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How to Care for Your Arthritic Foot

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and it can occur at any joint in the body, especially in the foot. It generally effects those who are older, however, it can occur at any age. Although there are many different forms of arthritis, there are three main types that occur in the foot. The three types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.

The primary cause of osteoarthritis is aging. As you age, cartilage degenerates around the joints which causes friction and pain. Obesity can cause osteoarthritis through mechanical stress. Injuries that damage joints can increase the probability as well. Finally, a family history of osteoarthritis can also increase chances of having it.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joint linings and weakens them over a long time. While there is no known cause of rheumatoid arthritis, obesity and smoking can increase your chances of getting it. Women are also more likely to get it than men.

Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when there is too much uric acid in your blood and painful crystals form in your joints. Men are more likely to have gout than women. People who are obese or drink alcohol often are also more likely to develop gout. Furthermore, having diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gastric bypass surgery or a family history of gout may increase your likelihood of developing the condition.

Symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness, swelling in the joints. These symptoms can make it harder and more painful to walk. Physical activity can increase pain and discomfort. Furthermore, joint pain can worsen throughout the day for osteoarthritis. Gout attacks generally last several days with the first few being the worst.

Diagnosis of gout includes either a joint fluid test or a blood test. X-ray imaging can detect osteoarthritis but not gout. On the other hand, there is no blood test for osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is difficult to diagnosis. Doctors utilize family and personal medical history, a physical examination, and antibody blood tests to determine if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment varies for the different kinds of arthritis. Anti-inflammatory medication or steroids can help reduce pain from inflammation of the joints. Changing shoe types can help with some symptoms. Wider shoes can help with discomfort from gout and osteoarthritis. High heels should be avoided. Shoes with proper arch support and that take pressure off the ball of the foot can help with rheumatoid arthritis. Drinking lots of water can also help rid uric acid from the blood. Losing weight, improving your diet, and limiting alcohol and smoking can also help prevent or lessen the symptoms of arthritis.

If you are having trouble walking or pain in your feet, see a podiatrist to check if you have arthritis.

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How to Prevent Running Injuries

Overtraining and overusing the feet are the main causes of common running injuries. A number of these common injuries are caused by overrunning. Runner’s knee is a condition that is characterized by the back of the kneecap beginning to wear away and cause pain in the knee. This frequently occurs due to either a decrease in strength in the quadriceps muscles or ill-fitting shoes that are lacking in proper support for the inside of the forefoot. Strengthening exercises focusing on the quad muscle and sports orthotics are the usual treatments for those suffering from runner’s knee. Prevention of the condition lies in a focus on hip strengthening and quad-strengthening to keep the kneecap aligned. To help learn the best exercise to heal runner’s knee, one can also undergo physical therapy.

One common injury, called iliotibial band syndrome, is often caused by overtraining. This condition occurs when the iliotibial band gets irritated, creating pain and discomfort in the outside knee area. Plantar fasciitis, another common running injury, also occurs as a result of inflammation and irritation. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation and irritation of the bone in the foot. A large amount of pain is often experienced due to plantar fasciitis. The condition can be caused by a high arch, improper footwear, tight muscles, or flat feet. It can best be avoided by stretching and wearing appropriate footwear that supports the foot.

Another common injury for runners is stress fractures. These injuries occur due to running style, overtraining, or a lack of calcium. Stress fractures most often occur in several locations in runners, including the inner bone of the leg, the thighbone, the bone at the base of the spine and the bones of the toes. Stress fractures are best prevented by wearing proper footwear and by running on flat and hard surfaces; this will absorb some of the shock created during running.

Aside from overtraining, other causes of common running injuries include ill-fitting footwear, a lack of flexibility and strength, and irregular biomechanics. The best way to avoid running injuries is to prevent them from even occurring. Both iliotibial band syndrome and stress fractures are preventable. The first step that should be taken to prevent running injuries is to only wear footwear that fits properly and that is appropriate for whatever activity you are doing. Running shoes are the only protective gear available to runners that can safeguard them from sustaining injuries. Choosing the right pair of shoes is therefore extremely important. While running shoes are an important factor, it is also important to consider other facets of your running routine such as training schedules, flexibility, and strengthening. These elements should be considered and altered according to your running needs to best maximize your run and minimize the possibility of injury. Careful stretching before and after a run should also be considered to help prevent running injuries. Stretching muscles enables greater flexibility and a lesser chance of sustaining injury.

