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Monday, 11 January 2021 00:00

Treating Toenail Fungus

Fungal infection of the toenail, or onychomycosis, typically appears as a gradual change in a toenail’s texture and color that involves brittleness and darkening.  The fungal infection itself occurs beneath the surface of the nail.  Aside from discoloration, other symptoms include the collection of debris beneath the nail plate, white marks on the nail plate, and a foul odor emanating from the nail.  If ignored, the infection can spread into other nails and the skin; in severe cases, it can hinder one’s ability to work or walk. 

The toenails are particularly vulnerable to contracting infection in moist environments where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as around swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms.  Fungal infection may also be more likely to occur in nail beds that have been injured, and sufferers of chronic diseases such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immunodeficiency conditions are particularly prone to developing fungal nails. 

Fungal nails can be primarily prevented by practicing proper hygiene and regularly examining the feet and toes.  Carefully washing the feet with soap and water and thoroughly drying the feet afterwards are essential.  Other tips include wearing shower shoes in public areas, changing shoes and socks daily, keeping toenails clipped at a short length, wearing breathable shoes that fit properly, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and disinfecting home pedicure tools and instruments used to cut nails.

Fungal nail treatment may vary between patients and the severity of the condition.  Your podiatrist may suggest a daily routine of cleansing that spans over a period of time to ease mild infections.  Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal agents may also be prescribed, including topical and/or oral medications.  Debridement, or the removal of diseased nail matter and debris, may also be performed.  In more severe cases, surgical treatment may be needed.  In some instances, the temporary removal of the fungal nail allows for the direct application of a topical antifungal to the nail bed.  In other cases, a chronically painful fungal nail that has not responded to other treatments may be permanently removed; this allows the infection to be cured and avoids the growth of a deformed nail.  

Monday, 04 January 2021 00:00

Foot Orthotics

Orthotics are shoe inserts that are meant to correct an irregular walking gait or provide cushioning to the feet.  Orthotics come in a variety of different models and sizes, including over-the-counter and customizable variants. Customizable orthotics can be shaped and contoured to fit inside a specific shoe and are typically prescribed through a podiatrist who specializes in customized footwear and orthotics design and management.

Orthotics are beneficial because they can help prevent injuries from occurring and provide cushioning to keep pain levels down to a minimum. They also allow for the correct positioning of the feet. Orthotics can act as shock absorbers to help remove pressure from the foot and ankle. Therefore, orthotics can make bodily movements, such as walking and running, become more comfortable as well as help prevent the development of certain foot conditions.

Orthotics alleviate pain and make the foot more comfortable by slightly altering the angle at which the foot strikes the ground surface, therefore controlling the movement of the foot and ankle. Orthotics come in different variants and can be made of various materials. To determine what type of orthotic is most suited to your feet and your needs, it is best to consult your podiatrist. He or she will be able to recommend a type of orthotic that can help improve your foot function or prescribe a custom orthotic to best fit your feet.  

Monday, 28 December 2020 00:00

What is a Podiatrist?

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, or set 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. Referrals will then be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.

Some podiatrists have their own independent, private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel. Many podiatrists work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals, or visit patients in nursing homes. Podiatrists typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. 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 results from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.

Monday, 21 December 2020 00:00

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.

Monday, 14 December 2020 00:00

Wound Care

Diabetics must be wary of all wounds, regardless of depth or size. Diabetes, a chronic disease in which the body cannot properly use glucose the way it normally would, causes various complications that make wounds difficult to heal. Nerve damage or neuropathy will cause diabetics to have trouble feeling the pain of a blister or cut until the condition has significantly worsened or become infected. A diabetic’s weakened immune system can make even the most minor of wounds easily susceptible to infection. Diabetics are also more prone to developing narrow, clogged arteries, and are therefore more likely to develop wounds.

Wounds should be taken care of immediately after discovery, as even the smallest of wounds can become infected if enough bacteria build up within the wound.  To remove dirt, wounds should be first rinsed under running water only. Soap, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine can irritate the injury and should be avoided. To prevent infection, apply antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with a bandage. The bandage should be changed daily. The skin around the wound may be cleaned with soap.

To prevent further exacerbation, see a doctor—especially if you have diabetes. Minor skin conditions can become larger problems if not properly inspected. As the wound heals, make sure to avoid applying pressure to the affected area.

Wednesday, 09 December 2020 00:00

Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a condition in which the nerves in the body become damaged from a number of different illnesses. Nerves from any part of the body, including the foot, can be damaged. There are several forms of neuropathy including peripheral neuropathy, cranial neuropathy, focal neuropathy, and autonomic neuropathy. Furthermore there is also mononeuropathy and polyneuropathy. Mononeuropathies affect one nerve while polyneuropathies affect several nerves. Causes of neuropathy include physical injury, diseases, cancers, infections, diabetes, toxic substances, and disorders. It is peripheral neuropathy that affects the feet.

The symptoms of neuropathy vary greatly and can be minor such as numbness, sensation loss, prickling, and tingling sensations. More painful symptoms include throbbing, burning, freezing, and sharp pains. The most severe symptoms can be muscle weakness/paralysis, problems with coordination, and falling.

Podiatrists rely upon a full medical history and a neurological examination to diagnose peripheral neuropathy in the foot. More tests that may be used include nerve function tests to test nerve damage, blood tests to detect diabetes or vitamin deficiencies. Imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans, might be used to look for abnormalities, and finally nerve or skin biopsies could also be taken.

