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Monday, 20 January 2020 00:00

Laser Treatment for Fungal Nails

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, 13 January 2020 00:00

Falls Prevention

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, 06 January 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 December 2019 00:00

Bunions

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, 23 December 2019 00:00

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails (onychocryptosis) are a common foot ailment and it is very unpleasant to experience. The condition is caused by an increase in pressure from the ingrowth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. Ingrown toenails commonly cause pain in those who experience them. In some cases, the skin surrounding the ingrown toenail may break which may lead bacteria to enter through and cause an infection. Common symptoms of this ailment include pain, redness, swelling, and warmth around the toe.

An imbalance between the size of the nail and the enlargement of the nail skin edge causes ingrown toenails. This condition is often caused by improperly trimming the toenails. If you are trying you cut your nails, you should always try to trim straight across instead of in a rounded shape. Ingrown toenails can also be an inherited condition and they may also be caused by improper shoe fitting.

Another common cause of the condition is wearing shoes that are either too small or too large. Other causes include poor foot hygiene, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, edema, and fungal infections. There are many risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop an ingrown toenail. Athletes who play “stop and start” sports such as tennis, soccer, and basketball are most likely to have ingrown toenails.

People who have diabetes, a compromised immune system, or poor circulation should immediately seek care from a podiatrist if they have an ingrown toenail. It is also recommended to seek professional assistance if at-home remedies are not successful within a week or if there is persistent pain.

Monday, 16 December 2019 00:00

Effect of High Heels on the Feet

For hundreds of years, women have been wearing various kinds of high heels for aesthetic reasons. Women who wear high heels appear to be taller and have longer and thinner legs, and the wearer’s gait and posture changes. Though high heels have had an association with femininity and have kept them popular over the years, there are definite health problems caused by wearing them too frequently.

The motion of the ankle joints is limited when heels are worn. The ankle joint is very important to the body when it comes to walking. Because of their location, these joints have a great deal of weight put on them. Thus, it is very important to keep them as healthy as possible. The Achilles tendon is the main tendon in the ankle. Wearing high heels too often, studies have shown, can cause the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to shorten and stiffen. This can cause problems when shoes without heels are worn.

By putting a great deal of pressure on the ball of the foot and by forcing the toes into a small toe box, high heels can cause or may worsen many foot problems. These include corns, hammertoe, bunions, Morton’s neuroma and plantar fasciitis.

Not only does wearing high heels regularly have negative effects on the feet, the rest of the body can suffer as well. The knees, one of the most important joints in the entire body, can be affected by wearing high heels.  High heels can cause the knees to stay bent all the time. Also, it can cause them to bend slightly inward as well. Doctors believe that women can suffer from osteoarthritis later in life because of constantly walking like in high heels. By limiting the natural motion of the foot during walking, high heels also cause an increased in stress on the knees.

Similarly, high heels can cause the back to go out of alignment. If high heels are worn constantly, the spine’s ability to absorb shock can cause continued back pain. They can compress the vertebrae of the lower back, and can overuse the back muscles.

However, this is not to say that high heels can never be worn. If worn occasionally and not often, they will not cause serious problems. They should not be worn every day. It’s important to wear them modestly to avoid the long-term physical health problems of the feet, knees, ankles, and back mentioned above.

Monday, 09 December 2019 00:00

Athlete's Foot

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 02 December 2019 00:00

Foot Pain

The feet, being the foundation of the body, carry all of the body’s weight and are therefore prone to experiencing pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing foot pain, it is important to determine where in the foot you are experiencing this pain to help discover the cause of it. While pain can be experienced virtually anywhere in the foot, the most common sites of foot pain are in the heel and ankle.   

Heel pain can be due to a multitude of conditions including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and heel spurs. Pain experienced in the ankle can be a sign of an ankle sprain, arthritis, gout, ankle instability, ankle fracture, or nerve compression. In more serious cases, pain in the foot can be a sign of improper alignment or an infection.

