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Tuesday, 07 October 2014 15:48

Athlete's Foot: The Sole Story

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Do you suffer from itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet? It could be athlete's foot. Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, can be extremely contagious, often infecting shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, and anywhere else feet might contact. It's commonly found in public changing areas and bathrooms, dormitory style living quarters, around locker rooms and public swimming pools. "Commons" areas in prisons and residential care facilities are frequently caught feeding the fungus as well. One step in the wrong direction can be enough to start the fire that can be tremendously difficult to treat.

Athlete's foot is most often caused by the same fungus that causes ringworm (tinea). It can be spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by coming in contact with other objects or body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Although the feet are more frequently assumed to get athlete's foot, tinea can invade other parts of the body as well so long as the proper growing conditions are met.

Tinea thrives in a dark, warm, and moist environment. Body parts that are often infected include the hands, groin, and scalp. Although many people never experience athlete's foot, around 70% of the population suffers from tinea at some point in their lifetime. Like most ailments, some people are more likely to acquire this fungal infection than others. People with a history of tinea or other skin infections are more likely to suffer from recurrent, or even additional, unrelated infections. The extent to which a person is tormented by the fungus can vary greatly as well.

While some people are never even aware that they have been infected with athlete's foot, others are pestered with mild to moderate symptoms like dry and flaking skin, itching, and redness. Still others are bothered by more severe symptoms including cracked and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, and even pain when walking. In the worst cases, tinea can cause blistering as well.

The treatment for athlete's foot begins with prevention. Changes in the environment infected with athlete's foot can prevent spreading. Keeping the area that is infected clean and dry with the use of medicated cleansers and powders is essential. Allowing the area to breathe is important in the treatment as well. Exposure to cool air and light can make conditions undesirable for tinea. Treating the infected area with miconazole, tolnaftate, or other medicated creams, ointments, or sprays not only helps to kill the fungus, but helps prevent recurrences as well. White vinegar-based foot soaks can also be beneficial. Seeing a podiatrist is often a good idea when treating athlete's foot, since more often than not, other skin infections can develop from the initial infection, and recurrences are common.

 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 21:06

Arthritic Foot Care

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The average person walks about 75,000 miles during their lifetime, which puts a lot of pressure and stress on your feet. As you age, you lose flexibility and elasticity in the 26 bones and 30 different joints located in your feet, as well as weakening your shock absorbers. Adding arthritis to this mix makes things worse, with inflammation and distorted joints, which is why arthritic foot care is a crucial part of your daily routine at this stage of your life.
The last thing you need if you suffer from arthritis in your feet is for additional, painful conditions to arise, such as bunions, neuroma, or hammertoe. Buying well-fitting shoes, shoes with a lower heel and more room, and shoes that have better arch support are good places to start. Because arthritis will cause you to lose the arch in your foot, it is highly recommended to buy shoes that can support your arch.


On top of getting enough arch support, you need to have a comfortable fit as well. Leaving a finger width between the back of the shoe and your foot is an easy way to measure and gauge the proper size, and having a square or rounded toe box in the front will help even more. It is also recommended to use shoes that have a rubber sole, as this provides a cushion and acts as a shock absorber. It also provides flexibility for the ball of your foot when you push off your heel to walk.


Shoes are not the only way to get proper arthritic foot care though. Exercise helps a lot and will not only strengthen your muscles and joints, but help prevent further injury and pain. For example, stretching the Achilles tendon in the back of your heel will give your foot added mobility, reducing pain because a lack of mobility causes stress in this area. Another good example is massaging the ball of your foot and your toes from top to bottom.
As previously mentioned, one of the best exercises to do is stretching your Achilles tendon. To do this, simply lean against a wall with your palms flat, place one foot forward and one foot back, making sure both feet are flat on the floor, then lean forward, bending your forward knee towards the wall but keeping your back knee straight and unbent. You will feel your Achilles tendon and calf muscles stretch. Another great exercise is the big toe stretch that alleviates stiffness. Place a rubber band around your big toes, keep your feet together, and pull your toes away from each other. You can also place a rubber band around all the toes of one foot and then try to separate them, stretching them out.


