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.
Fungal infection of the toenail, or onychomycosis, typically appears as a gradual change in a toenail’s texture and color that involves brittleness and darkening. The fungal infection itself occurs beneath the surface of the nail. Aside from discoloration, other symptoms include the collection of debris beneath the nail plate, white marks on the nail plate, and a foul odor emanating from the nail. If ignored, the infection can spread into other nails and the skin; in severe cases, it can hinder one’s ability to work or walk.
The toenails are particularly vulnerable to contracting infection in moist environments where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as around swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms. Fungal infection may also be more likely to occur in nail beds that have been injured, and sufferers of chronic diseases such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immunodeficiency conditions are particularly prone to developing fungal nails.
Fungal nails can be primarily prevented by practicing proper hygiene and regularly examining the feet and toes. Carefully washing the feet with soap and water and thoroughly drying the feet afterwards are essential. Other tips include wearing shower shoes in public areas, changing shoes and socks daily, keeping toenails clipped at a short length, wearing breathable shoes that fit properly, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and disinfecting home pedicure tools and instruments used to cut nails.
Fungal nail treatment may vary between patients and the severity of the condition. Your podiatrist may suggest a daily routine of cleansing that spans over a period of time to ease mild infections. Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal agents may also be prescribed, including topical and/or oral medications. Debridement, or the removal of diseased nail matter and debris, may also be performed. In more severe cases, surgical treatment may be needed. In some instances, the temporary removal of the fungal nail allows for the direct application of a topical antifungal to the nail bed. In other cases, a chronically painful fungal nail that has not responded to other treatments may be permanently removed; this allows the infection to be cured and avoids the growth of a deformed nail.
Your feet endure a great amount of stress each day from constantly allowing us to move around. It is important to stretch your feet to help prevent them from becoming injured. Your toes may easily deform into unhealthful positions if they are not stretched.
One of the most common reasons for toe deformities are the shoes you may be wearing. Shoes that are too tight may fold and shift the toes out of place. Heeled shoes may also push your toes upward. Forcing your toes into an unnatural position which may cause the muscles to tighten and prevent them from reverting to normal length. Another common reason is improper use of foot muscles. Many people fail to use the muscles in their feet or toes when they walk. Lastly, the positioning of your feet while walking may also cause toe deformities. If you walk with your feet facing outward, your “push-off” phase is on the side of your big toe instead of the bottom of your foot. This may cause the big toe to eventually tighten into a new shifted position.
There are many reasons why stretching your toes may be helpful. One reason is that healthy spacing may aid in avoiding calluses and other injuries that are caused by rubbing. Stretching will also prevent you from developing toes that curl, hammertoes, or bunions.
A great way to stretch your toes is to place them in your hands and bend them all downward; this will help you stretch the top of your foot. Next, you should repeat this process but instead bend them upward enough to feel a nice stretch in the bottom of your foot. You should then try to pull each toe apart from the next and pull any toes that are bent upward until they are back downward.
If you are looking to practice stretching your entire foot, you can try a towel stretch. This is done by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you. Take a towel and wrap it around your toes. Afterward, pull the towel toward you with your toes and hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing. Practice this stretch for three sets. Another stretch your feet are towel lifts. This is done by sitting in a chair and trying to pick a towel up from the ground with your toes. Try lifting the towel with your little toes for five sets before switching feet.
If you are an athlete, or exercise often, it is especially important for you to practice stretching your feet. Those who suffer from foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours of standing at work may also benefit from foot exercises.
Pain experienced in the ankle can be caused by a multitude of conditions. While the most common cause is an ankle sprain, other possible problems can include arthritis, gout, ankle instability, ankle fracture, nerve compression, or tendinitis. In more serious cases, ankle pain can be a sign of improper alignment of the foot or an infection.
Ankle pain can often be accompanied by symptoms such as redness, swelling, stiffness and warm in the affected area. Pain can be described differently depending on the condition; short, stabbing pain and a dull ache are some examples. If such symptoms are persistent and do not improve after time, be sure to schedule an appointment with your local podiatrist.
