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Tuesday, 16 January 2018 00:00

A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the shifting of the big toe bone inward towards the other toes. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.

Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. However, even if you do not have a history of this in your family, you can still develop bunions if you are wearing improperly fitting shoes. This can happen as you try to cram your feet into high heels, or by running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet. High heels are another major culprit in the formation of bunions. Not only do they push the big toe inward, but your body weight and center of gravity is shifted towards the edge of your feet and your toes, which can cause bone displacement.

Bunions are quickly and easily diagnosed by podiatrists. However, because of their nature, they can appear similar to arthritic conditions or gout. A blood test is sometimes required to fully diagnose a bunion. A full radiological or x-ray exam could also be done by a podiatrist to examine the bone structure of your feet. One thing that is looked for specifically is an enlargement of that base joint or evidence of the big toe bone being pushed inward.

One of the first things to do if you have bunions is to get a larger, wider shoe that can remove pressure from your toes. This usually means that high heels should be eliminated from use for a period of time to allow the bunion to heal. Eliminating the pressure placed on a bunion is often enough to eliminate the pain involved with them. However, pain can persist in some instances and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. If the pain is too severe, steroid injections near the bunion or even surgery may be required. Orthotics for shoes may also be prescribed which can alleviate the pain of bunions by removing pressure from them. However, these methods simply stop the pain of bunions but do not correct the problem at its source.

As previously mentioned, surgery may be an option to completely eliminate your bunions. Surgery is done to reposition the toe bones so that they no longer face inward. This can be done by removing a section of bone or by rearranging the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help them align properly. Even after the surgery, it may be necessary to wear protective shoes for a while to ensure that the bunions do not return.

Monday, 08 January 2018 00:00

Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.

Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow and spread, this is the most commonly affected area.  It is, however, known to grow in other places. The term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.

The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. The extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.

Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.

Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. You can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, to prevent the growth of tinea. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, opt for using topical medicated creams, ointments or sprays. These treatments help eliminate and prevent it from coming back.

Tuesday, 02 January 2018 00:00

Gout, typically found in diabetic patients, is an unusually painful form of arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. The condition typically strikes the big joint on the big toe. It has also been known to strike the knees, elbows, fingers, ankles and wrists—generally anywhere that has a functioning, moving joint.

The high level of uric acid in a person’s bloodstream creates the condition known as hyperuricema—the main cause of gout. Genetic predisposition occurs in nine out of ten sufferers. The children of parents who suffer gout will have a two in ten chance of developing the condition as well. 

This form of arthritis, being particularly painful, is the leftover uric acid crystallizing in the blood stream. The crystallized uric acid then travels to the space between joints where they rub, causing friction when the patient moves. Symptoms include: pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Additional side effects may include fatigue and fever, although reports of these effects are very rare. Some patients have reported that pain may intensify when the temperature drops, such as when you sleep.

Most cases of gout are easily diagnosed by a podiatrist’s assessment of the various symptoms. Defined tests can also be performed. A blood test to detect elevated levels of uric acid is often used as well as an x-ray to diagnose visible and chronic gout.

Treatment for gout simply means eliminating symptoms. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (Colchicine and other corticosteroid drugs, etc.) will quell the redness, the swelling, and the inflammation. However, managing your diet, lifestyle changes, and using preventative drugs are all helpful toward fully combating the most severe cases.

 Those that lead an inactive lifestyle are at a higher risk for gout. Any amount of exercise decreases the probability of repeat encounters with the condition. Reducing your consumption of red meat, sea food, and fructose-sweetened drinks also reduces the likelihood of chronic gout as well.

Ingesting Vitamin C, coffee, and particular dairy products can help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are new drugs out on the market that inhibit the body’s production of uric acid-producing enzymes. However, reducing or eliminating your overall levels of uric acid is the best remedy to ensuring you lead a gout-free life.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 00:00

Foot care is important regardless of your profession, but those who work on their feet must pay special attention. Bunions, calluses, blisters, and plantar warts are just a few of the many conditions that can arise after standing all day. While painful at their worst, these conditions can easily be avoided with the right foot care. This includes both appropriate footwear and proper posture—important elements that affect the health of your feet.

Choosing appropriate footwear means choosing a shoe that has a negative heel. This means that the heel is slightly lower than the ball of your foot, which places less of a strain. If you have a profession that requires you to be on your feet all day, investing in a pair of high-quality shoes is pertinent. High-quality shoes can be purchased from a respected manufacturer that emphasizes foot care and foot health.

