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Monday, 19 August 2019 00:00

How to Treat Your Toenail Fungus

While not a serious issue, toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition to experience. Toenail fungus is often caused from public areas that harbor fungi and improper cleaning/drying of the foot. Once infected, the fungus grows deeper into the nail and can be very hard to get rid of.

There are different types of fungus that cause toenail fungus. Dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds are the most frequent forms of fungus to infect the toenail. Dermatophytes are the most common among the three. Symptoms associated with fungal nails include the discoloration of the toenail, brittleness, and in some circumstances, a smell. Pain is rarely a symptom caused by toenail fungus.

Diagnosis of fungal nails is generally a rather quick process. However podiatrists will make sure that the cause is not another condition such as lichen planus, psoriasis, onychogryphosis, or nail damage. Podiatrists will make use of fungal cultures and microscopy to verify that it is fungus.

While over-the-counter ointments are readily available, most are ineffective. This is due to the fact that the nail is very protective and that the fungus slips in between the nail plate and bed. Podiatrists can offer oral medication which currently provides the best results.

Ultimately, prevention is the best line of defense against toenail fungus. Avoid unsanitary public showers. If you do use a public shower, use shower shoes to provide your foot with protection. Once you are finished showering, make sure to thoroughly dry your feet. Fungi thrive in warm, dark, and moist places like sweaty, warm feet that are left dark in shoes all day.

Monday, 12 August 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.

Monday, 05 August 2019 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.

Stress fractures are small breaks in the bone that are caused by repetitive stress. They typically occur due to overuse, forcing the bones of the foot or ankle to continually absorb the full impact of each step taken. Stress fractures can also be caused by abnormal foot structure, osteoporosis, bone deformities, or wearing improper footwear during exercise.

Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Those who run, play tennis or basketball, or practice gymnastics tend to experience these fractures more frequently. Anyone is susceptible to this problem, though. Individuals who are normally sedentary and suddenly begin an intense, high impact workout may sustain stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not yet strong enough to handle and cushion the intensity of their activity. Osteoporosis may also cause someone to get stress fractures, because the disease weakens an afflicted person's bones and makes it easier for them to break down.

Pain from stress fractures typically occurs in the general area of the fracture. Pain can also manifest as “pinpoint pain” or pain that is felt when the site of the injury is touched, and can be accompanied by swelling. It may occur during or after activity, and it may disappear while resting and return when standing or moving. Engaging in any kind of activity, high impact or otherwise, will aggravate the pain. If the intensity of the activity increases before the stress fracture has properly healed, it can cause a full fracture.

Treatment can vary depending on the individual and the degree of injury. The primary way to treat a stress fracture is to rest the hurt foot. Some fractures will heal quickly with only a little bit of rest, while others may require a long rest period and the use of crutches, immobilization, or physical therapy. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.

If you are undergoing a new exercise regimen in running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. Make sure to wear supportive shoes to better protect you feet.

If you begin to experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If the symptoms persist, consult with your podiatrist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 00:00

Exercise for Your Feet

Whether your feet are over-worked or under-worked, chances are they could benefit from some special attention. Even those who exercise regularly probably do not spend any time strengthening their feet. This can be just as rewarding as strengthening the rest of the body, since the health of your feet affects the health of the rest of the body as well, especially the ankles, legs, and spine.

For those who might not have any idea on how a foot-specific exercise might be conducted, there are several workouts that are fairly easy to perform in the comfort of ones’ home. One of the easiest is the toe rise, also known as the tip-toe. This exercise involves standing on the tip-toes for a count of 15 then resting the feet on the ground. This process should be repeated a minimum of three times a day in order to strengthen the feet.

Toe pick-ups strengthen the feet by working them in a very different way. In this exercise, small items are picked up using the toes in order to strengthen the muscles on the upper part of the feet. Once again three sets should be performed, with the item in question being held for 15 seconds then dropped. Items that may be picked up using the feet include marbles and even stationery, which works wonders for the toes and the surrounding muscles.

Yet another simple workout is the ankle pump. This can be done either upwards or downwards, but for the workout to be most effective both can be incorporated into the routine. As the term suggests, this involves lifting the foot off the floor and flexing the toes either towards the shin or towards the ground. This movement puts the feet and ankles through a large range of motion which works the muscles.

Last but not least, feet should be stretched so that the muscles can relax and recuperate. This can be done by placing both feet off of the floor and bracing oneself against the wall at a 45 degree angle. This ensures that the feet and ankles are adequately stretched once the workout is complete.

In short, giving the feet a good workout every now and then is important in order to avoid problems such as plantar fasciitis. It’s also important to warm-up or cool-down after running or vigorous walking. Foot exercises may be followed by a good foot massage. This encourages circulation in the feet as well as muscle relaxation.