Foot pain can be accompanied by symptoms including redness, swelling, stiffness and warmth in the affected area. Whether the pain can be described as sharp or dull depends on the foot condition behind it. It is important to visit your local podiatrist if your foot pain and its accompanying symptoms persist and do not improve over time.

Depending on the location and condition of your foot pain, your podiatrist may prescribe certain treatments. These treatments can include but are not limited to prescription or over-the-counter drugs and medications, certain therapies, cortisone injections, or surgery.

If you are experiencing persistent foot pain, it is important to consult with your foot and ankle doctor to determine the cause and location. He or she will then prescribe the best treatment for you. While milder cases of foot pain may respond well to rest and at-home treatments, more serious cases may take some time to fully recover.

Monday, 25 November 2019 00:00

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains occur when ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. These types of injuries are very common and can occur in people of all ages. Sprains may range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage is done to the ligaments. If a sprain goes untreated, a more severe sprain may occur which can further damage the ankle. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to chronic ankle pain.

There are some risk factors that can increase your risk of suffering a sprained ankle. Those who participate in sports, walk on uneven surfaces, have a prior ankle injury, are in poor physical condition, or wear improper shoes are more likely to get a sprained ankle.

There are a few symptoms to look out for if you suspect you are suffering from a sprained ankle. Some common symptoms are swelling, bruising, tenderness, and instability of the ankle. In cases where the tearing of the ligaments is severe, there may be a “popping” sound when the strain occurs.

The RICE method is proven to be effective in treating ankle sprains. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest is important for treatment especially within the first 24 to 48 hours. You should also ice your sprained ankle for the first 48 hours for 20 minutes at a time. A small piece of cloth should be placed between the ice and the affected area. For the compression step, you should wear a brace that is snug, but not too tight that it cuts off circulation. When choosing a brace, be sure to choose one that is suitable for the type of ankle sprain you have. Lastly, you should elevate your foot above the heart as often as possible.

After you treat a sprain, you should go through rehabilitation to prevent the injury from occurring again. There are three phases to the rehab process. The first phase involves resting, protecting and reducing the swelling of the injury. The second phase consists of restoring the ankles flexibility, range of motion, and strength. The third phase consists of slowly returning to activity and maintenance exercises.

If you suspect you have an ankle sprain, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult with your podiatrist. Your podiatrist will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and a suitable treatment option for your condition.

Monday, 18 November 2019 00:00

Treating Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the tibial nerve, located in the tarsal tunnel in the foot, is compressed. The tibial nerve can become compressed from injury, such as an ankle sprain, flat feet, and lesions. Arthritis, diabetes, and varicose veins can also cause swelling and thus result in nerve compression.

Symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome include several different sensations in the sole of the foot, inside the ankle, and around the tibial nerve. These sensations include shooting pains, numbness or reduced sensation, pins and needles, burning, and tingling. Symptoms tend to worsen with greater activity to the area. In rare and severe occasions, this can change the muscles in the foot.

If you suspect you have tarsal tunnel syndrome, you should consult with your podiatrist. He or she will examine your medical history to see if you have a history of diabetes, arthritis, or flat feet. They will also check to see if you have suffered an injury to the area recently. An electrical test will be conducted to check if the nerve has been damaged. A simpler Tinel’s Test might also be used. This includes simply tapping the nerve to create a sensation. An MRI scan of the area may also be used.

Treatments vary greatly for tarsal tunnel syndrome. Treatments include both nonsurgical and surgical options depending upon the severity of the condition. Nonsurgical options include anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections to the area. Orthotics, such as a splint or brace that immobilizes the foot, is another noninvasive option. For those with flat feet, custom shoes can be made to offer better foot support. Surgical options include a tunnel tarsal release, in which an incision is made behind the ankle down to the arch of the foot. This releases the ligament and relieves pressure off the nerve. Some doctors use a more minimally invasive surgery, where smaller incisions are made in the ankle and the ligament is stretched out.

If you are suffering from painful sensations in your foot, see a podiatrist who can determine if you are experiencing tarsal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel syndrome that is left unchecked can cause permanent nerve damage to the foot.

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