Philadelphia Tri-state Area Podiatrists Answer Foot Health Questions
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Why are my nails becoming thick and discolored?
A fungal infection is the most common cause of nails becoming thick or discolored. It can involve just one or multiple nails. Everyone has many organisms living on their skin and nails; referred to as "normal flora." This normal flora consists of certain bacteria, yeasts, and dermatophytes (fungus). If someone suffers trauma to the nail or is on immune suppressing medication, such as prednisone or chemotherapy, they can become susceptible to the development of a fungal infection on their nails.
A definitive diagnosis can be made by culturing a portion of the nail. Treating the fungal nail infection may involve topical or oral anti-fungals, debridement / thinning of the nail, or improving hygiene by daily washing and drying of the feet. It helps to change socks and shoes at least twice each day and letting air get to the feet when possible. The hardening and discoloration of nails happens to many people of all ages, the good news is that it’s treatable.
Do I have a wart on my foot?
Maybe. A growth on the foot that might resemble a wart could be a clogged up sweat gland on the bottom of the foot. There are roughly 250, 000 sweat glands on the bottom of each foot. What might look like a wart could be a clogged up sweat gland, a callous, or a skin cyst. The Healthmark doctors know how to make a proper identification of what dermal formations are present on your feet.
Can I just cut or rip off my warts instead of seeing a doctor?
Absolutely not. Filing, ripping, picking, burning, or cutting a wart on your own will most often make the presence of warts even worse on the foot and potentially on other skin areas of the body. This can result in infection or further spreading of the warts. The wart will either get larger or more numerous. The doctors at Healthmark have the best procedural knowledge for treating and removing plantar warts of the foot.
Should I just go to a pharmacy and buy an over-the-counter plantar wart treatment, instead of seeing a foot doctor?
You can try it, but it is not advised by most physicians. The over-the-counter treatments can cause inflammation, infection, or make the warts spread even more. Misuse of certain over-the-counter plantar wart medicines can result in chemical skin burns. Your foot doctor at Healthmark Foot and Ankle will know the best and the most effective treatments for your particular plantar wart case.
I don’t want to have hammertoe surgery, but the pain is killing me. Is there anything else I can do?
There may be a way to avoid surgery, but it depends on the nature of your condition. There are a number of non-surgical treatment options, and all of them should be applied before considering surgery.
For example, toe padding and foot orthotics can greatly relieve the pressure on your misshapen toe, giving you back some of the lost balance and dexterity in your foot. Pads can also be used to protect the top of the toe from rubbing against the insides of your shoes, preventing corns and calluses from forming.
The most effective non-surgical method for relieving hammertoe pain is wearing shoes with enough room to allow the bent toe to stretch completely, and a wide enough toe box to accommodate all of the toes without crowding. Since recurrence of the condition is one of the most common hammertoe surgery side effects, your doctor may want to counsel you on your footwear choices—whether or not you decide to have surgery.
Hammertoe surgery may be necessary only if your toe deformity is:
- Extremely painful
- Interfering with your normal daily activities
- Rigid (unable to be bent or flexed)
- Unchanged after all non-surgical treatments have been tried
The trusted Philadelphia podiatrists at HealthMark Foot & Ankle Associates can tell you if you are a good candidate for hammertoe surgery in your first consultation. Call us today at 610-565-3668 in Media or 610-933-8644 in Phoenixville to get started.
Want more information on living a foot-pain-free life? Click the link at the top of this page, and we’ll send you a FREE copy of our book, The Foot is Not an Island: Recognizing Vitamin D Deficiency & How to Correct It.
Who is likely to suffer a heel spur?
While there are certain risk factors for bone spurs, the truth is that no one is immune from the condition. In fact, many people have bone spurs throughout their bodies without ever experiencing any pain. However, heel spurs are a specific type of bone spur that is typically found at the back or underside of the heel, causing pain as it burrows into the surrounding tissues—and certain people are more prone to get them than others.
The following people are most likely to suffer the pain of a heel spur in Philadelphia:
- Middle-aged patients. Heel spurs are most often seen in middle-aged patients because the bones and ligaments are more likely to degenerate, causing a lack of tension and padding in the foot.
- Women. Tight or constricted footwear is a major cause of foot problems, including bone spurs. High heels in particular contribute to spurs as they place added pressure on the heel.
- Plantar fasciitis sufferers. Heel spurs are very common in patients who have a history of plantar fasciitis, a foot condition that involves the swelling of the long tendon beneath the foot. In these cases, the spur may be secondary; the majority of the pain is caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia.
The podiatrists at HealthMark Foot & Ankle Associates can help you discover if a heel spur or plantar fasciitis is causing you pain. An x-ray will help conclude what type of treatment will work for you, getting you on the road to recovery from your first consultation.
To find the solution for your heel spurs today, call us at 610-565-3668 in Media or 610-933-8644 in Phoenixville to set up an appointment.
What is hyperkeratosis?
Hyperkeratosis means “thickening skin,” and can occur with a number of different foot conditions. Hyperkeratosis on its own is not necessarily painful or even worrisome, as long as it is not being caused by an underlying condition.
For example, there may be thickened skin on your heels or the soles of your feet. This is your body’s natural reaction to pressure and a way of protecting your body from injury and infection. If you were to walk barefoot on a thorn or step on a spider, the calluses on your feet will reduce the pain or sting, protecting the rest of your body.
