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Wednesday, 20 August 2014 12:21

Bunions

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The term bunion refers to an enlargement of the base joint of the toe, the connection to the foot. This enlargement may be formed of swollen tissue or a bony growth, and is caused by the shifting of the bones in the big toe inward, toward the other toes of the foot. The area around the base of the big toe may become inflamed, red, and painful.

Genetic factors are important in the formation of bunions – people who get bunions are usually genetically predisposed to this bone displacement, and may cause its onset by wearing improperly fitting shoes, or by running or walking in a way that causes stress to the feet. Another common cause for bunions is wearing high heeled shoes. The weight of the body in these shoes pushes the toes into an unnatural position, possibly causing bone displacement.

A podiatrist who specializes in foot structure and bio-mechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates an enlargement of the joint near the base of the toe and a shifting toward the smaller toes, this is indicative of a bunion.

Wearing wider shoes can remove the pressure on the bunion and reduce pain. High heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time as this type of shoe generally pushes the big toe outward toward the smaller toes. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem, but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.

For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe. A surgeon may do this by taking out a section of bone, or may rearrange the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help keep it properly aligned. It may be necessary even after surgery to wear more comfortable shoes that do not put undue pressure on the toe as the big toe can easily move back to its orientation toward the smaller toes.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014 12:17

What is a Podiatrist

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The branch of medicine that is focused on the treatment, diagnosis, and study of disorders of the lower leg, ankle and foot is referred to as podiatry. Because people often spend a great deal of their time on their feet, many problems in this area can occur. A person seeks help from the field of podiatry when they need treatment for heel spurs, bunions, arch problems, deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, foot and ankle problems, infections, and problems with the foot that are related to diabetes and additional diseases.

To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery on lower extremity fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.

When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.

Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise and referrals will be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.

Some podiatrists have their own solo small private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel but many work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals or visiting patients in nursing homes. They typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Some other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.

Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that result from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014 15:34

Heel Pain

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Heel pain is a stressful condition that effects day to day activities. Running and walking 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.

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 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.

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.

Treatments for heel pain are easy and effective as long as problems are addressed quickly. The most common solution is simply taking stress off the feet, particularly off of the heel. This will ease the pain and allow the tendons and ligaments to relax. In the case of both plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, icing will reduce swelling of any part of the foot and anti-inflammatory medication is highly recommended. Properly fitting your shoes and wearing heel pads or comfort insoles will also reduce the risk of developing heel pain. Stretching before and after exercises such as running will help the foot muscles prepare for stress and lower the chances of inflammatory pain. In extreme cases, relieving heel   pain might require surgery. Always make sure to discuss these symptoms and treatment options with your podiatrist to keep yourself active and pain free.

Monday, 14 July 2014 20:22

The Importance of Proper Foot Support

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Feet are the foundation of the body, and just like the foundation of any structure, they must be stable and balanced in order to support the all of the body's weight. If they are not, they could cause many problems.

Bad foot support can cause pain or discomfort in the lower back, hips, knees, neck, and shoulder. It can lead to much less obvious problems as well, like stomach aches and headaches. Issues with the feet can lead to emotional stress and physiological changes in the body, including fatigue, blood sugar problems, and adrenal stress. In order to avoid these issues, you must be sure to wear shoes that provide proper foot support.

Of all the different parts of the foot, the arch is the one that needs the most support. This vital structure handles most of the pressure exerted during movement--for each mile someone walks, the arch bears between 200,000 and 300,000 pounds of stress. Arch height varies greatly from one person to another, and changes as a person ages. Proper support can prevent many musculoskeletal problems that may cause inactivity or even disability.

When searching for footwear, one must remember to buy shoes that fit well and that properly support the feet. Otherwise, you could suffer from a slew of foot-related problems. If, for example, you buy shoes that are too tight, you could hinder the support mechanism in the foot that keeps the body standing upright. If this mechanism is not working correctly, you will soon begin to slouch when standing. This quickly causes discomfort throughout the entire body, especially the back, and if it is not corrected it may cause permanent posture issues and bone deformation.

