Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Dealing with Toenail Fungus

When tiny fungal pathogens get under your nail plate to feed upon the nails and skin, they trigger toenail fungal infection. Common causes of toenail fungus include: walking barefoot in damp areas or public places like swimming pools, showers, locker rooms etc; provision of an entry point for the fungi by a microscopic injury; use of unsterilized tools during a pedicure.

People suffering from chronic conditions like circulatory problems, diabetes, or immune-deficiency are particularly at risk of fungal nails. Excessive perspiration and a history of athlete's foot too could be contributing factors that trigger toenail fungus.

This disease causes a progressive change in the color and quality of your toenail; it thickens, suffers yellow or brown discoloration, and eventually, may slowly start getting separated from the nail bed, which is often embarrassing and ugly.

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When to see a podiatrist

Since toenail fungus can be present for years without causing any pain, it’s often ignored. As soon as you notice signs like thickening, discoloration, or abnormal toenails, you should consult a podiatrist. Remember – the sooner the professional treatment, the better would be your chances of getting back healthy nails.

Diagnosis and treatment

Based on the severity and type of infection, the scope and duration of treatments may vary. By detecting a fungal infection early, your podiatrist can culture the nail to find the exact cause, and advise a suitable treatment plan. This may include oral or topical medication, and removal of debris and diseased nail matter from the infected nail (debridement).

Severe cases may need surgical intervention, where the infected nail is removed temporarily to apply a topical anti fungal directly to the affected region. In case a chronically painful nail does not respond to these treatments, the podiatrist may decide to remove it permanently for curing the fungal infection and preventing any chances of a distorted nail growth.

Preventive steps

Your first line of defense against toenail fungus is daily inspection of the toes and feet and good foot hygiene. With feet that are dry and clean, you can steer clear of this disease. Here are a few simple preventive steps that can help you deal with toenail fungus: 

  •  In damp public areas, wear shower shoes as regularly as possible. 
  •  Every time you return home from outdoors, use water and soap to wash your feet and pat           them   dry. 
  • Wear well-fitted shoes that let your feet breathe. 
  • Cut your toenails straight across to ensure that they do not protrude beyond the tip of the         toe. 
  •  Prevent moisture buildup; do not wear excessively tight hosiery.
  •  Instead of woolen or cotton socks, wear socks made up of synthetic fiber that keep your feet dry by wicking away moisture faster.       
  •            Disinfect all home pedicure tools and instruments you use for cutting nails. 
            ·     If you suffer from athlete's foot, get it treated promptly. 

Toenail fungus is often taken lightly and ignored until it’s too late. Remember to seek medical attention on time; or else, the infection may spread fast and end up impairing your capability to do your daily chores or even jeopardize something as simple as walking.

Monday, 25 September 2017

5 Foot Care Myths Debunked

Many myths and old wives’ tales are fun to laugh at; however, when they involve your health, you must get your facts right, or run the risk of making worse seemingly harmless conditions. From cuts and bunions to broken ankles, you do have anecdotal myths galore; but podiatrists advice getting right the facts behind them instead of blindly believing them. We bust five common foot care myths here for your benefit.

Myth-1: Shoes trigger bunions

Fact: In most cases, bunions stem from either congenital deformities (which refers to deformities present at birth) or inherited faulty foot types. Foot injuries too can trigger bunions. Although many wrongly believe bunions are inherited conditions, the foot type lies at the root of the problem. Wearing high heels or shoes that are too tight and narrow can crowd your toes and increase your risk of bunions or worsen them over time; but shoes are not the culprit to blame.

Myth-2: My injured ankle/foot isn't broken if I can walk on it

Fact: Despite the extent of your injury and the level of pain you can bear, it’s not impossible to walk on a broken ankle/foot. However, podiatrists strictly advice against doing this, since it will worsen the damage already caused by the broken bone. It’s wise not to put any undue pressure on it (by standing, walking, etc.) and to get your injured foot diagnosed immediately by a foot doctor. You may apply ice on the injured foot and keep it elevated to get some relief from the pain.

Myth-3: Foot pain with old age is normal

Fact: Suffering from foot pain isn’t normal, no matter what your age is. Therefore, instead of taking old age as the cause of any foot pain that you might be experiencing and neglecting the condition, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist right away. A proper diagnosis of the condition is necessary for timely treatment and quick relief from the pain. 

Myth-4: Any foot wound would heal on its own

Fact: Remember that a majority of deep wounds won’t heal on their own. It is important therefore to get your foot wound examined by a podiatrist within 24 hours. If you wait for too long, the wound may become infected. In some cases, the condition may worsen and require hospitalization that might end in amputation. Limb loss statistics of the Amputee Coalition of America show that almost 185,000 lower extremity amputations are recorded in the US on a yearly basis and an estimated 2 million Americans live with limb loss.

