Oh My, Onychomycosis
While the word may sound like some kind of scientific experiment, onychomycosis is a fancy term for a fungal infection of either the toenails or fingernails. When a fungal infection affects the areas between your toes, it’s called Athlete’s Foot (which we’ve covered in one of our previous blogs). Initially, nail fungus is often a simple cosmetic concern. However, it can actually lead to the thickening, discoloration, disfiguring, or even splitting of the nails. Who wants that!
How do I know if I have it?
If you have a fungal infection on our toe or fingernails, you will experience one or more of these symptoms
- Thickening of the nails
- Discoloration that can be whitish to yellow-brown
- A distorted nail shape
- Brittle or ragged nails
- A dark color due to debris buildup under the nail
- A slight foul smell
The severity of nail fungus can vary-- as with most conditions. You may not even need antibiotic treatment and might be able to fix the problem with over-the-counter topical creams and self-care--cleanliness being one of them. Generally, patients seek our help for aesthetic reasons, but that doesn’t mean nail fungus can’t wreak havoc! For some, lack of treatment can cause excessive thickening of the toe or fingernails, which in turn forces the toe to press against the inside of the shoes, causing pressure, irritation, and pain. This can interfere with walking, standing, or exercising.
How do the pros know it’s nail fungus?
Usually, we just know. Onychomycosis is easily identified by its appearance. However, there are similar conditions and infections that can cause nails to host a similar appearance. A definitive answer can come from laboratory tests before beginning treatment.
What are the risk factors?
You may be more prone to developing this pesky condition for the following reasons:
- Family history
- Advancing age
- Poor health
- Showering in communal showers—such as fitness clubs
- Habitually wearing shoes don’t allow proper airflow
- Illnesses such as diabetes can suppress the immune system and reduce blood circulation and nerve supply in your feet, making nail fungus more likely to occur and get worse.
How can I treat nail fungus?
Treatment depends on the severity, but some general options are:
- Wash your hands and feet regularly, and definitely wash them after touching an infected nail. Fungus can spread!
- Buy over-the-counter antifungal lotions and creams from your local pharmacy.
- Try moisturizing your nails.
- Trim your nails so they are smooth and file down any thickened areas. Always wash the tools you use afterwards!
- Opt for shoes that allow breathability. Fungus loves to live in dark, moist areas.
- Socks also matter. Try wearing sweat-absorbing socks and change them if they become wet.
- Fungus can be quite bothersome since it tends to come back. This is why it’s important to get rid of any shoes or socks that are potentially contaminated. If that seems too dramatic for your taste, make sure to give them a good, thorough clean!
- Be vigilant about where you walk. Places like saunas, pool areas and locker rooms are breeding grounds for fungus! That being said, wear footwear if you find yourself in any of these places.
- Buy Tolcylen Cream, a groundbreaking antifungal medication available without a prescription-and purchasable in our office! Proven to be more effective than over-the-counter treatment, this cream offers the ideal nail-fungus remedy. What is it and how does it work?
- Contains cosmetic and skin renewal agents
- Vanishing cream base
- Cures and prevents Athlete's Foot
- FDA approved
- Dispensed through touch-free, leak proof applicator
- Soft tube for comfy use
For more information, call our office at 571-418-8670 or schedule an appointment today!
Keep Calm and…Hammer On?
Hammer toes: the foot condition that is named after exactly what it sounds like. Although it might not come up in everyday conversation, it’s actually quite common--with more than 200,000 cases per year, according to Mayo Clinic. Yes, you guessed right. This problem causes your toes to look like the metal tool often found in your father’s garage collection.
Characterized by the bending of one or both joints, hammertoe is a deformity that causes your toe to curl downward or bend instead of remain in its natural position of pointing forward. Basically, your toes have gone rogue. It can affect any toe, but most often your second and third toes become the unfortunate chosen ones. You may have been born with it, but it tends to develop over time and can have a number of causes, such as arthritis, not wearing proper shoes, or even having a higher arch.The good news is: in most cases it is totally treatable!
