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Monday, 15 June 2015 22:01

Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can make life very frustrating when sandal season comes around, and can be very embarrassing. However, not only are they an aesthetic issue, they can also tear stockings, socks, and even wear out shoes faster. When severe, they may cause pain or infection.

 

Cracked heels are a problem for those who are athletic, who may walk a lot, and who have dry skin especially. Those who use medication that dry the skin, swim a lot, wear certain types of shoes, and who are diabetic may have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors whose skin produces less oil also may have trouble with cracked feet. There is no one way to develop cracked feet, and there is no cure.

 

Today, the market consists of numerous products that have a variety of ingredients to promote healing. Some of these are over-the-counter, and some are prescribed by a doctor; especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

 

Some doctors may recommend wearing socks at night for those with rough skin. This helps further healing, and helps any creams put on the feet to stay on longer and better sink into the skin.

 

One way to alleviate dryness that causes cracked heels is by using moisturizers both day and night. Another way is to make sure the skin is clean and dry at all times. Using a pumice stone to remove dead skin before putting on moisturizer can also help, as cracked heels will not respond to the cream unless the outer layer of skin is first removed through exfoliation. After exfoliation, lotion or ointment will be absorbed by the skin more easily.

 

Foods that produce healing and balance can also help the skin from within. Everything that is put into the body can either help it or hurt it, and foods that give the body staying power will permeate through, especially through the first line of protection, the skin. Additionally in helping cracked heels, taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc can be very beneficial.

 

Nevertheless, not all products that say they will help cracked feet will help. Seeing a professional is best if nothing else being tried works. A podiatrist should be able to give the best advice to help with this problem.

Monday, 08 June 2015 22:53

Ankle Foot Orthotics For Athletes

Ankle and foot orthotics, known as AFOs, are custom-made inserts, shaped and contoured to fit inside a shoe and used to correct an irregular walking gait or provide cushioning. Orthotics come in a variety of different models and sizes, including both over the counter and customizable variants. Customizable ones should be prescribed through a podiatrist who specializes in customized footwear and orthotics design and management.

 

AFOs are often used by athletes including track and field runners, cyclists, professional dancers, ice skaters, and even golfers. They benefit a lot from custom made AFOs by preventing injuries from occurring and provide cushioning to keep pain levels down to a minimum. Ankle foot orthotics allow for the correct positioning of the feet and also act as shock absorbers to help keep pressure and stress off the foot and ankle. They can also relieve back pain and hip pain while restoring balance and improving an athlete’s performance.

 

The way they help alleviate pain is by controlling the movement of both your feet and ankles. They are custom designed by a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist to help treat foot problems such as flat feet, spurs, arthritis of the ankle or foot, ankle sprains, weakness, and drop foot, a condition in which the patient cannot raise their foot at the ankle joint.

 

With custom orthotics, a patient will go through a complete examination of the foot and ankle, followed by the ankle and foot being cast and fitted for the proper orthotic. Depending upon the final result of the tests, a stretching treatment is created with specific shoe fitting in mind. After they have been fitted to the shoes, adjustments can be made in order to get the perfect fit and completely fill out the shoe. Evaluations are then usually set up to monitor the patient in the coming weeks to see how they are adjusting.

 

AFOs are also available over the counter and are more common than custom fit ones. Athletes that have generally low aches and pains in the foot, ankle, or lower back area can use an over the counter version of these orthotics. Weight is still distributed evenly throughout the bottom of the foot thanks to the arch support they give, but when an injury or ailment occurs, it is usually not enough to try and remedy it with an over the counter version. In either case, a podiatrist will be able to offer the best advice and treatment when it comes to foot and ankle orthotics and handle all your foot care needs.

Monday, 18 May 2015 08:28

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Feet

Although rheumatoid arthritis actually attacks multiple bones and joints throughout the entire body, ninety percent of people who actually develop this condition usually do so in the foot or ankle area. Those who develop this kind of arthritis in the feet usually develop symptoms around the toes and forefeet first, before anywhere else. Rheumatoid arthritis appears to have a genetic component. If it runs in the family, then you will be more likely to develop it as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints. This causes inflammation of the membrane lining, and the gradual destruction of the joint’s cartilage and even bone.

Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with RA include pain and swelling of the feet. Stiffness in the feet is also another common symptom that people experience. Those who have RA in the feet usually feel the pain in the ball or sole of their feet. This can get to be very painful at times. A person's joints can even shift and become deformed after a period of time.