When shopping for shoes, only buy those that provide good heel and arch support. Both the heel and arch areas need to be firm, but still flexible enough for walking. Also make sure the shoes you intend to buy are the proper length and width for your feet. Your feet and toes should not feel squished or cramped in the shoe, or (if it is an open-toed shoe) be hanging over its sides. Additionally, if you are looking for a laced shoe, be sure to buy one that has many eyelets. Laces help the shoes form to the feet, and having many eyelets allows the laces to better conform to your foot. Also make sure that the laces are tied correctly, as laces that are not pulled tightly and tied do not provide proper support.

Good foot health is vital to overall body health. If you do not care for your feet properly, you could suffer many short and long-term problems that will negatively affect your entire body. Wearing shoes that provide good foot support is an easy way to avoid these problems, and live comfortably.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 14:00

Flat Feet

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Flat feet is a foot condition in which the arch of the foot either drops or is never developed. About 20-30% of the population generally has flat feet because their arch never formed during growth. While it is common in babies and small children, it can become a problem if the arch never develops. For adults, the development of flat feet can be brought upon by injury, or may even be a result of pregnancy due to the increased elasticity; however, in adults the flat footedness is usually permanent.

Having flat feet can sometimes make it difficult to walk due to the stress it places on the ankles. The general alignment of your legs is thrown off because the ankles move more inward which can cause some major discomfort. This also has a big effect on the knees as many people that have flat feet often have arthritis in that area. However, in many cases, flat feet does not cause any pain and it should not be a cause for concern in that case.

For those that run, there are specific shoes to help realign the ankles with a lot more support and less pronation. The weight shifting in this activity is very quick, so that's why it's important to know if you have flat feet early on in your life, in case of injury down the road. 

The wet footprint test can be an indicator to diagnosing flat feet. In this test, the individual would place a flat foot on a surface in order to show a footprint. If there is no indentation or indication of an arch, that person may have flat feet. In all cases, it is best to consult a podiatrist if flat feet is suspected or noticed.

Once flat feet has been diagnosed, it can be treated by walking barefoot in beach-like terrain, or wearing insoles. There are two types of flat feet; one being rigid, where the feet appear to have no arch even when the person is not standing, and the other being flexible where the person appears to have an arch while not standing, but once standing the arch goes away. In the case of flexible flat feet, unless there is pain caused by the condition, there is no need for treatment. However, if it causes pain or in the case of rigid flat feet, exercises and orthotic insoles may be prescribed in order to help the arches develop.

In some cases when the condition is severe and all other methods have been exhausted surgery may be required but this is normally avoided due to a lengthy recovery time and high cost.

Corns are areas of the skin where it has thickened to the point of being irritating and sometimes painful. Corns are circular or cone-shaped and are commonly found on the feet where there are areas of pressure or friction, such as on the little toe where it may rub against shoes or on the ball of the foot. The medical term for corns is helomas.

Corns can easily be confused with a callus, but there is a difference between the two. Corns can be a raised bump that feels hard to the touch and painful. They consist of a thick, rough area of skin that may be dry and waxy. Corns tend to be surrounded by inflamed skin and are usually smaller than calluses.

The key to treating a corn is to remove the dead skin that has built up. Salicylic acid is the most common medication used to accomplish this. Salicylic acid works by dissolving keratin, the protein that makes up the majority of corns. You can purchase salicylic acid over-the-counter in the form of wart removers. It comes in medicated pads, drops or creams. People with diabetes should not use salicylic acid, but should immediately consult their doctor.

To treat corns, apply the medication directly onto the corns according to the product directions. The top layer of the corn will turn a white color. When that happens, the layers of skin can then be peeled away, making the corn smaller. It is never a good idea to try and shave off corns with razors or other pedicure equipment. This can lead to infection. If your corns get infected or do not respond to over the counter treatment, a visit to the doctor is necessary.

Orthotic inserts fitted by a podiatrist also help to treat corns and help prevent their return. Inserts fit into shoes and help to adjust the way your foot fits in your shoe, thus fixing the way you walk. This will reduce friction, lowering your chances of getting a corn and eliminating the pain for current corns.

Surgery is seldom an option for corns, but does occur on rare occasions. Surgery for corns actually deals with the underlying issue causing the corns. During surgery, the bone is shaved and any abnormalities are corrected to reduce the amount of friction that occurs during walking.