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Flat Feet

Flatfoot is a foot condition in which the arch of the foot has either partially or totally dropped or has never developed. While it is common in babies and small children, it can become a problem for them in adulthood if the arch never forms. For adults, the development of flat feet can be brought upon by injury, as a result of pregnancy due to increased elasticity, or obesity. Those who have health concerns such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes may also be at greater risk for developing the condition.

If you suspect that you have flat feet, it is best to consult your podiatrist. Your foot doctor will examine the suspected foot and observe how it looks while you sit and stand. He or she may take an X-ray to determine how serious the condition is. Some common signs of flatfoot include toe drift, in which the toes and front part of the foot point outward, a short Achilles tendon, and a heel that tilts outwardly while the ankle tilts inward.

Once flatfoot has been diagnosed, your podiatrist may suggest one of several treatment options. Flat feet can be rigid, in which the feet appear to have no arch even when the person is not standing; or flexible, in which the person appears to have an arch while not standing, but once standing the arch disappears. Those with flexible flatfoot may be told to reduce any activities that cause pain and to avoid extended periods of walking or standing. Another suggestion may be weight loss, as excessive weight may be placing pressure on the arches

In few cases, if the condition is severe and all other methods have been exhausted surgery may be required. This is normally avoided, however, due to a lengthy recovery time and high cost.

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Diabetic Foot Care

Diabetes can cause two problems that can potentially affect the feet: Diabetic neuropathy and Peripheral Vascular Disease. Diabetic neuropathy occurs when nerves in your legs and feet become damaged, which prevents you from feeling heat, cold, or pain. The problem with diabetic neuropathy is that a cut or sore on the foot may go unnoticed and the cut may eventually become infected. This condition is also a main cause of foot ulcers. Additionally, Peripheral vascular disease also affects blood flow in the body. Poor blood flow will cause sores and cuts to take longer to heal. Infections that don’t heal do to poor blood flow can potentially cause ulcers or gangrene.

There are certain foot problems that are more commonly found in people with diabetes such as Athlete’s foot, calluses, corns, blisters, bunions, foot ulcers, ingrown toenails, and plantar warts. These conditions can lead to infection and serious complications such as amputation. Fortunately, proper foot care can help prevent these foot problems before they progress into more serious complications.       

Each day you should wash your feet in warm water with a mild soap. When you finish washing your feet, dry them carefully especially between your toes. You should also perform daily foot inspections to ensure you don’t have any redness, blisters, or calluses. Furthermore, if you are diabetic, you should always wear closed-toed shoes or slippers to protect your feet. Practicing these tips will help ensure that your feet are kept healthy and away from infection.

If you have diabetes, contact your podiatrist if you have any of the following symptoms on your feet: changes in skin color, corns or calluses, open sores that are slow to heal, unusual and persistent odor, or changes in skin temperature. Your podiatrist will do a thorough examination of your feet to help treat these problematic conditions.

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All About Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are warts that are only found on the feet, hence the term “plantar”, which means “relating to the foot.” They are caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, and occur when this virus gets into open wounds on the feet. The warts themselves are hard bumps on the foot. They are easily recognizable, mostly found on the heels or ball of the foot. Plantar warts are non-malignant, but they can cause some pain, discomfort, and are often unsightly. Removing them is a common step toward treating them.

Plantar warts can cause some pain while standing, sometimes felt as tenderness on the sole of your foot. Unless the wart has grown into the foot behind a callus, you will be able to see the fleshy wart. A podiatrist should only be consulted if there is an excessive amount of pain. Plantar warts are not cancerous or dangerous, but they can affect your walking and continually reappear. Anyone who suffers from diabetes or a compromised immune system disease should seek out care immediately.

Podiatrists are easily able to diagnose plantar warts. They usually scrape off a tiny bit of the rough skin to make tiny blood clots visible and examine the inside of warts. However, a biopsy can be done if the doctor is not able to diagnose them from simply looking at them. Although plantar warts usually do not require an excessive amount of treatment, there are ways to go about removing them. A common method is to freeze them off using liquid nitrogen, removing them using an electrical tool, or burning them off via laser treatment. For a less invasive treatment option, topical creams can be used through a doctor’s prescription. This treatment method takes more time, however. Keep the wart covered for protection in between daily treatments.

