April Articles 2014

Elderly and their Feet

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

Some of the most common problems are foot ulcers, ingrown toenails, fallen arches, and fungal infection. A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot and  can be a result of 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 infection 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 doctor 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 and between your bones and the ground as well as giving the skin on the foot 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. They 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.

Morton's Neuroma

Morton's Neuroma also called Intermetatarsal Neuroma or Plantar Neuroma is a condition that affects the nerves of the feet, usually the area between the third and fourth toe. Neuroma refers to a benign growth that can occur in different parts of the body. Morton's Neuroma strictly affects the feet. This condition causes the tissue around the nerves that lead to the toes to become thick, causing pain in the ball of the foot.

This condition can be caused by injury, pressure or irritation. Normally no lump will be felt, but instead burning pain in the ball of the foot that will often be sensationalized in the toes will be experienced. Numbness and tingling may also occur. With the onset of this condition, a person may feel pain when tight or narrow shoes are worn. As the condition worsens, the pain may persist for days, or even weeks.

Persistent foot pain should always be a concern. The foot should be examined by a podiatrist if pain persists longer than a few days with no relief from changing shoes, or relieving stress from the foot. The earlier the foot is examined and treated, the less chance there will be for needing surgical treatment.

There are some factors that can play a role in the development of Morton's Neuroma. These include wearing ill fitting shoes that cause pressure to the toes, such as high-heels. Also, high impact exercise may contribute to the cause of this condition. Morton’s Neuroma may also develop if the foot sustains an injury. Another cause includes walking abnormally due to bunions or flat feet, which causes excessive pressure and irritates the tissue. At times, people are affected for no apparent reason.

Podiatrists can alleviate the effects of this condition using a treatment plan to help decrease the pain, and heal the foot tissue. Depending upon the severity of the Morton's Neuroma, the treatment plan can vary. For cases that are mild to moderate, treatments may include applying padding to the arch to relieve pressure from the nerve and reduce compression while walking. Ice packs can also help reduce swelling, and the podiatrist may devise a custom orthotic device to support the foot and reduce compression and pressure on the affected nerve. The doctor will probably advise against partaking in activities that cause constant pressure on the affected area, and may provide wider shoes to ease the pressure from the toes. If these treatments do not relieve the symptoms of this condition, the doctor may use injection therapy.

Surgical treatment may be recommended by the podiatrist if all other treatments fail to provide relief. Normally, the podiatric surgeon will decide on either a surgical procedure that involves removal of the affected nerve or will choose surgery to release the nerve. After examination, the surgeon will decide on the best approach to treat the problem.

Recovery varies according to the type of surgical procedure. The patient will also be instructed on the best shoe wear to prevent the return of this condition, along with changes to workout routines, if this was the cause. Preventative measures are important so the condition does not return.

Keeping Children's Feet Healthy

As a parent, your most important job is taking care of your children in every possible way. You watch what they eat, you protect them from harm, but it is important to be proactive in taking care of their health, especially when it comes to their feet. Having healthy, well taken care of feet in childhood is crucial in helping eliminate problems later in life, especially in the back and legs. As children grow, their feet require different types of care. Here are some ways you can help keep your children's feet healthy, from birth to school age.

Babies require a lot of care in general, but don't forget their feet. Since babies don't walk yet, their feet can be easy to overlook, but it is still important to take care of them. In the first year of life a baby's feet grow and change very much, so it is important that you do not put any tight shoes or socks on your baby's feet. Let your baby stretch and kick her feet so he or she can feel comfortable.

When a baby turns into a toddler, they are now on the move and it is important that your toddler has comfortable and protective shoes to walk in. Now is the time you may notice different things about your child's feet, but know that children at this age are just getting the feel for walking, so don't be alarmed if they seem to walk funny. It is normal for a toddler to be unsteady on their feet.

When your child gets older and leaves the toddler stage behind, it is now important that you teach them how to take care of their own feet. Show them proper cleaning and hygiene so that their feet do not develop fungus or infection. Since children are constantly running and playing, it is also important to watch out for injury or pain. Children are still growing, and certain injuries can effect the bones growth and development so it is vital to have all injuries checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Comfortable shoes that cushion the foot and provide protection from hours of rough play are highly recommended.

Children and babies are constantly growing and developing, and it is your job as a parent to make sure that nothing is hindering their ability to mature at a normal rate. This includes properly taking care of the feet, as healthy feet are important in order to live a normal, fulfilling life.



Athlete's Foot: The Sole Story

Do you suffer from itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet? It could be athlete's foot. Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, can be extremely contagious, often infecting shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, and anywhere else feet might contact. It's commonly found in public changing areas and bathrooms, dormitory style living quarters, around locker rooms and public swimming pools. "Commons" areas in prisons and residential care facilities are frequently caught feeding the fungus as well. One step in the wrong direction can be enough to start the fire that can be tremendously difficult to treat.

Athlete's foot is most often caused by the same fungus that causes ringworm (tinea). It can be spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by coming in contact with other objects or body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Although the feet are more frequently assumed to get athlete's foot, tinea can invade other parts of the body as well so long as the proper growing conditions are met.

Tinea thrives in a dark, warm, and moist environment. Body parts that are often infected include the hands, groin, and scalp. Although many people never experience athlete's foot, around 70% of the population suffers from tinea at some point in their lifetime. Like most ailments, some people are more likely to acquire this fungal infection than others. People with a history of tinea or other skin infections are more likely to suffer from recurrent, or even additional, unrelated infections. The extent to which a person is tormented by the fungus can vary greatly as well.

While some people are never even aware that they have been infected with athlete's foot, others are pestered with mild to moderate symptoms like dry and flaking skin, itching, and redness. Still others are bothered by more severe symptoms including cracked and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, and even pain when walking. In the worst cases, tinea can cause blistering as well.

The treatment for athlete's foot begins with prevention. Changes in the environment infected with athlete's foot can prevent spreading. Keeping the area that is infected clean and dry with the use of medicated cleansers and powders is essential. Allowing the area to breathe is important in the treatment as well. Exposure to cool air and light can make conditions undesirable for tinea. Treating the infected area with miconazole, tolnaftate, or other medicated creams, ointments, or sprays not only helps to kill the fungus, but helps prevent recurrences as well. White vinegar-based foot soaks can also be beneficial. Seeing a podiatrist is often a good idea when treating athlete's foot, since more often than not, other skin infections can develop from the initial infection, and recurrences are common.


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