The first step to preventing corns is to reduce any possible friction. Wear well fitting shoes that don’t rub on your feet. If you notice rubbing developing, pads can be purchased to help reduce the friction. These can be purchased over the counter and are simply placed on the area that is being irritated. Friction can also be reduced by using cushioned insoles in your shoes, and making sure to wear well-fitting shoes. This will make sure your foot is not being squeezed awkwardly, and stop corns from forming in the first place.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014 16:43

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

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Tarsal tunnel syndrome, also called tibial nerve dysfunction, is an uncommon form of misfiring peripheral nerves in the foot. Peripheral nerves are the nerves that carry signals from the brain and spinal cord to the other parts of the body. The tibial nerve is the peripheral nerve in the leg responsible for sensation and movement of the foot and calf muscles. In tarsal tunnel syndrome, the tibial nerve is damaged, causing problems with movement and feeling in the foot of the affected leg.

Common causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome involve pressure or an injury. Direct pressure on the tibial nerve for an extended period of time, sometimes caused by other body structures close by or near the knee, or trauma to the tibial nerve can result in tarsal tunnel syndrome. Diseases that damage nerves, including diabetes, may cause tarsal tunnel syndrome. However, tarsal tunnel syndrome can appear without an obvious cause in some cases.

Feeling different sensations in the foot at different times is a common symptom of tarsal tunnel syndrome. An afflicted person may experience pain, tingling, burning or other unusual sensations in the foot of affected leg, with primary problems occurring on the bottom of the foot. The foot muscles, toes and ankle become weaker, and curling toes or flexing the foot becomes difficult. If the condition worsens, the person may develop infections and ulcers on the affected foot because of the lack of sensation. The affected foot can become permanently deformed, and sensation loss, particularly in the toes, is sometimes permanent.

A physical exam of the leg can help identify the presence of tarsal tunnel syndrome. Medical tests, such as a nerve biopsy, are also used to diagnose the condition.

Occasionally, a person with tarsal tunnel syndrome can recover without specific treatment, but over the counter pain medication is still used to reduce the discomfort associated with the condition. Treatments for more severe tarsal tunnel syndrome focus on regaining sensation and strength in the affected toes and foot. Patients may receive physical therapy and prescription painkillers if the pain isn't managed by over the counter pain relievers. A surgery designed to lessen pressure on the tibial nerve can help in some cases. The surgeon enlarges the patient's tarsal tunnel, a ligament and bone structure in the foot that the tibial nerve passes through, relieving some of the pressure on the tibial nerve. 

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 15:40

All About Broken Ankles

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Broken ankles are a very serious injury which, if not properly treated, can lead to continuous pain and an inability to walk. An ankle is made up of at least three major bones--the tibia, fibula, and talus. The tibia and fibula are the two bones that connect to your knees. They sit directly upon the talus bone, protected by a fibrous membrane that allows slight movement in our ankle joint. When the ankle is broken, it is because the foot rolled under or twisted too far, causing one or more of these three bones to break.

An ankle sprain occurs when ligaments are ripped or torn but no bones were broken. A sprain can be very severe, causing severe bruising of the foot and an inability to hold weight. In the case of broken ankles, the bones broken in this region could be numerous. If a person cannot stand their own weight on their ankle then it is most likely a broken ankle. The best thing to do if you suspect you have a broken ankle is to get an x-ray to determine the severity of the break immediately. The longer you wait to be diagnosed, the longer the healing process will take.

The most common cause of a broken ankle is when the foot has rolled over on itself, usually while engaged in exercise, physical activity, or sports. Another common cause is from a jump of great height. It is most important to seek medical treatment if one suspects they have broken ankles. A doctor can determine if surgery is needed in order to heal correctly. Without medical assistance after such an injury, a person may suffer severe arthritis and pain later in life. In some cases, an operation may be the only option to ensure the ability to walk properly again.

Broken ankles will cause severe pain. It will help to elevate the feet above your head to reduce blood flow to the injured area, as well as applying ice to the ankles to help decrease swelling. If surgery is required, it usually means an ankle cast for at least three months and then rehabilitation. Rehabilitation can be painful, using atrophied muscles and building tendon strength.