In order to properly diagnose RA in the feet it is usually necessary for a doctor or podiatrist to evaluate the area. Your doctor will also question you about your medical history, occupation, etc., to determine whether anything in your lifestyle may have triggered the condition. There are a number of tests that may be performed to help diagnose RA such as a rheumatoid factor test, although there is no one single test that will tell you for sure if you have RA. There are different X-rays that can be taken as well to determine if a person has RA in their feet.

There is a range of treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of RA is usually a lifelong process that includes a variety of methods of treatment and therapy. Your doctor can prescribe special shoes that should help with arch support as well as heel support. A physical therapist can help those with this condition learn exercises which will keep their joints flexible. Surgery may be needed to correct some of the issues with the feet, such as bunions, and hammertoes. Fusion is usually the most successful surgical option for rheumatoid arthritis. However, people need to keep in mind that there are some risks associated with these surgeries.

Monday, 04 May 2015 00:00

What to Know About a Broken Toe

Trauma to the foot, especially the toes, can occur in many ways. Banging them, stubbing them, or dropping something on them are a few different ways this trauma can occur. Given the fact that toes are positioned in front of the feet, they typically sustain the brunt of such trauma. When trauma occurs to a toe, the result can be a painful break or fracture. Another type of trauma that can break a toe is repeated activity that places stress on the toe for prolonged periods of time.

Broken toes can be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. Symptoms of minor toe fractures include throbbing pain, swelling, bruising on the skin and toenail, and the inability to move the toe with ease. Severe toe fractures require medical attention and are indicated when the broken toe appears crooked or disfigured, when there is tingling or numbness in the toe, or when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.

Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications, but it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe and immediately get a splint or cast to prevent any additional movement of the toe bones. You can also immobilize your toe by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it, then taping the two toes together with medical tape. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe directly as well as elevating your feet above your head.

Severe toe fractures may be treated with a splint, cast, and in some cases, minor surgery; especially when the big toe has been broken. Due to its position and the pressure it endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if the big toe is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications, and prescription pain killers may be necessary for severe toe fractures.

The healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. In severe cases where the toe becomes infected or requires surgery, healing time can take up to eight weeks or more. While complications associated with a broken toe are immediately apparent, it is important to note that there are rare cases when additional complications, such as osteoarthritis, can develop over time. You should immediately speak with your podiatrist if you think you have broken your toe due to trauma, as they will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment options. 

Athletes will often sustain sprained ankles; they are one of the most common injuries sports players receive. It is general knowledge that sprained ankles are painful and debilitating conditions that often keep players off their feet and away from activity. Once an ankle is sprained, the occurrence of re-injury is much more likely.

After sustaining a sprained ankle, the sports medicine doctor and physical therapist recommended the RICE method as a method to get back on one’s feet and get back into playing sports. RICE is an acronym that stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation—the four things one should do to recover from a sprained ankle

. Along with the RICE method, an athlete should wear an ankle brace to help alleviate the pain and secure the ankle until it has fully healed. A brace will stabilize the ankle as well as prevent it from sustaining other more serious injuries. People often suffer from sprained ankles due to weak ligaments located in or near the ankle; because an ankle brace keeps the ligaments in the foot from experiencing excessive movement, injuries can be avoided.

Another common injury many athletes experience are foot and ankle fractures. Stress fractures in particular often occur when there is an increase in athletic training for an athlete. There are two types of stress fractures: stable and displaced. Stable stress fractures are marked by a lack of shifting in bone alignment, whereas displaced stress fractures are characterized by bones that are not properly aligned.

Stress fractures warrant an immediate trip to the hospital or doctor. Treatment for stress fractures often involves significant rest and refraining from taking part of the sport that caused the injury. Strenuous activities should also be avoided. Certain doctors or specialists have the ability to specifically determine what in an athlete’s training caused the stress fracture.

If this can be pinpointed, the athlete can therefore adjust his or her training accordingly without having to worry about refraining from playing the sport. Special attention must be paid to treatment for foot and ankle injuries such as sprained ankles and stress fractures. Athletes should be sure to rest before engaging in activity. With great care and attention to treatment comes a faster and more successful recovery.

Corns are thickened areas on the skin’s surface, to the point of being irritating and sometimes painful. Commonly found on the feet, corns are circular or cone-shaped and develop where there are areas of pressure or friction, such as on the little toe when it rubs up against shoes, or on the ball of your foot. The official medical term for corns is Helomas.

