December Articles 2018

Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are growths that typically appear on the heels or other weight-bearing areas of the feet. These warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus enters the body through breaks in the skin, such as cuts, that are on the bottom of the feet. Plantar warts are more likely to affect children and teenagers, people with weakened immune systems, people who have a history with plantar warts, and people who walk barefoot in environments exposed to a wart-causing virus.

If you suspect you have plantar warts, you may have the following symptoms: pain or tenderness while walking, a lesion that interrupts the ridges in the skin of your foot, small fleshy lesions on the bottom of the foot, or a callus where a wart has grown inward over a well-defined spot on the skin.

HPV causes plantar warts to form and is very common. There are more than 100 kinds of the virus in existence. However, only a few of them cause warts on the feet. The other types of HPV are likely to cause warts on other parts of the body.

If you have plantar warts, your podiatrist may try different treatment methods depending on your specific case. Some treatments for plantar warts are peeling medicines (salicylic acid), freezing medicines (cryotherapy), or surgical procedures. Laser treatments and vaccines are also used to treat plantar warts.



Stretching Your Feet

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.



Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail is a nail that has curved downward and grown into the skin.  This typically occurs at either the nail borders or the sides of the nail.  As a result, pain, redness, swelling, and warmth may occur in the toe.  If a break in the skin forms due to the ingrown nail, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area; this is typically characterized by a foul odor and drainage.

Ingrown toenails have multiple reasons for developing.  In many instances, the condition is a result of genetics and is inherited.  The most common cause, however, is improper trimming; cutting the toenails too short forces the skin beside the nail to fold over.  An ingrown toenail can also develop due to trauma, such as stubbing the toe, having an object fall on the toe, or participating in activities that involve repeated kicking or running.  Wearing shoes that are too tight or too short can also cause ingrown toenails.

Treatment for an ingrown toenail varies between patients and the severity of the condition.  In most cases, it is best to see your podiatrist for thorough and proper treatment.  After examining your toe, your podiatrist may prescribe oral antibiotics to clear the infection if one is present.  Surgical removal of either a portion of the nail or the entire nail may also be considered.  In some cases, complete removal or destruction of the nail root may be required.  Most patients who undergo nail surgery experience minimal pain afterward and can return to normal activity the following day.

Ingrown toenails can be prevented with proper nail trimming and by avoiding improper-fitting shoes.  When cutting the toenails, be sure that you are cutting in a straight line and avoid cutting them too short.  Shoes should not be too short or tight in the toe box.



Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels may make you want to think twice about showing off your feet in warmer weather. However, cracked heels may be harmful to more than just the appearance of your feet. If deep fissures and cracks develop in your heels, they may make walking and standing painful for you. Additionally, these openings make way for germs to enter through your skin and cause infection.

There are several different causes of cracked heels. One of the most common reasons for this ailment is dry skin. This problem may make your keeps feel rough tight and itchy. Dry skin may be caused by cold air, extremely hot water, harsh soaps, and aging. Skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis may eventually lead to dry skin. In some cases, complications may arise from cracked heels. Some of these complications are a loss of feeling in the heel, cellulitis, or a diabetic foot ulcer.

There are ways you can try to prevent getting cracked heels. One of the best ways to do so is to avoid wearing flip flops and sandals because these shoes increase your risk of drying out your feet. You should also avoid wearing shoes with a tall skinny heel, because these shoes cause your heel to expand sideways. At night, you should slather on a thick moisturizing cream on your feet and then cover them in socks to keep your feet moisturized overnight. Drinking water to stay hydrated is also a good way to ensure that your skin doesn’t become dry.

If you suffer from a severe case of cracked feet, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist to see what treatment methods are best for you.

LeKeisha Y. George, DPM, Forest Hills Podiatric Medical Care, 71-11 110th Street, Forest Hills, NY 11375 718-520-8811