How do I know if I have this foot ailment? Well, it’s not easy to miss. In addition to the fact your toe will bend--much like a hammer--you might experience other bothersome symptoms like corns, calluses, pain, irritation, and blisters. This is because the awkward position of the hammer toe causes it to rub against your shoe. Overtime, due to the constant friction between foot and footwear, hammertoes can become increasingly exacerbated. In fact, if left untreated, they can become rigid and open sores may form--and no one wants that!
What are the treatment options?
- Change your footwear. If you suffer from hammer toes, wearing tight, pointed shoes isn’t the best idea. Also, wearing shoes with heels elevate your foot and puts pressure on your toes. Opt for shoes that are wider and give your toes ample space.
- Consider investing in a custom orthotic shoe or device (such as a splint).
- Some people actually try taping their toes together to help with realignment.
- Get over-the-counter toe pads, insoles, cushions to help relieve some of the discomfort and to create a comfier barrier between your toes and the inside of the shoe.
- If your hammer toes have caused corns or calluses, we usually trim them down and treat them.
- Anti-inflammatory medication such as aleve can help lessen pain.
- Try very gently stretching your toes--just enough to help relieve tension and reposition the toe.
- A severe case of hammer toe might warrant surgery, and it often helps dramatically.
- Seek prompt treatment--the longer you wait, the more you worsen the problem! If treated, hammer toes typically go away and don’t come back.
As always, if you are suffering from this condition--or any podiatric issue--contact the Dynamic Foot and Ankle Center today and schedule an appointment. We’ll help find the right treatment option for you!
Selecting How You Stretch: Static vs. Dynamic
When choosing between static and dynamic stretching, it’s safe to say we’re a little biased. Hint: dynamic is a part of our name. All kidding aside, not everyone is aware that there are actually two types of stretching. Even more so, that both types serve different purposes depending on the kind of workout you’re doing. The truth is, podiatrists see a lot of sports-related injuries. Another truth: they can sometimes be prevented with the proper stretching.
What is static stretching?
Static stretching is the kind of stretching you might remember from way back in your early physical education classes. It involves elongating your muscles and holding them in a position anywhere from 15-30 seconds. This can be done in intervals, but the gold standard, according to The American College of Sports, is 3-5 times. Some good examples of static stretching are the classic hamstring stretch (when you reach for your toes while sitting on the floor) or side bends. The purpose of static stretching is to release tension and make the muscles less susceptible to strains or pulls. Note: stretching shouldn’t be painful, but you should be able to feel the stretch in whichever muscle you are extending.
When to use this stretch: You can perform static stretching before an athletic event, but research actually points towards its effectiveness after activity--when your muscles are still “pumped” up. The elgonating can release the post work out tension, soreness, and help with circulation.
What is dynamic stretching?
Dynamic stretching is considered an “active” warm-up. This type of prep stretch involves more movement than elongation. For example, lunges, trunk rotations, leg crossover, or even some classic yoga poses like the plank/cobra. The point of dynamic stretching is to repeatedly move your muscles and joints through full range of motion. This kind of stretching focuses on motion and priming your body for all the action. It also helps with flexibility and reduces the risk of potential injury.
When to use this stretch: Usually before high impact activity or before an athletic event/competition. This is because they help your body prepare for specific movements and give them a proper “we’re about to move” heads up. According to Livestrong, dynamic stretching increases your heart rate and body temperature, which in turn wakes up your brain, sending signals to your muscles to work efficiently.
Regardless of which method you prefer, we highly encourage incorporating stretching into your daily routine--even if you’re just taking a walk. While our bodies are incredibly impressive and adaptable machines, they still need a little preparation. Plus--the more you stretch, the less the risk of winding up in our office with an ankle strain!
Ready, Set, Go Get the Anti-Fungal!
