causes of blisters.  Smaller blisters are known as vesicles, while larger blisters are referred to as bulla. The fluid inside the bubble can be blood, pus, or serum; which is a clear liquid that protects the skin. In most cases, blisters are not a major health issue, but they can be an indicator of a more serious condition.  

Causes of blisters vary. Blisters are commonly caused by wearing poorly fitted shoes that rub against the foot. However, there are many other causes besides from friction; including burns, sunburn, insect bites, frostbite, poison ivy/oak, chemical exposure, impetigo, eczema, viral infections, and more.

Most blisters heal by themselves and do not require immediate medical care. If you have a blister, do not pop it since this may cause infection; it is advised to put a bandage over the blister to protect it. If the blister is large, causes pain, or if you have a fever, it is recommended that you see a doctor who can provide proper care. Blisters are easy to diagnose, and if considered prudent by the doctor, can easily be drained of fluid with a sterile needle as well.

To prevent blisters on the feet, wear shoes that fit properly and don’t cause rubbing. Socks can help prevent friction and it is recommended that you wear them if you are wearing shoes. Hand blisters can be avoided by wearing gloves during activities that cause friction against the hand. If you have a blister that pops, do not remove the dead skin, wash the area, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover with a bandage. It is okay in most cases to not seek immediate medical care for a blister if it was just caused by friction. However, if the blister causes pain or does not go away, it is suggested that you see a doctor for a diagnosis.

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