Myth-5: Duct tape can ‘suffocate’ warts

Fact: Warts are commonly caused by viral skin infection and you can’t suffocate them with duct tape. This is especially true if you have pre-existing conditions like diabetes or suffer from neurological, immunological, or circulatory problems: you need to be extremely careful with warts removal, which should ideally be done under professional care. It’s best to consult your podiatrist for carrying out the right process of warts removal rather than try doing it on your own with duct tape: it could aggravate the harm already done instead of doing any good. 

Don’t neglect your foot and ankle conditions, carried away by common myths. Treat them in earnest by consulting an experienced and reputed podiatrist for the right diagnosis and treatment.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Improving your Balance: Try out these 4 Foot and Ankle Exercises

 It is not uncommon for many of us to step into a hole in the yard accidentally while playing with children and lose balance. You might run after your dog and suddenly trip and fall on an uneven surface or suffer the same embarrassment due to any other cause.

In such a situation when your body loses its balance, the ‘righting reflex’ is triggered automatically to regain the standard upright position. This is a natural reaction to the mishap to correct a deviation and achieve a stable equilibrium.

If your body fails to react properly, it could cause muscle strain, broken bones, or a fall, which in turn would lead to serious injuries. Your feet and ankle are the first to react when your body’s natural upright position is upset. In order to maintain a healthy balance, it is necessary that you strengthen them and ensure their proper functioning. Here are four foot and ankle exercises you can try out for this purpose: 

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1 Towel scrunches

Sit on a chair and spread out a hand towel on the floor close to your feet. Now, use your toes to grip the towel and release it repeatedly, while trying to bring it close to the chair’s base.

To make this exercise a bit more intense, you can keep some weight (say, one small hand weight) at the far end of the towel, and then try scrunching it. With towel scrunches, you can activate the intrinsic muscles of your toe and feet, which are crucial for the overall arch and foot stability.

 2 Balancing on a cushion

Put a pillow on the floor, and try standing on its soft but unsteady surface. Making your ankles and feet work towards finding stable balance, this exercise helps strengthen your joints and the connecting muscles.

Once you feel you have found your balance for standing atop the pillow, raise your hind feet slowly without moving from your position. This may be difficult to start with, but attempt to do at least ten foot raises. This will make your ankle joints and muscles stronger apart from improving your balance.

3 Walking in a conventional line (heel to toe)

This is an extremely useful exercise to tone up your ankle joints, thus improving their flexibility, apart from strengthening the surrounding muscles. Foot doctors often suggest this exercise for patients with ankle arthritis since it improves blood circulation and helps reduce stiffness.

4 Single leg stance (with open and closed eyes)

Vision plays a key role in your body’s balance. This exercise aims to improve your steadiness by decreasing your vision. Stand on one leg at a safe place and count 10 seconds. Then change your leg and repeat.

Next, repeat the stance with both legs as before but with your eyes completely closed. With your vision reduced to zero, you will find the balancing task quite difficult. Yet, keep practicing, as it will strengthen your joints and muscles. It will contribute to your improved overall balance.

Be cautious while practicing these exercises: during the initial stages, if you need to, use your hands to get the support of a wall or a table for the balancing exercises. In case you are recovering from or have recently recovered from any foot and ankle injuries, make sure to consult with your expert foot doctor before practicing any of these workouts.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Troubled with Foot Pain? 5 Shoe Types that could be the Trigger

Love wearing flip-flops when taking a walk around the neighborhood? Can’t do without your high heels at work? Most people don’t apply their mind when picking their shoes – for the workplace, a trek, or a vacation on the beach. It’s only long after pain and discomfort set in, they start searching for reasons.

More often than not wrong choice of shoes emerges as a major contributing factor. If you are one of the many suffering foot pain or other foot ailments, take a closer look to check if your shoes are your undoing.

5 Shoe types that could wreck your life

1. Flip-flops:  

Your love for flip-flops notwithstanding, you should acknowledge that they provide little support or protection to your feet. When you use flip-flops for intensive walking, you are sure to miss heel cushioning, arch support and shock absorption. This can trigger foot pain, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis. In case you trip wearing your flip-flops, you may even suffer from sprained ankles. Therefore, it’s best to think of minimal wear of this kind of footwear at the swimming pool, beach or shower.

2. Ballet flats: 

They may feel comfortable at first but in reality, they are just like wearing an extremely thick sock. With no arch support and very small padding in insoles, the ballet flats do nothing good to your feet. Walking with them can tear, overstretch, or inflame the plantar fascia. No wonder why wearing ballet flats worsens plantar fasciitis and triggers problems in your hips, knees or back. 