However, thickened skin can also be a symptom of a bigger problem. Corns are often covered by a hardened layer of skin, but it is not the callus that is causing the pain. Calluses—and corns—occur in areas of continual pressure. Most often, this pressure is caused by tight or badly-fitted shoes. The corn develops much like a grain of sand at the center of a pearl. The longer the patient wears the shoes, the more layers of skin will build to protect the injury, like an oyster covering the sand to make it smooth.
Eventually, as the corn grows, the pressure will become unbearable and the patient will either have to change footwear to allow the corn to recede or undergo corn removal surgery.
In order to find corn pain relievers that work, it is important to remember that friction and pressure are the only ways a person can suffer a corn. By removing the source of pressure, many patients will experience immediate relief as they allow the corn to heal.
For more corn removal advice from a trusted Philadelphia podiatrist, contact HealthMark Foot & Ankle Associates today at 610-565-3668 in Media or at 610-933-8644 in Phoenixville to set up a consultation.
Is it true that people who are always barefoot don’t get athlete’s foot?
There have been a lot of studies lately about the positive aspects of going barefoot—and one of these is a reduced risk of athlete’s foot. In a recent study published in The Journal of the National Association of Chiropodists, researchers discovered that less than 1% of habitually barefooted people in China and India ever suffered from athlete’s foot.
There are a number of reasons why barefooted populations do not suffer athlete’s foot, including:
- Ventilation. Bare feet have maximum airflow on all surfaces, as well as being exposed to sunlight, a natural fungal deterrent.
- Hardy skin. Walking barefoot encourages tougher skin on the soles, making it harder for the fungus to take hold.
- Toe shape. Regular shoe-wearing forces toes to grow firmly pressed together, encouraging cramped spaces where fungus can thrive. However, people who have never worn shoes have splayed toes, giving the fungus no safe environment to grow.
While it may seem like going barefoot is a good way to relieve common athlete’s foot symptoms, you must remember that it will only be effective in an all-barefoot population. For those who must wear shoes for work and daily walking, it will not be as effective—especially if others who are going barefoot are spreading the fungus to other surfaces.
Going barefoot even in your own home can be problematic, since you can infect family members or even spread a healing infection back to yourself, resulting in a recurring case of athlete’s foot. Walking in clean, dry socks and well-ventilated shoes remain the best forms of treatment for a shoe-wearing society—both to relieve your suffering and stop the spread of infection.
For more foot care tips from a trusted Philadelphia podiatrist, contact HealthMark Foot & Ankle Associates today at 610-565-3668 in Media or at 610-933-8644 in Phoenixville to set up a consultation.
There is a lot of redness on my legs and feet. Is that a symptom of scleroderma?
It could be. If your doctor warned you about systemic sclerosis, you are right to be on the lookout for possible early warning signs.
In most cases, redness or spotting on the skin in scleroderma patients is caused by telangiectasias. These are tiny blood vessels that burst under the surface of the skin, which gives the affected area a spotted or mottled appearance. These can develop anywhere on the body, but are most commonly seen on a patient’s face, legs, upper thighs, ankles, and just below the knee joint.
Many patients do not like the bruised look that telangiectasias give their skin. Some opt for dermatological treatment, such as pulsed dye laser treatment, to break down the broken blood vessels. However, this treatment commonly takes three to four treatments to work effectively, causes intense stinging sensations on the skin, and may bruise the area for a few weeks afterwards.
Telangiectasias are usually only a cosmetic problem and do not cause a patient any suffering. However, there have been cases where these blood vessels bleed in dangerous areas of the body (such as the brain), causing complications and potential injury.
If you are having scleroderma problems in PA, you should have any discoloration or redness of the feet inspected by your podiatrist. It could be burst blood vessels, but it could also signify trouble with your circulation, or you may be suffering from an infection.
The podiatrists at HealthMark Foot & Ankle Associates are available at two different Philadelphia locations to answer your scleroderma questions. Call us today for an appointment in Media at 610-565-3668 or in Phoenixville at 610-933-8644.
Will I need bunion surgery?
Patients often think that surgery is the only permanent way to relieve bunion pain. However, depending on your level of injury, you may not have to undergo surgical treatment—and you can still experience a full recovery.
Doctors usually recommend bunion surgery only as a last resort for treatment, for a number of reasons:
- Bunions can still return after surgery. Patients who believe surgery will relieve bunions “once and for all”—and who do not change their footwear habits—are often discouraged when the bunions reappear.
- Surgery may not alter your foot’s appearance. Patients who are considering surgery for aesthetic reasons may be disappointed that their foot’s appearance did not improve.
- Surgery may affect flexibility. Surgery can stiffen the big toe joint, which may be troubling to athletes or others who require a full range of motion in the big toe.
- You will need to rest after surgery. You will have to stay inactive and off of your foot for weeks after surgery. Any attempt to hurry the healing process can cause further damage to the joint.
- Your foot may change shape during surgery. While every effort may be made to match your foot to its twin, your foot may become narrower or otherwise asymmetrical to the other.
In many cases, bunions may be corrected with footwear improvements, orthotics, and other devices that can correct the toe joint to its proper position. Our Media podiatrists can help you decide which option is right for you in your first consultation. Call HealthMark Foot & Ankle Associates today in Media at 610-565-3668 or in Phoenixville at 610-933-8644 to get started.