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

Removing the dead skin that has built up is the key in treating corns. Salicylic acid medication is most common in accomplishing this. The acid works by dissolving keratin, which is the protein that makes up the majority of corns. You can purchase salicylic acid over-the-counter in products such as wart removers. It comes in a variety of forms such as medicated pads, drops, or creams. However, people who are diabetic should not use salicylic acid, but should consult their doctor immediately.

According to the product directions, applying the medication directly onto the corn will treat it. The top layer of the corn will begin to turn a white color after use. When that occurs, the layers of skin can then be peeled away, making the corn smaller. Shaving off corns with razors or other pedicure equipment is never a good idea. This can potentially lead to infection. If your corn gets infected, and you do not respond with medication, a visit to the doctor will be necessary.

Another way to treat corns and help prevent their return is by using orthotic inserts, fitted by a podiatrist. Inserts fit right into your shoes and adjusts the way your foot fits into your shoes, thus fixing the way you walk. This will lower your chances of getting corns, and eliminate current corns, by reducing the friction.

Surgery is rarely used to treat corns, but does occur on occasion. Surgery actually deals with the underlying issue that causes corns. During surgery, the bone is shaved and any abnormalities are corrected, thus reducing the amount of friction that occurs during walking.
To prevent corns, the first step is reducing friction. Always wear shoes that fit well and don’t rub your feet. Pads can be purchased if you notice rubbing developing. These pads can be purchased over-the-counter, and can be simply placed on the irritated area. Wearing cushioned insoles in your shoes can always reduce the friction, and making sure to wear well-fitting shoes. This will ensure that your foot is not being squeezed awkwardly, and prevent corns from forming in the first place.
Monday, 13 April 2015 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 athletes 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, thrive, and spread, this is the most commonly affected area, but it is known to grow in other places. However, for obvious reasons, 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 obviously 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. On top of this, 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. While it is hard to completely avoid, 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, as these are not desirable conditions for tinea to grow. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, treating it with topical medicated creams, ointments or sprays will not only help eliminate it but also prevent it from coming back.

Monday, 30 March 2015 00:00

All About Broken Ankles

Broken ankles are a serious injury that can lead to an inability to walk, function, and also cause a significant amount of pain. A broken ankle is actually a break in one of the three bones in your body that connect at the ankle joint, the tibia, the fibula, and the talus. The tibia and fibula are your two primary leg bones that connect at the knee, which sit directly upon the talus bone. This is protected by a fibrous membrane that allows for movement in our ankle joint. A broken ankle is usually caused by the foot rolling under or twisting too far, causing one of these three bones to snap.

A broken ankle is different from an ankle sprain, which occurs when the ligaments are ripped or torn but no bones have been broken. However, a sprain can still be very severe, causing bruising in the foot and an inability to hold your own weight, much like a broken ankle would. If you cannot stand on your own weight and suspect that you have a broken ankle, the first thing to do would be to get an immediate x-ray to determine the severity of the break.

A common way to break your ankle is to roll over onto it with enough pressure to break the bones, usually done while engaging in exercise, sports, or some other physical activity. Another common cause is a fall or jump from a large height.

Broken ankles can cause severe pain, but immediate relief can come from elevating the feet above your head to reduce blood flow to the injured area. You can also apply ice packs to the ankles to help reduce the swelling, redness, inflammation, and pain. After these initial steps, getting a cast on and staying off your feet as much as possible will aid in the recovery of the broken ankle, because the less movement and stress the ankle has to endure, the more complete it will heal. A doctor can determine if surgery is needed in order to heal correctly. In these cases, an operation may be the only option to ensure the ability to walk properly again, followed by physical therapy and rehabilitation.

It is highly important to determine if surgery is needed early on, because a broken ankle can become much more severe than you realize. If not professionally treated, the broken ankle will inhibit your walking, daily functioning, and produce a large amount of pain, so the quicker you act, the better.

Monday, 23 March 2015 00:00

Hammertoe: No Walk in the Park!

Hammertoe is a painful deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe, frequently caused by improper mechanics—the way a person walks or the shoes they wear that do not allow room for the deformity. Similar to mallet toe and claw toe, hammertoe involves different joints of the toe and foot. Shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot, or have excessively high heels, can cause of hammertoe. Improperly sized shoes force the toes into a bent position for long periods, causing the muscles to shorten and bend the toes into the hammertoe deformity.