Depending on the condition behind your ankle pain, different treatments may be prescribed by your podiatrist. For ankle sprains, the first step in treatment involves rest, ice, elevation, and compression. Be sure to avoid placing pressure on the ankle, use an ice pack several times a day, and use a compression bandage and elevation to reduce swelling. Other more serious conditions may require the assistance of certain drugs and medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, or even cortisone injections.
Consult with your foot and ankle doctor to best determine the cause of your ankle pain and the appropriate treatment. Depending on the severity of your ankle pain and the condition behind it, recovery from ankle pain may take some time.
Ankle sprains occur when ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. These types of injuries are very common and can occur in people of all ages. Sprains may range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage is done to the ligaments. If a sprain goes untreated, a more severe sprain may occur which can further damage the ankle. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to chronic ankle pain.
There are some risk factors that can increase your risk of suffering a sprained ankle. Those who participate in sports, walk on uneven surfaces, have a prior ankle injury, are in poor physical condition, or wear improper shoes are more likely to get a sprained ankle.
There are a few symptoms to look out for if you suspect you are suffering from a sprained ankle. Some common symptoms are swelling, bruising, tenderness, and instability of the ankle. In cases where the tearing of the ligaments is severe, there may be a “popping” sound when the strain occurs.
The RICE method is proven to be effective in treating ankle sprains. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest is important for treatment especially within the first 24 to 48 hours. You should also ice your sprained ankle for the first 48 hours for 20 minutes at a time. A small piece of cloth should be placed between the ice and the affected area. For the compression step, you should wear a brace that is snug, but not too tight that it cuts off circulation. When choosing a brace, be sure to choose one that is suitable for the type of ankle sprain you have. Lastly, you should elevate your foot above the heart as often as possible.
After you treat a sprain, you should go through rehabilitation to prevent the injury from occurring again. There are three phases to the rehab process. The first phase involves resting, protecting and reducing the swelling of the injury. The second phase consists of restoring the ankles flexibility, range of motion, and strength. The third phase consists of slowly returning to activity and maintenance exercises.
If you suspect you have an ankle sprain, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult with your podiatrist. Your podiatrist will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and a suitable treatment option for your condition.
Bone density loss, dry skin, poor circulation, and rough and brittle nails are some of the common problems that can occur as people age. The effect that these problems has on foot health should be of particular concern in comprehensive geriatric care.
Feet that are diseased or injured have a negative effect on overall health and safety. Painful feet limit a person’s willingness and ability to stay active. Poor foot health can also cause gait change, which can lead to falls and accidents. Even though recovery time from health problems naturally slows as we age, many foot problems can be avoided altogether with regular prophylactic care.
Feet should be thoroughly washed in warm water daily. Care must be taken to dry the feet well, making sure to dry between and under the toes. Any left-over moisture can cause problems like foot fungus. After cleaning feet carefully check for problems such as cracked skin, bruises, swelling, cuts, corns, or other irregularities.
Examine toenails for ingrown, jagged, or split nails. Long toenails should be cut straight across. Never cut toenails at an angle or down the side as this may lead to ingrown nails.
Cracked and dry feet should be treated once or twice a day with a non-greasy moisturizer. Rub the moisturizer into the skin and allow it to dry before putting on socks and shoes. Sweaty feet can be dusted with a small amount of talcum powder. Avoid putting talcum directly into shoes as this may make feet slip within the shoe and cause a serious fall.
Wear clean dry socks each day. Not only do clean socks feel better on the feet, but socks worn for longer periods may harbor disease and odor-causing bacteria. Socks should not be tight around the top as they can leave marks on the leg. Socks that are too small can bring about bruising caused by pressure against the toes.
Wear comfortable and well-fitting shoes. If possible, consult a professional footwear specialist when purchasing shoes. Do not walk around barefoot as this exposes the feet to possible injury and bacteria.
Good foot health allows a more active lifestyle, which improves blood flow. Good circulation aids in recovery from injury or illness. It is also important for maintaining overall health.
Serious health problems can manifest themselves as symptoms in the feet. The elderly should seek professional help from a podiatrist if experiencing foot problems like tingling, numbness, pain, infection, or a sore that does not heal. Taking care of these problems right away can prevent the development of severe cases.
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.