One of the most common foot ailments that affects athletes is, ironically, named after them. Athlete’s Foot is a common problem that is typically contracted in damp, communal places such as public swimming pools, locker rooms, and gyms (where most athletes hang out). If you don’t don’t often find yourself in those kinds of places-you’re not exactly in the clear. You can still catch Athlete’s Foot in showers, nail salons--and just by living in a tropical climate.
Athlete’s Foot, otherwise known as its latin name tinea pedis, is an inflammatory skin condition caused by fungal growth on the feet. It can be located on any area of the foot--most commonly affecting the spaces between our toes and the sole. A variety of fungi can cause athlete's foot--but they aren’t the only culprit. The ailment can also come about due to contact dermatitis (an allergic reaction), a bacterial infection, and other skin diseases like pompholyx (eczema).
How do I know if I have athlete’s foot? Oh, you’ll know. It often appears as an itchy/painful red rash, typically beginning between the fourth and fifth toe. It may be mild for some, making them think it’s just a case of dry skin. For others, the rash may consist of blisters that ooze. If left untreated, the skin can become unsurprisingly raw and sensitive to touch. Or even worse, it might cause your skin to peel. Since you need your toes for walking, this aspect of Athlete's Foot can be quite bothersome--and pretty yucky!
As with any infection, your body becomes more susceptible when this ailment occurs, making you more prone to other bacterial infections--which is the last thing you need. In fact, patients with serious cases of Athlete’s Foot may develop a rash that covers the sole of the foot, known as “moccasin foot”--which is no better than its counterpart. As if this pesky condition couldn’t get more annoying….it’s also contagious. That’s right, touching someone with your feet through direct contact, or even sharing a shower can possibly spread this irritating problem. This is why it’s imperative you treat it right away, at the first sign of infection.
How do I treat/prevent Athlete’s Foot?
- For one, keep your feet as dry as possible (fungus doesn’t like places that aren’t damp).
- Use cotton socks and shoes that let your feet and toes breathe.
- If your feet have become raw and sensitive, make sure you’re not rubbing things against them. In other words, go friction-free.
- Try spraying antiperspirants in your shoes and on your feet, such as Scholls Fresh Step or Drysol.
- Try applying powder to your feet.
- There are numerous anti-fungal medications--both over the counter and prescription. Some examples are Lotrimin, Micatin, and Ketoconazole.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of Athlete’s Foot, contact us today for effective treatment options. The sooner you seek help, the better the chances of lessening the risk of exposure to others, and the faster you’ll feel better.
Bye, Bye Bunions!
So you’ve got buns--and not the cinnamon type. We’re talking about big ol’ bunions, otherwise known in the medical field by their latin term “hallux valgus.” They’re a nuisance, they don’t let you wear your favorite shoes, and more importantly, they can hurt. Whether genetically acquired, or a result of years of abnormal motion, one thing is clear: you’d like your bunions gone!
What exactly causes this bothersome bulge? Bunions are most often found on the inner foot near the big toe, but can sometimes be located on the fifth toe. While they can be painful, they’re actually a very common foot condition. Bunions arise from a biomechanical deformity. They develop when the first metatarsal bone in our feet turns outward and the big toe points inward, causing the joint to unpleasantly stick out. This misalignment puts pressure on the bursa. Bursae reside in the connective tissues of our bodies, and are fluid-filled sacs located at points of friction between a bone and the surrounding soft tissue. Even though they are tiny, they have a big role to play as our personal “pillows” between the bones, tendons, and muscles around a joint. Bunions occur when these cushions become inflamed and thickened, consequently creating painful and problematic bone formation that forces the toe out of alignment.
The most common symptoms of the pesky condition are: pain, redness, and extreme sensitivity. As the bunion growth progresses and the affected toe is pushed out of its natural place, it can even make it hard for people to do simple tasks such as walk. The interesting thing about bunions is that they are usually passed down from parents to children (the buns run in the family). However, they can also come about due to the manner in which we walk, or even the kind of shoes we wear. Shape (flat feet), action, pressure and movement are all possible factors. Some people have flexible joints and can tolerate bunions with less discomfort, but some might suffer from arthritis, causing stiff joints and increased pain.