3. Platform shoes: 

Though they are better than high heels to add to height, they are bad to wear since they compromise your normal gait. They add height to both the forefoot and the hind foot, but decrease forefoot pressure. Additionally, the shoe’s height leads to ankle instability, which in turn can cause sprains.

4. Stiletto heels:

Despite being the stylish choice for most women, they cause your front feet tremendous pressure, which can aggravate bunions, trigger sesamoiditis (inflammation of the small bones located below your big toe), metatarsalgia (inflammation of and pain in the ball of your foot), stretched Achilles tendon and other biomechanical forefoot problems. Wearing tight heels that pinches your toes and squeezes them together can even lead to irritated and thickened nerves, or neuroma (swelling of the nerves in the ball of your foot). 

5. Worn-out shoes:  

Podiatrists advise you to throw out your worn-out shoes without any hesitation. If foot problems have already afflicted you, worn-out shoes can worsen them depending on the kind of your footwear. Since the soles of such shoes have flattened out, they offer little shock absorption, thereby making your feet prone to injuries and problems like Achilles’ tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and knee pain.

As online shopping is steadily becoming popular, many people these days tend to buy shoes going by digital pictures of fashionable wear. Unfortunately, they might end up with a very uncomfortable fit. So, choose your shoes wisely and correctly in consultation with an experienced podiatrist especially when you suffer foot ailments.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Diabetic Foot Care: Role of a Podiatrist

Diabetes can cause several complaints and conditions like peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage that triggers pain and numbness in feet and hands), foot infection and ulcers, poor circulation (that impairs the body’s ability to heal) and stiffer joints.

In the domain of diabetes management, most patients do not consider foot care as a crucial aspect. They tend largely to leave unattended foot problems, until a serious condition develops. Having a podiatrist in the diabetes management team will help in preventing and managing related foot conditions in the following ways.

Spotting signs of danger early

Due to peripheral neuropathy, people with diabetes are slow to react to cuts, pricks, burns and bruises. They do not feel often any pain or discomfort caused by open sores or bleeding calluses and corns.

During regular scheduled check-ups, a foot doctor can observe such symptoms early and advice prompt treatment, before they worsen to a serious condition. A podiatrist can also notice red flags like skin color changes in the feet, numbness in toes or feet, pain in legs, sores that take too long to heal, swelling in the ankle or feet, ingrown/fungal toenails, dry cracks around heals etc., and prescribe a proper diabetic foot care management required.

Some diabetics may have existing medical conditions like arthritis, which can make foot conditions worse. Having a podiatrist on the diabetes management team in such cases will help address the condition more effectively, and prevent a possible toll on mobility.

Speedy healing of wounds

Injuries and wounds of diabetics often take longer to heal than those of a healthy person. In case the wound stays open, a diabetic is more prone to develop an infection than a non-diabetic is. Such untreated wounds and infections can turn into gangrene, and even infect the bones, increasing the chances of an amputation. However, with the right tips on foot care and treatment of a podiatrist, the wound/injury can heal faster.

Treatment and monitoring of ulceration to avoid amputation

Podiatric management of a diabetic ulcer starts initially with an evaluation of diabetic status and previous treatment history together with a diagnosis of the cause and the stage of the ulcer. A foot doctor examines further, if any infection is present, and the ulcer is ischemic, neuropathic, or neuroischemic.

When treating this vulnerable population, a podiatrist ensures a high level of infection control and plays a crucial role in timely treatment and monitoring of diabetic ulcers to bring down the chances of amputation.  The foot doctor chooses the most suitable cleansing solutions and dressing materials, prescribes topical ointments and uses off-loading techniques that include measures like felt padding, prescription insoles and orthotics.

A multidisciplinary approach is required to treat diabetic foot conditions. It is necessary that an experienced and reputed podiatrist works together with other healthcare professionals; helps in proper screening and assessment of the foot condition; offers timely, effective and speedy treatment; performs biomechanical and gait analysis; provides skilful clinical care; offers foot care education as well as footwear advice.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Foot Conditions of Children: 5 Things You Should Know

Due to intense physical activities, it’s common for children to suffer from ankle and foot problems. Yet, thanks to their resilience, you may often miss the signs and symptoms of such foot conditions. This makes it important to keep a close eye on your child's foot health.

Do consult with a podiatrist if you notice anything unusual such as a decrease in your child’s physical activity, limping, pain in foot, or lack of desire to play outdoors, among others. Listed below are five things you should know about foot conditions of children.

1. When are foot conditions likely to develop in children?

Foot conditions and injuries can affect children of any age any time. However, they are most likely to develop in children involved in different, intense sport activities, or those who are extremely active physically.

