Fungal infection of the toenail, or onychomycosis, typically appears as a gradual change in a toenail’s texture and color that involves brittleness and darkening. The fungal infection itself occurs beneath the surface of the nail. Aside from discoloration, other symptoms include the collection of debris beneath the nail plate, white marks on the nail plate, and a foul odor emanating from the nail. If ignored, the infection can spread into other nails and the skin; in severe cases, it can hinder one’s ability to work or walk.
The toenails are particularly vulnerable to contracting infection in moist environments where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as around swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms. Fungal infection may also be more likely to occur in nail beds that have been injured, and sufferers of chronic diseases such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immunodeficiency conditions are particularly prone to developing fungal nails.
Fungal nails can be primarily prevented by practicing proper hygiene and regularly examining the feet and toes. Carefully washing the feet with soap and water and thoroughly drying the feet afterwards are essential. Other tips include wearing shower shoes in public areas, changing shoes and socks daily, keeping toenails clipped at a short length, wearing breathable shoes that fit properly, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and disinfecting home pedicure tools and instruments used to cut nails.
Fungal nail treatment may vary between patients and the severity of the condition. Your podiatrist may suggest a daily routine of cleansing that spans over a period of time to ease mild infections. Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal agents may also be prescribed, including topical and/or oral medications. Debridement, or the removal of diseased nail matter and debris, may also be performed. In more severe cases, surgical treatment may be needed. In some instances, the temporary removal of the fungal nail allows for the direct application of a topical antifungal to the nail bed. In other cases, a chronically painful fungal nail that has not responded to other treatments may be permanently removed; this allows the infection to be cured and avoids the growth of a deformed nail.
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.
Foot Therapy for Sports Injuries
Athletes are used to engaging in high-intensity workouts. Consequently, athletes are at an increased risk for enduring foot or ankle injuries. The most common way to treat these types of injuries is the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). However, braces and casts may be required in some cases. If you are suffering from any of these injuries, it is best that you seek help from your podiatrist right away.
Achilles tendinitis is a type of overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, which is the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel. This type of injury commonly occurs in runners who increase the intensity of their workouts. Symptoms for this condition start off as a mild ache in the back leg or above the heel. Some people experience tenderness around the area in the morning, however this feeling tends to improve over time. If you suspect you have Achilles tendinitis, you doctor may order an x-ray to show whether your Achilles tendon has calcified. Common treatment options for this condition include rest, ice, exercise, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
Plantar Fasciitis is a condition that is commonly found in women. It is a painful condition that occurs when the bands of tissue that connect the heel to the toes become inflamed. Symptoms for plantar fasciitis are heel pain that worsens in the morning and improves throughout the day with activity. Your podiatrist will diagnose plantar fasciitis by checking for tender areas on your foot. In rare cases, an x-ray may be required for a more thorough examination. There are various treatment options that may be used to help someone with this ailment. Depending on the specific case, some of these options include: physical therapy, shockwave therapy, and in rare cases, surgery.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone that occur due to repetitive force. These fractures are typically the result of overuse injuries such as repeatedly running and jumping. Symptoms of a stress fracture include pain when exercising, tenderness, and mild swelling. To diagnose a stress fracture, your doctor will likely ask you a series of questions about your overall health and the activities you are involved in. Next, an x-ray will likely be performed to check for the fracture. In some cases, fractures don’t appear on x-rays until weeks afterward. In these cases, an MRI or a bone scan may be required. Typical stress fractures may be treated by resting the area and taking a break from highly intense activities.
Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that support the ankle are stretched far beyond their limits. These injuries occur when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle in an awkward way. Ligaments are essential in helping us move around because they are responsible for stabilizing the joints. Usually, sprained ankles occur due to ligaments on the outer part of the ankle becoming stretched. Symptoms of ankle sprains are swelling, bruising, instability of the ankle, and restricted range of motion. Normally, when people sprain their ankle, they will hear a popping sound during the injury. Depending on the severity, ankle sprains are graded based on how much damage has occurred to the ligaments. Grade 1 is mild, grade 2 is moderate, and grade 3 is severe.
The feet, being the foundation of the body, carry all of the body’s weight and are therefore prone to experiencing pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing foot pain, it is important to determine where in the foot you are experiencing this pain to help discover the cause of it. While pain can be experienced virtually anywhere in the foot, the most common sites of foot pain are in the heel and ankle.
Heel pain can be due to a multitude of conditions including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and heel spurs. Pain experienced in the ankle can be a sign of an ankle sprain, arthritis, gout, ankle instability, ankle fracture, or nerve compression. In more serious cases, pain in the foot can be a sign of improper alignment or an infection.
Foot pain can be accompanied by symptoms including redness, swelling, stiffness and warmth in the affected area. Whether the pain can be described as sharp or dull depends on the foot condition behind it. It is important to visit your local podiatrist if your foot pain and its accompanying symptoms persist and do not improve over time.
Depending on the location and condition of your foot pain, your podiatrist may prescribe certain treatments. These treatments can include but are not limited to prescription or over-the-counter drugs and medications, certain therapies, cortisone injections, or surgery.
If you are experiencing persistent foot pain, it is important to consult with your foot and ankle doctor to determine the cause and location. He or she will then prescribe the best treatment for you. While milder cases of foot pain may respond well to rest and at-home treatments, more serious cases may take some time to fully recover.