It is important to determine if surgery is needed as a broken ankle can become more severe than you realize. If not professionally treated, the broken ankle bones will inhibit your ability to walk properly.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 13:47

Proper Shoe Fitting

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Proper shoe fitting is one of the most common concerns people have when it comes to the health of their feet. To some this may not seem like a major issue, but the reality is that improperly fitted shoes account for a tremendous amount of injuries to the foot. Because our feet, our posture, and our gait directly affect the bio-mechanics and the overall structure of our entire body, pains and discomforts felt elsewhere within the body can frequently be attributed to improperly fitted footwear. Here are a few factors to consider, which will help you select the proper footwear when shopping.

Do not purchase shoes with the expectation that they will stretch to accommodate the size of your feet. You are looking for shoes that fit correctly right away. If the shoes you purchase are too large and are slipping in the area of the heel while you walk, do not purchase them. Do not look favorably upon shoes that slip with the intention of wearing thicker socks to compensate for the slippage. Make certain that in the widest portion of the shoes, the ball of your foot, fits comfortably in the shoe.

It may be difficult to focus on these things with all the distractions of shopping, or tempting to ignore them because you badly want an uncomfortable shoe. However, if you cannot wear shoes because they hurt too much to use, your money and time will be wasted. When you get your new shoes home, put them on and walk around on a carpeted surface to see ensure your shoe's fit comfortably with normal activity.

With 33 joints, 26 bones, and over 100 ligaments, the potential for damage to the sensitive components within the foot are greater than many people realize. Finding a properly fitting shoe is the single most important factor you can do to help prevent injury and maintain optimal foot health. Adults tend to forget the fact that our feet continue to change as we grow older. So, even though they may no longer experience growth spurts associated with youth, their feet still change shape as they mature.

If you already have problems with your feet, wearing improperly fitted shoes can potentially exacerbate those problems. Fortunately, it does not require a tremendous amount of effort to find shoes that fit correctly. When shopping for shoes, keep in mind that improperly fitted shoes can not only cause a whole host of disorders and problems to occur within the feet themselves—they can affect the entire bio-mechanical structure of the body. Your posture and your stride are based on your feet, so your footwear can have a tremendous impact on the legs, back, and rest of your body. Finding the proper shoe fitting is essential to keep your feet and body healthly. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 13:32

Morton's Neuroma

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Morton's neuroma is a painful foot condition that commonly affects the areas between the third and fourth toe and the ball of the foot. Other areas of the foot can also be susceptible to this condition. Morton’s neuroma is caused by an inflamed nerve in the foot that is being squeezed and aggravated by surrounding bones.  Women are more likely than men to have an occurrence of this foot condition. When a person has Morton's neuroma, it can feel as if they are walking on stones or marbles.

There are risk factors that can increase a person's chance of having Morton's neuroma. Ill-fitting high heels or shoes can add pressure to the toe or foot area. Jogging, running and any other sports that involve constant impact to the foot area can make a person more susceptible to this condition. If a person has flat feet, bunions or any other foot deformities, it can put them at a higher risk for developing Morton's neuroma.

There is no one major sign that indicates a person has Morton's neuroma, but rather certain symptoms to look for. A person who has burning in the ball of the foot or tingling and numbness in the toe areas are signs they may have Morton's neuroma. The pain increases greatly when wearing shoes or being active. There usually is little or no pain at night.

If a person suspects that they have this condition, they should visit their doctor. A physician will check for palpable masses between the bones of the foot. A doctor will also apply pressure to the foot or toe area to replicate the pain a person experiences when active. Range of motion tests and X-rays are other options a doctor may offer a patient to rule out other conditions or problems.

Treating Morton's neuroma can be as simple as changing the type of shoes a person wears. Wear wider shoes or flat shoes with a soft sole. Doing this may help reduce the pressure on the nerve that is aggravated. If necessary, a person can have a cortisone injection to help reduce swelling and pain in the foot area.

If these methods don't relieve the symptoms, consulting with an orthopedic surgeon should be the next option. During a consultation, a patient will find out about the treatment methods available for Morton's neuroma. A surgeon can release the tissue around the nerve that is causing this pain, or they can remove a small area of the nerve completely. There is a short recovery time for this type of surgery, and afterward, patients can return to their normal lifestyle.

 

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