Other causes of hammertoe may be complications from RA (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or CVA (cerebral vascular accident). Symptoms of hammertoe include, but may not be limited to, pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformity, and calluses or corns from toes abrading one another.

A patient experiencing symptoms of hammertoe should seek examination by a physician, specifically a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat disorders of the foot. If the doctor finds the involved toes have retained some flexibility, treatment may involve simple exercise, physical therapy, and a better fit to shoes worn by the patient. Treatment often targets controlling the mechanics, such as walking, that cause hammertoe by using custom orthotics.

In more advanced cases, where the toes have become rigid and inflexible, the doctor may suggest surgery. The operation would consist of incising the toe to relieve pressure on the tendons. The doctor may re-align tendons and remove small pieces of bone in order to straighten the toe. The insertion of pins may be necessary to fix bones in the proper position while the toe heals. Usually the patient is able to return home on the day of surgery.

If surgery is necessary, it is important to follow the postoperative directions of your physician. Theses may include various stretches, attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet, or picking up marbles with your toes. Striving to wear shoes with low heels and ample toe space will ensure healthy feet and toes. Avoid closed shoes and high heels. Laced shoes tend to be roomier and more comfortable. Shoes with a minimum of one half inch space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe will provide adequate space, relieve pressure on your toes, and prevent hammertoe from re-occurring.

Some tips on feet may include purchasing shoes at mid-day as your feet are smaller in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Ensure that she shoes you buy are both the same size and have the store stretch shoes at painful points to provide for optimum comfort.

Friday, 06 March 2015 00:00

Ankle/Foot Orthotics for Athletes

Ankle/foot Orthotics (AFOs) are custom-made devices, molded to fit inside a shoe, and designed to correct an abnormal or irregular walking gait. Orthotics come in both customized and over the counter models. Custom made Orthotics should be prescribed through a podiatrist, who specializes in foot pathology, as well as performing surgery if required, or a pedorthist, who specializes in customized footwear and orthotics management and design. AFOs are commonly used by athletes, such as professional track and field runners, cyclists, hockey players, professional dancers, ice skaters and golfers. Athletes benefit greatly from custom made AFOs, both when recovering from an injury and to help prevent future problems from occurring. These devices keep the foot aligned to allow the bones, ligaments and muscles to heal, restoring the patient to optimum performance.

AFOs are designed for shock absorption to help release the pressure and stress from painful parts of the foot and ankle, and to allow for the correct positioning of the feet. Custom-made AFOs relieve pain in the hip and lower back, while restoring balance and improving an athlete’s performance. The AFO controls the motion of the ankle and foot, which helps in alleviating pain. The brace comes in various heights and profiles, for high and low top shoes and boots. Braces are fabric lined and are made of light weight material to easily embrace the ankle, for a better fit inside the footwear.

With this type of orthotic, athletes can continue to play in comfort and stability. A custom made ankle/foot orthotic is designed by a podiatrist or an orthotic specialist, to help treat ailments, i.e., tendon maladies, flat foot problems, spurs, arthritis of the ankle and/or foot, ankle sprains, ankle weakness and drop foot (a patient cannot raise their foot at the ankle joint or at the least, has limited ability to raise their foot). An orthotics specialist will put a patient through a complete muscular workup, using digital or ultrasound equipment, followed by the ankle and foot being cast and fitted for the proper orthotics. Depending upon the final evaluation, a stretching treatment is designed, with specific shoe fitting discussions. In a couple of weeks, after the AFOs are fitted to the shoes that the patient was required to bring, any needed adjustments are made to ensure a perfect fit.

Following the fittings, evaluations are set up for the patient over the following weeks. AFOs are also available over the counter for improving basic comfort. If an athlete has general low aches or pains in the ankle/foot or lower back, an over-the-counter orthotic arch support, which slips inside the shoes, can be purchased without a prescription. The arch supports help to spread an athlete’s weight evenly throughout the bottom of the foot. But when a medical condition occurs, i.e., an injury, arthritis, problems with an illness, or poor circulation, then a specialist's prescription will be required. Over-the-counter arch supports can be purchased in local retail or sport stores, as well as in drug store pharmacies.  In all cases, a skilled podiatrist will offer the best recommendation on which medical device is suited to handle the patient’s particular needs.

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