Aside from stretching and exercise, pain can be alleviated with non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drugs, heat, and ultrasounds. Topical medicines with capsaicin can also help. So far, there is no completely pain free remedy for arthritic feet, but following some of this advice can go a long way in helping you stay as pain free as possible.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014 09:35

Ingrown Toenail Care

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An ingrown toenail is caused when a toenail grows sideways into the bed of the nail, causing pain and swelling. Sometimes this can become infected causing drainage and may become serious.

There are many risk factors that can predispose a person to this common condition. Cutting your nails too short, participating in sports, diabetes, being overweight, or having a fungal infection of the toe can all cause ingrown toe nails. Many people are genetically prone to ingrown nails and it can often be related to genetics. Often the problem can come from wearing ill-fitting shoes, or even from shoes that keep the feet slightly damp.

There are some things that you can do to prevent and treat these painful problems. Letting your toe nails grow a little longer will help prevent this condition. If you do develop an ingrown nail, soaking the toe in hot water will help prevent infection and lessen pain. You may want to add antibiotic soap or Epsom salts to the water. This will help to prevent infection.

Some experts also recommend placing small pieces of cotton under the affected part. This will help the toenail to grow up instead into in your nail bed. Resting with your feet up can reduce swelling and redness.

If your pain is so severe that it keeps you from everyday activities, it is time to see your podiatrist. Also, if you see a red streak running up your leg, or if your infection is spreading, see a podiatrist immediately. There are many quick treatments that can lessen your pain and have you walking with comfort.
One method of treating an ingrown toenail involves using a Band-Aid. Wrapping the affected toe with a Band-Aid will prevent infection and also keep the nail from growing out at painful angles.

If your podiatrist feels it is necessary, he or she may make a small incision and remove part of your toe nail. Medication will be placed in the nail bed to prevent re-growth of the problem nail parts. This will be done under local anesthesia and should lessen your discomfort in no time. You will be advised to stay off your foot for a day or so, but can then carry on normal activities.

Take care of your feet; you have many steps to take in your life. Walking in comfort should be a priority for a lifetime of healthy living.

Wednesday, 03 September 2014 19:07

Swimming and Your Feet

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If our feet could talk, they would complain about all the walking, running and long standing we put them through. Our feet deserve a break from the stress put on them, and swimming is a great way to do just that. This activity not only takes all the weight off of the feet, allowing them to relax—there are many other reasons why it is helps take care of feet as well.

Swimming is great for foot health because it improves blood circulation to all the lower extremities. This is especially true for older people or those with injuries, who often cannot exercise as much due to weakened muscles or joints. Water supports much of the weight of the swimmer, relieving aches and allowing him or her to move freely. This gets the blood flowing to the rest of the body, including the feet.

Improving blood flow is also paramount to those with diabetes, who usually have problems with circulation in their feet. Additionally, because of various foot complications, it is often difficult for these people to exercise. Swimming is a good, safe way to get in extra physical activity and improve circulation, without causing further trauma to the feet.

For those that have foot problems due to overuse, swimming can be very beneficial. Athletes and people who are constantly on their feet frequently suffer from injuries like foot tendinitis or ankle sprains. Swimming in cold water can reduce foot inflammation, while swimming in warm water can increase blood flow and make it easier to move and stretch the afflicted foot. Furthermore, because the feet are usually covered during high activity, they tend to sweat a lot. This can cause complications like athlete's foot. Swimming not only allows the feet to be open to the air, it gives them a chance to be cleaned as someone moves around in the water.

Pregnant women who suffer from edema can benefit from swimming, because it allows them to get off their feet for a while. Due to the buoyancy of the human body, they may comfortably float and move around without exerting uncomfortable and often painful pressure on swollen feet and legs. This also lets them to relax sore muscles and joints.

Swimming is, in general, one of the best ways to exercise while protecting and caring for your feet. It takes all the pressure off of them, allowing the feet to relax and recover, and improves blood flow to them. It also makes it easier for someone to stretch and ease an injured foot, which helps heal it and reduces recovery time. If someone has any foot issues at all, or if they simply want to let their feet relax for a while, they should just go swimming.

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.

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