All in all, bunions are no fun. Whether it’s sandal season or boot season, this condition can seriously impact your lifestyle--which is why we’re here to help! Treating bunions does not always require surgical intervention. In fact, there are many self-care and less invasive techniques to use which we will cover.
- Maintain a normal weight. Believe it or not, your weight can impact how badly your bunions bother you. This is because the joint at the base of our big toe carries much of our body’s weight while we walk.
- Wear the right shoes. Unfortunately, certain shoes can exacerbate certain foot conditions. In the case of bunions, heels are one of the shoes to try and avoid. The problem is they tip your body’s weight forward, forcing you to put immense pressure on your toes. In fact, according to research by Harvard University, women are ten times more likely to have bunions than men! Avoid narrow, pointy shoes and opt for a wider design that doesn’t squeeze your toes.
- Protect your bunions with pads. Cushions, gel-filled pads, moleskin, shoe inserts--there are numerous options to choose from. These devices will help you position your feet correctly, as well as absorb some of the discomfort.
- Opt for orthotics. These are molded shoe inserts that help to correct the mechanics that caused the bunions in the first place. Orthotics might keep the bunion from growing by keeping it in place and limiting abnormal movement.
- Em(brace) splints. Braces and splints are commonly used to help alleviate discomfort. While they won’t fix your bunions, they help keep your toe straight, thus minimizing pain. It may take a few tries to figure out which kind works best for you.
- Ice, ice baby. That’s right-the oldest trick in the book: apply ice. Of course, this won’t fix the problem, but it can help to numb pain by constricting blood vessels and reducing swelling.
- Try physical therapy. It might not repair the misalignment completely, but physical therapy can strengthen your foot muscles (including your toes). Types of exercises include stretching, or even pulling your big toe back into normal alignment for a few seconds at a time. You can even incorporate foot massages to relieve tension and pain.
- Use medication. We understand that some people aren’t fond of taking extensive amounts of medication for pain. Yet, sometimes it’s necessary. Over the counter anti-steroidal and anti-inflammatory pills such as Advil or Aleve might provide temporary relief.
- Surgery (last resort). Surgery is not only invasive and expensive, but requires post-operation recovery. We always encourage testing other treatment options before going under the knife. However, surgery truly is the only method proven to rectify bunions and the symptoms they cause. There are various procedures available performed by specialists.
- Visit Dynamic Foot and Ankle Center! We are more than happy to schedule an appointment to discuss treatment options with you. Your health and happiness is our priority.
The Revolutionary Treatment: Laser Therapy
Prepare the lasers! No, not in a Dr. Evil/Austin Powers kind of way. We are referring to the use of therapeutic medical lasers to help patients heal a variety of ailments. It may be surprising, but light has been used as a source of energy and healing for centuries. From the Ancient Greeks to the Egyptians and Romans, heliotherapy (the use of the sun to treat certain disorders) has been widely practiced.
In 1917, well-known genius Albert Einstein first explained the theory of stimulated emission, establishing the foundation for the laser as an effective therapy mechanism. He posited that it was possible to achieve amplified stimulated emission, and that the stimulated emission had the same frequency and phase as the incident radiation. In the late nineteen forties and fifties, scientists and engineers put their minds to work hoping to create a device based on the principle of stimulated emission. Many reputable scientists from around the globe were involved in this exciting process.