Despite the regularity of wearing shoes, the feet are naturally not designed to be enclosed. Regular “barefoot” time for your feet can be beneficial for foot health. Among other methods, allowing your feet to breathe can help alleviate the pain and pressure your feet may be experiencing from being on your feet all day.

Simple foot exercises and yoga positions can help improve both the health and function of your feet. Active foot exercises that create movement will stimulate your foot’s blood flow and circulation, and yoga positions that place your feet flat onto the floor will stretch out their muscles. Yoga is particularly beneficial for your Achilles tendon and calf muscles, which are areas that can become especially problematic if not taken care of. Foot exercises and yoga positions can be easily performed every day at virtually any location and any time; whether it is at the office, at the gym, or at home right before you go to bed. Simple stretching can increase your foot health by miles.

The foot pain you experience after lengthy hours working on your feet may seem inevitable and unavoidable; in reality, however, that is not the case. Wearing proper footwear and performing simple foot exercises and stretches can help ease foot pain and allow you to truly avoid frustrating foot problems.

Your feet can easily be kept healthy with some education and a little effort. Pain that begins at the feet can eventually affect the whole body. Begin taking care of your feet now!

Monday, 18 December 2017 00:00

Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity.  Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.

Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.

Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.

For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.

If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.

Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.  

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 00:00

An ingrown toenail is a toenail that grows sideways into the nail bed, causing pain and swelling. Ingrown toenails can worsen and cause drainage, turning into a serious infection.

Several factors affect whether a person is at risk from an ingrown toenail. The many causes include being overweight, diabetes, participating in sports, having a fungal infection of the toe, and cutting your nails too short. Ingrown toenails also have a genetic predisposition, causing some people to be more prone to receive the condition than others. Other causes include improperly fitting shoes and shoes that keep the feet damp.

Ingrown toenails can be preventable with certain measures. For starters, allowing your toe nails to grow slightly longer in length will help prevent them from becoming ingrown. If you have already developed an ingrown toenail, soak the affected toe in warm water. This will alleviate the pain and help prevent an infection from forming. Antibiotic soap or Epsom salts may be added to further help the relieving process and avoid infection. Placing cotton beneath the affected area is also suggested, as this may help the toenail grow upwards and not into the nail bed. Swelling and redness can be reduced by resting with your feet elevated.

A podiatrist should be seen if the pain becomes so serious that it prevents you from doing your everyday activities. If a red streak running up your leg appears or if you suspect your infection has spread, contact a podiatrist immediately. Fast treatments can be undertaken to lessen your pain and have you walking comfortably.

An ingrown toenail can be easily treated with a Band-Aid. Simply wrap the affected toe with a Band-Aid to prevent infection and keep the nail from growing out at a painful angle.

In more serious cases, your podiatrist may decide to make a small incision to remove a portion of your toenail. To prevent the nail from growing back, medication will be placed directly into the nail bed. This procedure would be performed under local anesthesia and is a faster method to alleviate discomfort from an ingrown toenail. Post-procedure directions will have you stay off the affected foot for a day. Afterwards, normal activities can be resumed.  

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 00:00

Corns are thickened areas on the skin’s surface, to the point of being irritating and sometimes painful. Commonly found on the feet, corns are circular or cone-shaped. They develop where there are areas of pressure or friction, such as on the little toe when it rubs up against shoes, or on the ball of your foot.

Corns are often confused with a callus, but there is a difference between them. Corns can be raised bumps that are painful to the touch. They consist of a rough, thick area of skin that may be dry or waxy. Corns tend to be surrounded by skin that is inflamed, and are usually much smaller than calluses.

Removing the dead skin that has built up is the key in treating corns. Salicylic acid medication is most common in accomplishing this. The acid works by dissolving keratin, which is the protein that makes up the majority of corns. You can purchase salicylic acid over-the-counter in products such as wart removers. It comes in a variety of forms such as medicated pads, drops, or creams. However, people who are diabetic should not use salicylic acid, but should instead consult their doctor immediately.

According to the product directions, applying the medication directly onto the corn will treat it. The top layer of the corn will begin to turn white after use. When that occurs, the layers of skin can then be peeled away, making the corn smaller. Shaving off corns with razors or other pedicure equipment is never a good idea. This can lead to infection. If your corn gets infected, and is not treated immediately, a visit to the doctor will be necessary.