The best way to avoid developing plantar warts is to avoid walking barefoot in public places. Avoid this especially if you have open sores or cuts on your feet. It is also important to avoid direct contact with warts in general, as they are highly contagious.

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Foot and Ankle Surgery

When conservative, noninvasive methods prove ineffective, surgery may be selected as the next course of action for the treatment of your foot or ankle condition.  A wide number of foot and ankle surgical procedures exist, and it is up to your podiatrist to determine which intervention will be most appropriate and helpful for your case.  Some surgical procedures include bunion surgery, fusion, hammertoe surgery, heel spur surgery, metatarsal surgery, nail surgery, neuroma surgery, reconstructive surgery, skin surgery, and tendon surgery.  Typically, surgery is turned to as a definitive way to alleviate excessive pain or discomfort and to return your foot to full mobility.

Regardless of the location on the body, all surgical procedures require preoperative testing and examination to ensure the surgery’s success and preferred outcome.  A review of your medical history and medical conditions will take place, as will an evaluation of any current diseases, illnesses, allergies, and medications.  Tests such as blood studies, urinalyses, EKG, X-rays, and blood flow studies may be ordered.  Because the procedure involves the foot and/or ankle, the structures of your feet while walking may also be observed by your podiatrist.

Care post-surgery will depend on the type of surgical procedure performed.  Typically, all postoperative care involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation.  To improve and ensure a safe recovery, your foot and ankle surgeon may also employ the use of bandages, splints, surgical shoes, casts, crutches, or canes.  He will also determine if and when you can bear weight.  A timely and thorough recovery is a priority for both you and your podiatrist, and carefully following postoperative instructions can help achieve this.  

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Understanding Corns and Calluses

Corns and Calluses are both hardened layers of thickened skin that develop because of friction. Both ailments are typically found on the feet and may be unsightly. Although they have similarities, corns and calluses are different from each other.

Some causes of corns and calluses may be wearing ill-fitting shoes and not wearing socks. If you wear tight shoes, your feet will constantly be forced to rub against the shoes, causing friction. If you fail to wear socks, you are also causing your feet to endure excess friction.

There are some signs that may help you determine whether you have one of these two conditions. The first symptom is a thick, rough area of skin. Another common symptom is a hardened, raised bump on the foot. You may also experience tenderness or pain under the skin in addition to flaky, dry, or waxy skin.

There are also risk factors that may make someone more prone to developing corns and calluses. If you are already dealing with bunions or hammertoe, you may be more vulnerable to having corns and calluses as well. Other risk factors are foot deformities such as bone spurs, which can cause constant rubbing inside the shoe.

Corns tend to be smaller than calluses and they usually have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin. They also tend to develop on the parts of the body that don’t bear as much weight such as the tops and sides of toes. Corns may also be painful for those who have them. On the other hand, calluses are rarely painful. These tend to develop on the bottom of the feet and may vary in size and shape.

Fortunately, most people only need treatment for corns and calluses if they are experiencing discomfort. At home treatments for corns and calluses should be avoided, because they will likely lead to infection. If you have either of these ailments it is advised that you consult with your podiatrist to determine the best treatment option for you.

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Neuropathy

Neuropathy is a condition in which the nerves in the body become damaged from a number of different illnesses. Nerves from any part of the body, including the foot, can be damaged. There are several forms of neuropathy including peripheral neuropathy, cranial neuropathy, focal neuropathy, and autonomic neuropathy. Furthermore there is also mononeuropathy and polyneuropathy. Mononeuropathies affect one nerve while polyneuropathies affect several nerves. Causes of neuropathy include physical injury, diseases, cancers, infections, diabetes, toxic substances, and disorders. It is peripheral neuropathy that affects the feet.

The symptoms of neuropathy vary greatly and can be minor such as numbness, sensation loss, prickling, and tingling sensations. More painful symptoms include throbbing, burning, freezing, and sharp pains. The most severe symptoms can be muscle weakness/paralysis, problems with coordination, and falling.

Podiatrists rely upon a full medical history and a neurological examination to diagnose peripheral neuropathy in the foot. More tests that may be used include nerve function tests to test nerve damage, blood tests to detect diabetes or vitamin deficiencies. Imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans, might be used to look for abnormalities, and finally nerve or skin biopsies could also be taken.