Now that we’ve used incredibly complex terms and covered the basis of laser therapy, we can discuss how it actually works. Therapeutic medical lasers heal tissue ailments by injecting billions of photons of invisible laser light deep into our body’s tissues. As if we weren’t already an impressive species--turns out our tissue naturally contains protein strands called chromophores, which allow us to absorb laser light energy and transform it into chemical energy. The resulting energy is used by the body to reduce pain and accelerate the healing process--au naturale. The biochemical increase in cell energy helps damaged cells become healthy again--reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow, and even tissue growth. To top it off, laser therapy provides safe and precise treatment, less pain and discomfort, less scarring, and shorter recovery times.
In podiatry, laser therapy can be used for numerous foot conditions:
-Toenail repair (including onychomycosis)
-Wounds that won’t heal
Back to the science, the initial goal was to construct a MASER (Microwave Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation) device. Scientists and engineers believed it was possible to create an optical MASER, a device that would emit powerful beams of light using higher frequency energy to stimulate what would later be coined, the lasing medium. Although these geniuses made groundbreaking contributions in the realm of physics, it was up to Theodore Maiman to take it a step further. In 1960, he invented the first laser by using a ruby as a lasing medium that was stimulated using high energy flashes of intense light. You read right--the colored gemstone that you’d normally wear around your neck!
Then, in 1967, Hungarian physician Endre Mester pioneered laser medicine--including the use of low level laser therapy (LLLT). Shortly after the first laser was invented, Mester did what physicians do best: experiment. In particular, he tested the effects of lasers on patients with skin cancer--landing him with the impressive credit of discovering positive biological effects of low power lasers.
In the late 1960’s, Mester reported that wounds were significantly healing with the use of his brainchild, low level radiation. In the years to follow, doctors and scientists would come to understand more about light’s nature and effects on the human body and integrate it into medical practices.
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until 2002 that the FDA approved its first Class III Therapy Laser in the United States. After performing randomized placebo-controlled studies using the ML830 laser for the temporary relief of wrist and hand pain associated with Carpal Tunnel, they discovered small, but noticeable, differences and declared it an alternative to using medication and physical therapy.
While it may not work for everyone, there is certainly evidence backing laser therapy as an alternative treatment. If you’re tired of frequent injections, being prescribed medications that simply aren’t working--or aren’t seeing results from physical therapy, we encourage you to try laser therapy. In fact, some of our patients with foot conditions have already seen incredible results.
At Dynamic Foot and Ankle Center, we believe in going above and beyond to find treatment options for our patients, which is why we adapt to the latest technological trends in the medical field. Using Aspen Laser Systems, a medical device company who continues to produce innovative photomedicine technology, we take full advantage of the potentially beneficial effects this revolutionary device can provide.
To learn more about our laser therapy treatments and what to expect, find the “Foot and Ankle Conditions” tab under menu, and then click on the “Laser” button at the bottom of the page.
Dealing with Diabetes
It’s safe to say 2017 was quite the eventful year. From celebrity scandals to movements of the people, we were constantly ‘kept on our toes’. However, something very important happened last year that was, unfortunately, kept in the dark. According to the American Association of Diabetes Educators, there was a reported 30.3 million people living with diabetes at the end of 2017--that’s 9.4% of the US population!
Even more alarming, of those 30.3 million people, 23.1 million are actually diagnosed, while 7.2 (23.8%) remain undiagnosed. The AADE dove even deeper into this issue, positing that prediabetes numbers indicate that 84.1 million adults (33.9% of the adult U.S population) have prediabetes--with 23.1 million adults aged 65 years or older.
So, what is this condition and how does it affect your body? Diabetes is a condition in which excessively high glucose levels in the blood can jeopardize the normal function of your body’s organs. That means your heart, kidneys, liver, eyes, legs, and blood vessels are at risk of disease from this pesky and complex ailment. Since it has the ability to affect so many parts of the body, it inevitably puts a strain on your immune system, making it hard to fight off infections. Basically, it can seriously get on your nerves. We’re not kidding--it can literally cause nerve damage, also known as diabetic neuropathy.
