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Monday, 01 October 2018 00:00

Stretching Your Feet

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also help mend existing foot problems and prevent future ones.

The feet, as the body’s foundation, carry the body’s entire weight and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are often common concerns. Foot pain and foot problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits. It is always a good idea, however, to first rule out any serious medical issues with a physician.

Stretching can help relax the feet and alleviate pain, but is especially important before heavy aerobic exercise. Stretching before such activities can help you avoid experiencing painful cramps or strained foot muscles. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds before relaxing.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard; just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing and facing a wall with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel a stretching sensation, and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regularly stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Monday, 24 September 2018 00:00

Bunions

A bunion is a bump that forms at the base of the big toe. Bunions form when the big toe pushes against the next toe, which forces the big toe joint to get bigger and stick out.  As a result, the skin over the bunion may start to appear red and it may feel sore.

There are risk factors that can increase your chances of developing bunions. People who wear high heels or ill-fitting shoes are more likely to develop them, in addition to those who have a genetic history of bunions or have rheumatoid arthritis.

The most obvious way to tell if you have a bunion is to look for the big toe pushing up against the toe next to it. Bunions produce a large protrusion at the base of the big toe and may or may not cause pain. Other symptoms are redness, swelling, and restricted movement of the big toe if you have arthritis. 

Nonsurgical methods are frequently used to treat bunions that aren’t severe. Some methods of nonsurgical treatment are orthotics, icing and resting the foot, taping the foot, and pain medication. Surgery is usually only required in extreme cases. However, if surgery is needed, some procedures may involve removing the swollen tissue from around the big toe joint, straightening the big toe by removing part of the bone, or joining the bones of your affected joint permanently.

Your podiatrist will diagnose your bunion by doing a thorough examination of your foot. He or she may also conduct an x-ray to determine the cause of the bunion and its severity.

Monday, 17 September 2018 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.

Monday, 10 September 2018 00:00

Hyperhidrosis of the Feet

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.

Tuesday, 04 September 2018 00:00

Blisters

Blisters are pockets of fluid that occur under the top layer of your skin. These fluid pockets are usually filled with pus, blood, or serum. Blisters may itch or hurt and can appear as a single bubble or in clusters.

The most common types of blisters are friction blisters. This type of blister may be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight. Friction blisters can also occur on the hands. A change in temperature may also cause blisters on the feet. In the freezing air, frostbite on your toes can lead to blisters, as well as sunburn from hot weather.

The best way to treat a blister is to keep it clean and dry. Most blisters will get better on their own. Once the skin absorbs the fluid within the blister, it will flatten and eventually peel off. You should avoid popping your blister unless you podiatrist does it for you. Additional treatment options include applying an ice pack to the blister or using over-the-counter blister bandages to cover the affected area.

If your blister becomes discolored, inflamed, or worsens it is advised that you speak to your podiatrist. Blisters that are yellow, green, or purple may be infected and require immediate medical attention. Blisters that are abnormally colored may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition such as herpes.

Monday, 27 August 2018 00:00

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.

Monday, 20 August 2018 00:00

How to Deal with Athlete's Foot

Athlete’s foot is a type of fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet. It is caused when the tinea fungus grows on the foot. It is possible to catch the fungus through direct contact with someone who has it or by touching a surface that is contaminated with it. This type of fungus thrives in warm, moist environments such as showers, locker room floors, and swimming pools. Your risk of getting it may also increase by wearing tight-fitting, closed-toe shoes, or by having sweaty feet.

Symptoms of athlete’s foot include itching, stinging or burning sensations between the toes. You may also experience toenails that are discolored, thick, crumbly, or toenails that pull away from the nail bed.

Your podiatrist may diagnose athlete’s foot by detecting these symptoms or by doing a skin test to see if there is a fungal infection present. The most common exam used to detect Athlete’s foot is a skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam. To use this method, your doctor will scrape off a small area of the infected skin and place it into potassium hydroxide. The potassium hydroxide will destroy the normal cells and leave the fungal cells untouched so that they are visible under a microscope.

There are a variety of treatment options for athlete’s foot. Some medications are miconazole (Desenex), terbinafine (Lamisil AT), clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF), butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra), and tolnaftate (Tinactin). While these options may be able to treat your fungus, it is best that you consult with a podiatrist in order to see which treatment option may work best for you.

In some cases, Athlete’s foot may lead to complications. A severe complication would be a secondary bacterial infection which may cause your foot to become swollen, painful, and hot.