Monday, 29 July 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, 22 July 2019 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, 15 July 2019 00:00

Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can make life very frustrating and embarrassing when displaying the bare feet. Aside from being unpleasing to the eye, they can also tear stockings and socks and wear out shoes at a faster rate. When severe, cracked heels may cause pain or infection.

Cracked heels are a problem for those who are athletic, those who may walk a lot, and those who have especially dry skin. Those who use medication that dry the skin, those who swim often, wearing certain types of shoes, and those who are diabetic may have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors whose skin produces less oil may also 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. Others are prescribed by a doctor, especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

Some doctors recommend wearing socks at night for those with rough skin. This helps further healing, and helps creams stay on longer and better absorb 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 buff away dead skin before putting on moisturizer can also help. 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. Taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc can also be very beneficial.

Nevertheless, not all products are guaranteed to help treat cracked feet. Seeing a professional is best if other treatments options were unsuccessful. A podiatrist should be able to give the best advice to help with this problem.

Tuesday, 09 July 2019 00:00

Systemic Diseases of the Foot

There are several systemic diseases, or diseases that affect the whole body, that either display symptoms in the feet or affect the health of the feet. Common systemic diseases that affect the overall health of the feet, and the patient’s ability to walk comfortably, include gout, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders, and arthritis, among others.

In gout, which is caused by an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body, the most common symptoms of pain, inflammation, and redness occur at the metatarsal/phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. Any excess levels of uric acid crystallize and are deposited in tendons, joints, and surrounding bone and muscle tissue. Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation and other drugs to lower uric acid levels in the body. Gout most commonly affects those who are overweight, have low protein diets and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Diabetes mellitus is an increase in the level of blood sugar in which the body cannot counteract with naturally occurring insulin in the body. The three types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes, are all signs the body is either not producing enough insulin or is not efficiently using the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant and have never, prior to pregnancy, exhibited symptoms of the disease.

There are two main issues that affect the feet that are commonly caused by diabetes. They include diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to damaged nerves and affect the feet through numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral vascular disease restricts the flow of blood to the foot and can, in extreme cases, lead to the necessity of amputating the foot. Peripheral issues that are caused by diabetes and can affect the foot include athlete’s foot, nail infections, corns, blisters, bunions, severe dry skin, plantar warts and ingrown toenails. These can all be attributed to the decrease of blood flow to the foot.

Neurological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can also have severe impact on the health of the feet. Neurological disorders can affect the nerves in the main structure of the foot and cause loss of sensation and possible decreased muscle response. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the bones and joint structures of the foot, making it impossible to walk normally without serious pain.

All systemic diseases that affect the foot can effectively be treated to minimize joint and muscle damage if they are diagnosed early and treated with medication and lifestyle therapy. Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their physician to keep their levels as close to normal as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should work with their physician to ensure the proper medications are being taken to reduce the amount of damage to the joints of the body.

Tuesday, 02 July 2019 00:00

How to Care for Your Child's Feet

It is never normal for a child to experience pain in his or her feet. Foot pain that lasts more than a few days and limits a child’s ability to walk should be examined by a podiatrist. Many adult foot ailments originate in childhood and may be present at birth. Common foot issues that are experienced by children are pediatric flat foot, Sever’s disease, ingrown toenails, and plantar warts.

A child’s foot grows rapidly during the first year, allowing it to reach almost half of their adult foot size. Consequently, foot specialists consider the first year to be the most crucial point in the foot development process. There are ways you can help ensure that your child’s foot develops properly. One way is to carefully look at your baby’s feet. If you notice any deformities, you should immediately seek professional care. You should also loosely cover your child’s foot, since tight coverings may prevent movement and inhibit normal development. Another tip is to change the baby’s positioning throughout the day. If your baby lies down in one spot for too long, it may put an excess amount of strain on the feet and legs.

It is best that you try not to force a child to start walking. Children will begin to walk when they are both physically and emotionally capable to do so. You should also avoid comparing your child’s walking progress with other children because the age range for independent walking may range. When your child’s feet begin to develop, you may need to change both their shoe and sock size every few months to allow room for their feet to grow.

Kids are sometimes prone to splinters, cuts, and severe injuries because they tend to walk around barefoot. This also makes them more susceptible to developing plantar warts which is a condition caused by a virus that invades the sole of the foot through breaks in the skin. These ailments can be avoided by making sure your child wears shoes in unsanitary environments. You should also wash any minor cuts or scrapes on your child’s feet. It is a myth that exposure to fresh air will heal injuries; fresh air will only expose your child’s cuts to germs.

As a parent, you should ensure that your child’s feet are developing properly and are being properly maintained. Consequently, it is important that you perform routine inspections on his or her feet to detect any injuries or deformities in their early stages. Early detection and treatment will help to ensure that your child does not develop any serious foot conditions.

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