Why is this condition on a foot care website? Well, diabetes affects not only legs but also our feet. You see, diabetics encounter foot problems because high blood sugar levels cause significant nerve damage. An impaired nervous system is not able to effectively transmit and convey messages to and from the feet, leading to numbness-or not feeling your feet at all. It’s not surprising then, that the formation of blisters, ulcers, or cuts can easily happen. To top it off, a suppressed immune system makes it harder to heal the wounds. Abnormal sweat secretion and oil production can also put pressure on your twinkle toes while walking, causing a variety of skin problems-from dry feet to sores.
While it sounds like a disease you just can’t ditch, there are several ways you can cope with diabetes. For starters, self-management is crucial. That means making healthy food choices, staying active, wearing the right footwear (comfy over trendy!), inspecting your feet daily, monitoring your blood sugar levels, and taking all your prescribed medications.
If you suffer from diabetes, it’s important you take care of your feet by working with your doctor. After all, they are there to make sure you live a happy and healthy lifestyle! To learn more about the diabetic foot care treatments we offer at Dynamic Foot Care and Ankle Center, click on our "Foot & Ankle Conditions" tab and schedule an appointment with Dr. VonderLinden today!
‘Heeling’ The Pain
Anyone with heel pain is well aware of the havoc it can wreak on your lifestyle. Our feet literally “keep us going,” so any kind of pain is sure to disrupt daily activities-from walking to the fridge, to a trip to the grocery store. Heel pain is actually an extremely common affliction that has a variety of different causes. These include stress fractures, arthritis, nerve irritation, cysts, tendonitis and most often, plantar fasciitis. While they all have some pretty menacing titles, the good news is they are all treatable. Let’s focus on two of these common foot conditions
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the tissue that connects the heel to the toes becomes inflamed. This inflammation causes pain on the bottom of the heel that can continue to grow in intensity over time. Let’s be candid--the only thing you want growing over time is your bank account, not pain. You may be prone to developing this condition if the mechanics of your feet are a bit “rough around the edges.” In other words, you have naturally flat feet or excessively high arches. You may even have poor alignment that causes you to walk on the inner or outer edges of your feet-and not in the gracious manner of a ballerina. Being overweight or wearing improper shoes can also bring on this unpleasant condition that affects just about 10% of the population.
Yet, there is hope! Treatment options for plantar fasciitis include some good ol’ stretching, icing, footwear modifications, anti-inflammatory medications and weight reduction to lessen pressure on the feet. More severe cases can be treated with additional padding and orthotic devices, the use of a walking cast, night splints and physical therapy. As you can see, many of these options are obtainable from the comfort of your own home. All it takes is a few adjustments and finding out what works for you.
The second topic worthy of addressing is tendonitis, an incredibly common ailment that affects millions of Americans-and no, you don’t have to be Usain Bolt to be afflicted. While athletes do suffer more from this condition, nearly anyone can experience its bothersome effects.Tendonitis translates into overuse and inflammation of the tendon-the area of your body that is connected to the muscle and that helps you move. Whether it’s participating in a dance off, taking notes during a meeting, or running on a treadmill, tendonitis can creep up and interrupt.
It happens when the tendon gets irritated from being moved outside of regular motion. The inflammation makes movement painful. Just like plantar fasciitis, there are many causes: overuse of the area, increased level of exercise, the joy of simply aging, or an anatomical alignment (in which case surgery might be necessary). In the foot, the most common type of tendonitis is Achilles tendonitis, affecting the large tendon in the back of the ankle. This type of injury mostly occurs in middle-age recreational athletes. So unless you’re running 4ks, you shouldn’t have to worry too much.
There is light at the end of the tendonitis tunnel. Treatment options are quite similar to those of plantar fasciitis, including stretching, physical therapy, strengthening, applying ice and heat and anti-inflammatory medications. Sometimes, however, the best treatment is the classic act of resting. After all, our bodies do have an incredible way of ‘heeling’ themselves.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with us, click on the "Contact Us" tab and we'll be happy to get in touch!