Children playing on club teams (that make increasing demands on them to play often, especially on hard surfaces like indoor turfs, facilities etc.) or participating in multiple sports tend to experience foot problems more often due to overuse or injury.

2. Common foot problems in children

Children can suffer often from the following foot conditions:

  • Flatfoot (where the foot lacks an arch)
  • Sever’s disease (inflammation of the growth plate of heels)
  • Clubfoot (a congenital defect that makes the foot twisted out of its normal shape or position)
  • Growth plate injuries (caused by foot or ankle sprains and breaks that damage the growth plate, deforming either the bone’s position or interfering with bone growth)  
  • Bunions (painful bumps at the base of the big toe)

3. Common treatments

Initial treatment for foot conditions, injuries and pain include rest, anti-inflammatory medications and custom-made orthotics. In case such conservative treatments do not alleviate the symptoms, the foot doctor may recommend invasive treatments like surgery, after considering the child’s age and the severity of the condition.

4. Treatment of foot problems: children v. adults

Children are often more mobile, heal faster and experience lesser pain than that adults experience. Even when the treatment involves surgery, children have a better chance of healing faster and returning to their normal level of physical activity quicker than adults do. However, the young age of children can work in their favor only when they take timely treatment without worsening the conditions due to ignorance, carelessness or needless delay.

The foot doctor has to play an important role while treating children: the affected and possibly much frightened child should feel relaxed, become convinced of the need for the treatment and understand clearly how it will help cure the pain and discomfort.  

5. Long-term effects of ignoring foot conditions of children

Some foot conditions correct themselves and demand no treatment, as the child grows: bowleg or ‘in-toeing’ is common and does not require any medical attention. Yet, it would be best if you consult with a reputed podiatrist for a correct diagnosis of the condition.

You should know if it requires careful monitoring, proper treatment or nothing. Else, an injury or foot problem might lead to muscle weakness, pain, joint arthritis, undue stress and overload on the foot/ankle, deformity, inactivity, mental frustration or other avoidable complications.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Get Your Feet Summer-Ready : 5 Sandal Wearing Tips

With spring already here and summer about to follow, perhaps you are looking forward to those leisurely strolls on the beach or lazing by the pool. We bet you either have your sandals or flip-flops handy or plan to get a new pair.

However, did you know how the wrong sandal or flip-flop could cause foot pain, blisters and even more discomfort that would require a consultation with an experienced podiatrist with considerable expertise? Here are five tips to get you moving in a sandal or flip-flop in true summery style:

1. Wear not sandals that bend in half:  Do not wear sandals that bend in half, as they cannot offer good arch support. Sandals or flip-flops that fail to give adequate arch support will cause foot fatigue, and can even trigger strain and pain in the lower back, hips and knees. Ideally, you should buy a new pair only after testing whether they fold or bend in half. Those that do are unsuitable for wearing, as they will not provide your feet with adequate support.

2. Remember to break in your sandals: Wear your new sandals for short periods to break them in. You could even put a band-aid between the first and second toes to give your toes a protective cushion. Though breaking in the sandals would be uncomfortable, you should do it to enjoy wearing them comfortably later on.

3. Wear them just for relaxation: Your sandals and flip-flops are not meant for that Disneyland trip or a visit to the mall. Do not sport them when you have to walk long stretches or for a long time; use them instead for activities of relaxation like a stroll on the beach or when lazing by the poolside. Since sandals do not offer support to keep your foot in place, spraining or twisting your ankle or tripping over are common. This makes it important to limit their use and thus avoid chances of strain, sprain and other injuries.

4. Check the sandal straps carefully: Though this may be the last thing on your mind when shopping for sandals, it would help to buy ones with wider, softer straps. You should check if the straps go over bones or have seams at spots that could cause friction blisters. If you are prone to foot pain, you should ideally go for regular sandals and not the thongs; the latter cause your ligaments and tendons a lot of extra stress, which in turn can cause stress fractures, heel pain, tendonitis and ankle problems.

5. Replace sandals with worn-out soles: Just like shoes, your flip-flops and sandals too are subject to wear and tear. Though they might have given your feet adequate support in the past, their worn out and tilted soles may now do more harm than good. This makes it important to inspect your sandals at regular intervals by placing them on a table, and taking a close look at them at eye-level. If they aren’t flat, you should know it’s time to replace them.

Since every foot is different (with respect to shape, arches etc), it is important you try the comfort quotient of new sandals by putting them on before you buy. Instead of buying them online, visit a store and buy the pair after a thorough trial. Remember the tips given above and you will have a great time sporting your flip-flops and sandals.