There are ways that you can prevent athlete’s foot. Washing your feet with soap and water each day and drying them thoroughly is an effective way to prevent infections. You also shouldn’t share socks, shoes, or towels with other people. It is crucial that you wear shower sandals in public showers, around swimming pools, and in other public places. Additionally, you should make sure you wear shoes that can breathe and change your socks when your feet become sweaty. If you suspect that you have Athlete’s foot, you should seek help from a podiatrist as soon as possible.

Monday, 13 August 2018 00:00

Diabetic Foot Conditions

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes is a condition that affects approximately 23.6 million Americans.  Around 750,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, and the disease’s most common form, Type 2 diabetes, makes up for 90 to 95 percent of these cases.  Type 2 diabetes is especially prevalent among older Americans, those who are obese, and those who lead sedentary lifestyles.

Complications of the disease may lead to several foot and ankle-related conditions.  The loss of nerve sensation, or neuropathy, can cause diabetics to lose feeling at the bottom of the feet and therefore leave them unaware of pain, pressure, and heat.  Decreased circulation is another complication of diabetes that can slow down the healing of wounds and injuries; this can lead to the development of foot ulcers.

To prevent foot ulcers from forming, diabetics should examine their feet every day for small cuts and wear shoes that curtail pressure.  Constant monitoring for the risk factors associated with ulcer formation can allow for early detection and therefore lessen the possibility of ulcers or, even worse, amputation.  The removal of calluses and ingrown toenails should be left to the podiatrist to avoid improper removal and possible infection.

Diabetic patients may also experience foot deformities due to complications in their feet, such as limited joint mobility, muscle atrophy, and decreased fat padding.  These complications can increase pressure in certain areas of the foot, which in turn can cause certain deformities, such as hammertoe, to form.  Another deformity, Charcot foot, develops due to the collapsing of microfractures in the bones of the feet.  The resulting deformity is a foot that is flattened and wider in appearance.

To help minimize pressure and prevent the development of these diabetes-related foot and ankle conditions, your podiatrist may consider using orthotics or special shoes.  Charcot foot may be treated using walkers, custom orthotic insoles, or non-weight-bearing or rigid weight-bearing casts or braces.  In more serious cases, surgery may be considered to treat more developed deformities.  Ulcers can be further cared for with the help of proper diet, medication to control glucose, intensive wound care, and infection treatment.

Monday, 06 August 2018 00:00

What to Know About a Broken Toe

Trauma to the foot, especially the toes, can occur in many ways. Banging them, stubbing them, or dropping something on them are a few different ways this trauma can occur. 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 or 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, or when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.

Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications. However, it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe and immediately get a splint or cast to prevent any more additional movement of the toe bones. You can also immobilize your toe by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it. Then, tape the two toes together with medical tape. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe directly as well as elevating your feet above your head.

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 the big toe endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if it is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications. 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. You should immediately speak with your podiatrist if you think you have broken your toe due to trauma. They will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment options. 

Monday, 30 July 2018 00:00

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Feet

Although rheumatoid arthritis attacks multiple bones and joints throughout the entire body, ninety percent of people who actually develop this condition usually do so in the foot or ankle area. Those who develop this kind of arthritis in the feet usually develop symptoms around the toes and forefeet first, before anywhere else. Rheumatoid arthritis appears to have a genetic component. If it runs in the family, then you will be more likely to develop it as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints. This causes inflammation of the membrane lining, and the gradual destruction of the joint’s cartilage and even bone.

Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with RA include pain and swelling of the feet. Stiffness in the feet is also another common symptom that people experience. Those who have RA in the feet usually feel the pain in the ball or sole of their feet. This can get to be very painful at times. A person's joints can even shift and become deformed after a period of time.

In order to properly diagnose RA in the feet it is usually necessary for a doctor or podiatrist to evaluate the area. Your doctor will also question you about your medical history, occupation, etc., to determine whether anything in your lifestyle may have triggered the condition. There are a number of tests that may be performed to help diagnose RA, such as a rheumatoid factor test. There is, however, no one single test that will tell you for sure if you have RA. There are different X-rays that can be taken as well to determine if a person has RA in their feet.

There is a range of treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of RA is usually a lifelong process that includes a variety of methods of treatment and therapy. Your doctor can prescribe special shoes that should help with arch support as well as heel support. A physical therapist can help those with this condition learn exercises which will keep their joints flexible. Surgery may be needed to correct some of the issues with the feet, such as bunions, and hammertoes. Fusion is usually the most successful surgical option for rheumatoid arthritis. However, people need to keep in mind that there are some risks associated with these surgeries.

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