Another way to treat corns and help prevent their return is by using orthotic inserts, fitted by a podiatrist. Inserts fit right into your shoes and adjusts the way your foot fits into your shoes. This fixes the way you walk. This will lower your chances of getting corns, and eliminate current corns by reducing rubbing from friction.

Surgery is rarely used to treat corns, but does occur on occasion. Surgery actually deals with the underlying issue that causes corns. During surgery, the bone is shaved and any abnormalities are corrected, thus reducing the amount of friction that occurs during walking.

To prevent corns, the first step is reducing friction. Always wear shoes that fit well and don’t rub your feet. Pads can be purchased if you notice rubbing developing. These pads can be purchased over-the-counter, and can be simply placed on the irritated area. Wearing cushioned insoles in your shoes can always reduce the friction, and making sure to wear well-fitting shoes. This will ensure that your foot is not being squeezed awkwardly, and prevent corns from forming in the first place.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 00:00

Barefoot running is becoming a more and more popular running trend throughout the running and jogging communities. However, running without shoes also affects the motions of your stride. When barefoot running, choosing to run without shoes is not the only adjustment you will have to make.

Whenever you run normally with shoes, your heel strikes the ground first as you land while you roll over the ball of your foot and push off with the front part and toes. Barefoot runners land on the front part of their feet and not their heels. This shifts the impact from the back to the front of the foot. In order to do this safely and without much injury, runners need to reduce their stride to create softer landings.

One of barefoot running’s biggest advantages is the reduced risk of injury. Landing on the front of your foot with a reduced stride lessens the stress placed on the back of the foot, heels, and ankles. It also works out many muscles in the feet, ankles, and lower legs that you do not normally get to strengthen because of the different motions.  Your posture and balance are also improved with barefoot running, as is your sensory input from your feet to the rest of your body. Studies have shown that countries that have large populations of people who do not wear shoes every day are at lower risk for foot and ankle injuries and complications.

However, there is still some skepticism behind barefoot running because of some disadvantages it brings. One of these is the complete lack of protection for your feet while running. Bruises, scrapes, cuts, and even blisters can easily form when you have no protection from sharp or rough objects on the ground. Landing on the front of your feet can also cause Achilles tendonitis because of the overuse of the Achilles tendon.

Despite this, barefoot running can be made safe and enjoyable if you make a slow transition from your normal running routine into barefoot running. Rather than jumping straight into barefoot running, gradually work your way from walking to jogging to running, increasing the distance each time. It is also recommended to start off on flat, even surfaces that do not contain sharp or dangerous objects because your feet are unprotected. Minimalist running shoes are a great middle ground to start with because they combine the protection of shoes with the fit and feel of barefoot running.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 00:00

In most cases, foot surgery is often chosen as the last available option for conditions that have otherwise been unsuccessfully treated. Surgery may be necessary for several reasons, including the removal of foot deformities (e.g. bone spurs or bunions), arthritis problems, reconstruction due to injury, and congenital malformations (e.g. club foot or flat feet). Regardless of one’s age, foot surgery may be the only successful option for treatment for certain conditions.

The type of surgery one undergoes depends on the type of foot condition the patient has. For the removal of a bunion growth, a bunionectomy is necessary. If the bones in the feet need to be realigned or fused together, a surgical fusion of the foot is needed. For pain or nerve issues, a patient may require surgery in which the tissues surrounding the painful nerve are removed. Initially, less invasive treatments are generally attempted; surgery is often the last measure taken if other treatments are unsuccessful.

While in many cases surgery is often deemed as the final resort, choosing surgery comes with certain benefits. The associated pain experienced in relation to the particular condition is often relieved with surgery, allowing patients to quickly resume daily activities. The greatest benefit, however, is that surgery generally eliminates the problem immediately.

Podiatry history has shown that foot treatments continue to evolve over time. In the field of foot surgery, endoscopic surgery is just one of the many advanced forms of surgery. As technology vastly improves so too will the various techniques in foot surgery, which already require smaller and smaller incisions with the use of better and more efficient tools. Thanks to such innovations, surgery is no longer as invasive as it was in the past, allowing for faster and easier recoveries. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017 00:00

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.

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