Treatment depends upon the causes of neuropathy. If the neuropathy was caused by vitamin deficiency, diabetes, infection, or toxic substances, addressing those conditions can lead to the nerve healing and sensation returning to the area. However if the nerve has died, then sensation may never come back to the area. Pain medication may be prescribed for less serious symptoms. Topical creams may also be tried to bring back sensation. Electrical nerve stimulation may be used for a period of time to stimulate nerves. Physical therapy can strengthen muscle and improve movement. Finally surgery might be necessary if pressure on the nerve is causing the neuropathy.

If you are experiencing sensation loss, numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in your feet, you may be experiencing neuropathy. Be sure to talk to a podiatrist to be diagnosed right away.

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What to Know About a Broken Toe

The forefoot is composed of five metatarsal bones and fourteen phalanges. Each toe has three phalanges except for the big toe which only has two. Our toes play an essential role to the walking process, which is why a broken toe could seriously disrupt one’s ability to move around. Toe fractures are common and can be very painful. Fortunately, these injuries rarely require surgery and usually heal with rest and a change in activity.

Broken toes typically result from a traumatic event such as falling, stubbing the toe, or dropping something on the toe. Traumatic toe fractures may be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. At times, one may hear a “pop” or “crack” sound when the bone breaks. Common symptoms of a traumatic toe fracture include pain, throbbing, bruising, swelling, and redness.

Another type of toe fractures is a stress fracture. These injuries usually appear in the form of small hairline breaks on the bone. Stress fractures develop after repetitive activity instead of a single injury. Stress fractures occur when the muscles in the bone become too weak to absorb impact. Consequently, the toe bone becomes vulnerable to any pressure and impact it endures. Symptoms for a stress fracture in the toe include swelling without bruising, tenderness to the touch, pain that goes away with rest, and pain after walking or running.

If you suspect that you have a broken toe, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist. He or she will likely diagnose you by performing a physical exam and an X-ray. Treatment for a broken toe may include the R.I.C.E. method, buddy taping, surgery, or antibiotics. The R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is a common treatment method for many injuries because it decreases pain. Buddy tapping involves wrapping the injured toe next to an adjacent toe to keep it supported and protected. These two methods have proven to be effective in the healing process for toe fractures. The estimated healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. If the injury becomes infected or requires surgery, the estimated healing time may take eight weeks or more. 

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Toe Pain

Toe pain can originate from corns, calluses, hammertoes, and bunions, as well as ingrown toenails, sprains, fractures, and dislocations. Corns develop as the toe rubs against the inside of a shoe which causes the skin to thicken as a form of protection. A corn is typically cone-shaped and has a small, hardened spot that points inward. When a corn is pressed into the skin, the toe becomes painful. Corns usually form on the top or side of the toe. A callus is also a thickened patch of skin that generally forms on the bottom of the foot. Calluses are the result of friction from the toe rubbing against the inside of a shoe. They may also occur by walking barefoot or having flat feet. A hammertoe is a bump on the knuckle of the second toe that is produced by wearing shoes that are too short for your feet. The bony protrusion rubs against the top of the shoe causing pain and irritation. A bunion is a malformation of the big toe. The base of the big toe pushes away from the smaller toes, forcing the top of the big toe to press toward the other toes. Bunions can be hereditary, or they can result from injury to the toe joint or from wearing high heels with a narrow toe box. The toe becomes inflamed, and a bump may develop at the end of the misplaced bone. Ingrown toenails typically affect the big toe and its surrounding skin. The nail will dig into the skin and become painful. Wearing tight or narrow shoes that compress the big toe causes the nail to grow into the fleshy part of the toe. Cutting toenails incorrectly can also add to the development of an ingrown toenail. A toe sprain originates from a torn or stretched ligament. Strapping the injured toe to the toe next to it for stabilization is common. A broken or fractured toe usually occurs from trauma like dropping a heavy object on it or bumping into something extremely hard and rigid. Osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones, can also bring about toe fractures. 

Any of the conditions mentioned can lead to pain and irritation. While some are more serious than others, seeking an examination and diagnosis from a podiatrist is a good idea. A podiatrist can treat each ailment and get you back on your feet again without pain.

 

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