Toenail fungus is a frustrating problem that affects many people. It can be persistent and hard to get rid of. As many different types of fungi are present throughout the environment, it is very easy to contract toenail fungus.
The feet are especially susceptible to toenail fungus because shoes and socks create the ideal dark and moist environment that fungal infections thrive in. While fungal infections of the nail plate are quite common, if left untreated they can spread beyond the toenail and into the skin and other parts of the body.
Signs of toenail fungus include a thickened nail that has become yellow or brown in color, a foul smell, and debris beneath the nail. The toe may become painful due to the pressure of a thicker nail or the buildup of debris.
Treatment for toenail fungus is most effective during the early stages of an infection. If there is an accumulation of debris beneath the nail plate, an ingrown nail or a more serious infection can occur. While each treatment varies between patients, your podiatrist may prescribe you oral medications, topical liquids and creams, or laser therapy. To determine the best treatment process for you, be sure to visit your podiatrist at the first signs of toenail fungus.
Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. This considered to be one of the most frequently recorded medical illnesses throughout history. Gout occurrences in the US have risen within the past twenty years and the condition now affects 8.3 million people which is 4% of all Americans. Researchers have found that gout affects men more than women and African-American men more than white men.
Symptoms of gout are warmth, swelling, discoloration, and tenderness in the affected joint area. The small joint on the big toe is the most common place for a gout attack to occur.
People who are obese, gain weight excessively, drink alcohol heavily, have high blood pressure, or have abnormal kidney function are more likely to develop gout. Furthermore, certain drugs and diseases are likely to increase levels of uric acid in the joints which eventually leads to gout. You are also more likely to develop gout if you eat a lot of meat and fish.
Many who experience gout attacks will experience repeated attacks over the years. Some people who have gout symptoms, may never have them again, but others may experience them several times a year. If you have gout symptoms throughout the year, you may have recurrent gout. Those who have gout should also be careful about their urate crystals collecting in their urinary tract, because this may lead to kidney stones.
Diagnosis for gout is done by checking the level of uric acid in the joints and blood. Your podiatrist may also prescribe medicine to reduce uric acid buildup in the blood, which will help prevent any gout attacks.
To treat gout, your podiatrist may also prescribe you Anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) which will relieve the pain and swelling of a gout episode and it can also shorten a gout attack. Maintaining a healthy diet is also a proven method to prevent gout attacks.
Each foot, on average, has about 250,000 eccrine sweat glands that produce half a pint of sweat each day. Sweating is a natural and important bodily function. It regulates the body’s temperature by cooling the skin so that it does not overheat. In individuals with hyperhidrosis, the sympathetic nervous system works in "overdrive", producing far more sweat than what is required. People with plantar hyperhidrosis experience an excess amount of sweat on their feet. It is estimated that 2% to 3% of all Americans suffer from some form of hyperhidrosis. This condition is often caused by neurologic, endocrine, infectious, and other systemic disease. Other factors that may trigger the condition are heat and emotions.
People with hyperhidrosis may notice an overabundance of sweat on their feet, along with a strong odor. The feet may also have a wet appearance coupled with infections such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus. The sweat may even appear in low temperatures, such as during the winter months. People with plantar hyperhidrosis often need to change their socks several times throughout the day.
The specific cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown, and many believe it may be caused by over-activity. However, others believe the condition is genetic. Caffeine and nicotine are known to cause excitement and nervousness which are two emotions that may make the condition worse.
If you are looking to treat your hyperhidrosis the most important thing you should do is wash your feet every day. You may even need to wash your feet twice a day, if necessary. You should also make sure you are wearing the right socks. Wool and cotton socks are both known to be good for ventilation, meaning they allow the feet to breathe. You should avoid socks made from nylon which trap moisture and lead to sogginess. Other common treatment options are over-the-counter antiperspirants that contain a low dose of metal salt. In some cases, prescription strength antiperspirants that contain aluminum chloride hexahydrate may be necessary. In severe cases, surgery may be required.
Untreated hyperhidrosis can easily lead to complications. Some complications that may arise from the disorder include nail infections, warts, and bacterial infections. Consequently, it is important that you seek treatment from your podiatrist if you suspect that you may have plantar hyperhidrosis.