Treatment depends upon the causes of neuropathy. If the neuropathy was caused by vitamin deficiency, diabetes, infection, or toxic substances, addressing those conditions can lead to the nerve healing and sensation returning to the area. However if the nerve has died, then sensation may never come back to the area. Pain medication may be prescribed for less serious symptoms. Topical creams may also be tried to bring back sensation. Electrical nerve stimulation may be used for a period of time to stimulate nerves. Physical therapy can strengthen muscle and improve movement. Finally surgery might be necessary if pressure on the nerve is causing the neuropathy.

If you are experiencing sensation loss, numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in your feet, you may be experiencing neuropathy. Be sure to talk to a podiatrist to be diagnosed right away.

Monday, 30 November 2020 00:00

Everything You Need to Know About Corns

Corns are hard and thick areas of skin that form as a result of constant rubbing, friction, or pressure on the skin. They are patches of dead skin with a small plug toward the center. They may appear on the tops and sides of toes and can make walking painful.

Soft corns are typically thinner with a white color and rubbery texture. Soft corns tend to appear between the toes. Seed corns are another type of corn that appear in clusters and can be tender if they are on a weight-bearing part of the foot. Seed corns usually appear on the bottom of the foot and are likely caused by a blockage in sweat ducts.

While corns and calluses are somewhat similar, calluses are a bit different. Calluses are a patch of dead skin that can occur anywhere on the body. In comparison to corns, calluses are usually a bit larger in size. However, both corns and calluses are caused by increased friction on the skin.

There are some risk factors that may increase your chances of developing corns and calluses. If you have bunions, hammertoe, or a bone spur, you are more likely to develop a corn or callus on your foot.

While Corns and Calluses tend to disappear when the friction to the affected area ceases, the help of a podiatrist may be useful in the removal process. It is important to remove the dead skin around the area and this may be done in a few different ways. Moisturizing creams may be helpful in softening and removing the dead skin around the callus. You should never use razors or other pedicure equipment to remove your corns. Doing this may worsen your corn or callus and cause infection. 

In some cases, corns and calluses may be caused by abnormal foot structure or walking motion. In such a case, you should seek a podiatrist’s assistance in order to correct the issue.

Monday, 23 November 2020 00:00

How to Care for Your Arthritic Foot

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and it can occur at any joint in the body, especially in the foot. It generally effects those who are older, however, it can occur at any age. Although there are many different forms of arthritis, there are three main types that occur in the foot. The three types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.

The primary cause of osteoarthritis is aging. As you age, cartilage degenerates around the joints which causes friction and pain. Obesity can cause osteoarthritis through mechanical stress. Injuries that damage joints can increase the probability as well. Finally, a family history of osteoarthritis can also increase chances of having it.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joint linings and weakens them over a long time. While there is no known cause of rheumatoid arthritis, obesity and smoking can increase your chances of getting it. Women are also more likely to get it than men.

Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when there is too much uric acid in your blood and painful crystals form in your joints. Men are more likely to have gout than women. People who are obese or drink alcohol often are also more likely to develop gout. Furthermore, having diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gastric bypass surgery or a family history of gout may increase your likelihood of developing the condition.

Symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness, swelling in the joints. These symptoms can make it harder and more painful to walk. Physical activity can increase pain and discomfort. Furthermore, joint pain can worsen throughout the day for osteoarthritis. Gout attacks generally last several days with the first few being the worst.

Diagnosis of gout includes either a joint fluid test or a blood test. X-ray imaging can detect osteoarthritis but not gout. On the other hand, there is no blood test for osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is difficult to diagnosis. Doctors utilize family and personal medical history, a physical examination, and antibody blood tests to determine if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment varies for the different kinds of arthritis. Anti-inflammatory medication or steroids can help reduce pain from inflammation of the joints. Changing shoe types can help with some symptoms. Wider shoes can help with discomfort from gout and osteoarthritis. High heels should be avoided. Shoes with proper arch support and that take pressure off the ball of the foot can help with rheumatoid arthritis. Drinking lots of water can also help rid uric acid from the blood. Losing weight, improving your diet, and limiting alcohol and smoking can also help prevent or lessen the symptoms of arthritis.

If you are having trouble walking or pain in your feet, see a podiatrist to check if you have arthritis.

Monday, 16 November 2020 00:00

Stretching Your Feet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 09 November 2020 00:00

Morton's Neuroma

A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue and can develop throughout the body.  In the foot, the most common neuroma is a Morton’s neuroma; this typically forms between the third and fourth toes.  The thickening of the nerve is typically caused by compression and irritation of the nerve; this thickening can in turn cause enlargement and, in some cases, nerve damage.

Neuromas can be caused by anything that causes compression or irritation of the nerve.  A common cause is wearing shoes with tapered toe boxes or high heels that force the toes into the toe boxes.  Physical activities that involve repeated pressure to the foot, such as running or basketball, can also create neuromas.  Those with foot deformities, such as bunions, hammertoes, or flatfeet, are more likely to develop the condition.

Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include tingling, burning, numbness, pain, and the feeling that either something is inside the ball of the foot or that something in one’s shoe or sock is bunched up.  Symptoms typically begin gradually and can even go away temporarily by removing one’s shoes or massaging the foot.  An increase in the intensity of symptoms correlates with the increasing growth of the neuroma.

Treatment for Morton’s neuroma can vary between patients and the severity of the condition.  For mild to moderate cases, padding, icing, orthotics, activity modifications, shoe modifications, medications, and injection therapy may be suggested or prescribed.  Patients who have not responded successfully to less invasive treatments may require surgery to properly treat their condition.  The severity of your condition will determine the procedure performed and the length of recovery afterwards.

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