July Articles 2014
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.
A new trend in running and jogging has popped up recently, called barefoot running. Barefoot running is a popular and growing trend that is just what it sounds – running without shoes. Before deciding to do any running without shoes, it's best to understand how this kind of running affects the feet.
Running without shoes changes the motion of running. Most running is done by landing on the heel of the feet. Running barefoot requires a different way of running; in a barefoot stride landing is done on the front part of the feet. Because of this, the impact shifts from the heels to the front feet. Runners also shorten their strides to create a softer landing.
Running barefoot does have its advantages. When running and landing on the front feet, the impact on the feet and ankle is reduced, which may reduce the incidence of stress injuries. It strengthens muscles in the feet, and also strengthens muscles in the ankles and lower legs that aren't usually worked. Overall balance of the body is improved and there is greater sensory input from the feet to the rest of the body, making overall position and motion less stressful on the body. It has been found that in countries in which some of the population regularly wear shoes and some do not, numbers of foot and ankle injuries are much higher in those who wear shoes.
People hearing about barefoot running for the first time are skeptical about it, and there are good reasons for skepticism. Running barefoot certainly has its drawbacks, the obvious being no protection of the feet when running. This makes it likely that when runners land on sharp or rough objects, scrapes, bruises, and cuts on feet will result. Blisters will form when beginning this kind of running especially, you may have plantar fascia problems. Landing on the front feet constantly also increases the risk of getting Achilles tendonitis.
So what can runners do to make barefoot running safe? It’s best to make a slow transition from running shoes to barefoot running. The body is used to wearing shoes so to slowly transition to bare feet, start by walking barefoot for a distance and then increase walking distance. Once the feet begin to adjust, try walking and then jogging and gradually increase the distance. If you have foot problems talk to the doctor first before attempting barefoot running. When starting out, it may also be helpful to begin by running on pavement or other consistent surfaces to avoid sharp or rough objects. Minimalist running shoes may also be an option, as they allow for many of the benefits of barefoot running while also protecting the feet from cuts and scrapes.
What to Know About a Broken Toe
Although most people try to avoid foot trauma such as banging, stubbing, or dropping heavy objects on their feet, the unfortunate fact is that it is a common occurrence. 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 (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, when the injured person experiences fever or chills throughout their body, and 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 with the affected foot elevated on pillows. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe for 15 minutes every two hours during the first two days after the fracture. The broken toe should be immobilized by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it, then taping the two toes together with medical tape.
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.
Morton's neuroma is a painful foot condition that commonly affects the areas between the third and fourth toe and the ball of the foot. Other areas of the foot can also be susceptible to this condition. Morton’s neuroma is caused by an inflamed nerve in the foot that is being squeezed and aggravated by surrounding bones. Women are more likely than men to have an occurrence of this foot condition. When a person has Morton's neuroma, it can feel as if they are walking on stones or marbles.
There are risk factors that can increase a person's chance of having Morton's neuroma. Ill-fitting high heels or shoes can add pressure to the toe or foot area. Jogging, running and any other sports that involve constant impact to the foot area can make a person more susceptible to this condition. If a person has flat feet, bunions or any other foot deformities, it can put them at a higher risk for developing Morton's neuroma.
There is no one major sign that indicates a person has Morton's neuroma, but rather certain symptoms to look for. A person who has burning in the ball of the foot or tingling and numbness in the toe areas are signs they may have Morton's neuroma. The pain increases greatly when wearing shoes or being active. There usually is little or no pain at night.
If a person suspects that they have this condition, they should visit their doctor. A physician will check for palpable masses between the bones of the foot. A doctor will also apply pressure to the foot or toe area to replicate the pain a person experiences when active. Range of motion tests and X-rays are other options a doctor may offer a patient to rule out other conditions or problems.
Treating Morton's neuroma can be as simple as changing the type of shoes a person wears. Wear wider shoes or flat shoes with a soft sole. Doing this may help reduce the pressure on the nerve that is aggravated. If necessary, a person can have a cortisone injection to help reduce swelling and pain in the foot area.
If these methods don't relieve the symptoms, consulting with an orthopedic surgeon should be the next option. During a consultation, a patient will find out about the treatment methods available for Morton's neuroma. A surgeon can release the tissue around the nerve that is causing this pain, or they can remove a small area of the nerve completely. There is a short recovery time for this type of surgery, and afterward, patients can return to their normal lifestyle.