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Featured Articles

Monday, 21 January 2019 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, 14 January 2019 00:00

Bunions

A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the inward shifting of the bones in the big toe, toward the other toes of the foot. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.

Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. Existing bunions can be worsened by wearing improperly fitting shoes. Trying to cram your feet into high heels or running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet can exacerbate bunion development. High heels not only push the big toe inward, but shift one's body weight and center of gravity towards the edge of the feet and toes, expediting bone displacement.

A podiatrist knowledgeable in foot structure and biomechanics 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 reduce pressure on the bunion and minimize pain, and high heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time. 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 by rearranging 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 avoid placing pressure on the toe, as the big toe may move back to its former orientation toward the smaller toes.

Monday, 07 January 2019 00:00

Athlete's Foot 101

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.

Wednesday, 02 January 2019 00:00

Elderly and their Feet

While proper foot care is important for everybody, senior citizens have the tendency to be more susceptible to certain foot conditions. The elderly should therefore be well informed about any problems that may arise and about what they can do to properly avoid or treat them.

Some of the most common foot problems seniors are susceptible to include foot ulcers, ingrown toenails, fallen arches, and fungal nails. A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot and can be a result of diabetes and decreased sensation in the feet. An ingrown toenail is defined as when the nail grows into the side of the toe. Fallen arches are indicated by the instep of the foot collapsing. A fungal nails is a condition that results in deformed and discolored toenails.

In order to avoid these conditions it is recommended that the feet be inspected by the patient on a regular basis. If these inspections are carried out routinely, there is a good likelihood that problems can be identified before they become severe, or can even be avoided altogether. If any abnormality is discovered, it is important that the individual consult a podiatrist for diagnosis and information on treatment options.

Proper foot hygiene is also important. Making sure that you always have clean, dry socks on can be a major deterrent to many different problems including bacterial infections, foot odor, and certain types of fungus. Wet feet are a major cause of many of these problems.  If your socks get wet, it is important to change them. Walking around in wet socks may not only lead to various infections, but can irritate the skin and result in a number of various complications. Clean, dry feet are less likely to be affected by fungal and other infections.

As people age, the fat present on your feet begins to deteriorate. The protective nature of this fat keeps the feet healthy by providing a barrier between your bones and the ground. This also aids in giving the skin on the feet a certain amount of elasticity. This is one factor that causes elderly people to develop some serious foot issues. Foot moisturizers can be helpful to avoid certain problems associated with this. However, water-based moisturizers do not work as well for elderly people as they do for the young. Instead, it is more effective to use an emollient instead. An emollient is effective because it binds the water in the foot, keeping it from becoming absorbed too readily which will result in dry skin. Emollients also have a special property called occlusion, which provides a layer of oil on the skin. This layer prevents the foot from drying up and can be very effective in treating dry skin disorders.  If you can keep the skin on your feet healthy, this will substantially reduce the number of foot problems you will encounter in old age.

Proper footwear is another way to keep feet healthy. Shoes that fit well and provide proper support help prevent ingrown toenails and fallen arches.

Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or poor blood circulation increase the risk for foot issues. For individuals with any of these conditions it is extremely important to conduct regular foot inspections to make sure that there are no sores or infections present.

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