Oddly enough, there are a lot of Old Wives Tales and folk remedies surrounding warts. Perhaps you’ve even heard of some one them; however, if you end up dealing with one or clusters of these hard, skin-colored bumps you may be wondering how you got them and how to treat them. If you develop warts, particularly on the soles of your feet, this is something that your podiatrist can help you treat.
What are plantar warts?
All warts are the result of a virus that invades the skin through cuts or tiny open wounds. Warts, especially on the feet, can be mistaken for a corn or callus; however, unlike corns or calluses that often go away in a couple of weeks, it can take years for a wart to go away. During this time, warts can also spread to other areas of the body including the hands and face.
How do I know that I have plantar warts?
If you’ve never had a wart before you may not be able to distinguish this growth from other common foot problems. This is where a podiatrist can help. A foot doctor can diagnose warts through a simple physical exam. Plantar warts can cause pain, particularly when standing or walking. Patients who have diabetes or circulation problems in their feet should seek immediate medical care if they develop warts or experience any changes in their feet.
How are plantar warts treated?
While warts can go away on their own this can usually take years for the body to fight off the viral infection. Since plantar warts can be uncomfortable or even painful many people turn to a podiatrist to treat warts. The type of treatment that your foot doctor will recommend will depend on the size, amount and location of the wart or warts. Common wart treatments include:
- Medication: a special acid-based medication (e.g. salicylic acid) is applied to the skin where the acid will break down the wart. Several applications may be required over the course of several weeks in order to get rid of the wart.
- Freezing: sometimes warts can be frozen off through a procedure known as cryotherapy
- Curettage: this is the surgical removal of a wart using a special scalpel (local anesthesia is applied to the area to numb it before treatment)
- Laser: laser treatment can also be used to breakdown and destroy the wart
It’s important to protect your feet from potential reinfection. If you are prone to developing plantar warts then talk with your podiatrist about measures you can take to keep your feet healthy and free from infection.
One wrong step and you could just end up dealing with a sprained ankle. A sprain occurs when the ankle suddenly rolls inwards or outwards, which jolts the ankle joint out of place and also overstretches (and perhaps even tears) the ligaments and tendons of the ankles. These tendons also provide the feet with support. It’s important to understand how to best care for a sprained ankle and when you should see a podiatrist for care.
You could be dealing with an ankle sprain if you experience:
- Ankle pain
- Limited range of motion
- Trouble putting weight on the ankle
If you suspect that you have sprained your ankle it’s important to call your podiatrist right away. A foot doctor will be able to discuss your symptoms with you and then determine whether you should come in for an immediate evaluation. A doctor will also provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan that will promote a fast and complete recovery.
There are different degrees of a sprain and the way your podiatrist recommends treating the injury will depend on its severity and the symptoms you are experiencing. Mild sprains can often be managed with simple home treatment. This includes resting and staying off the ankle as much as possible as well as:
- Bandaging or wrapping the ankle
- Wearing an ankle braces
- Using crutches (for more serious sprains)
- Elevating your ankle to reduce swelling
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Taking pain relievers like ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling
- Not putting weight on the ankle
- Icing the ankle 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a day (for the first 48 hours after injury)
It can take up to 10 days for a mild sprain to heal, while more severe sprains can take several weeks. When you come into the office for an evaluation, your podiatrist will also discuss how long you should stay off the ankle and avoid certain activities.
It is rare for a sprained ankle to require surgery; however, if there is significant damage to the ligaments that could lead to long-term instability and other issues, or if your symptoms do not improve with home care, then your foot and ankle doctor may recommend surgery to repair the torn ligament.
With proper and prompt care an ankle sprain should heal completely and not require additional treatment; however, the minute you experience symptoms of a sprained ankle or ankle injury you should see your podiatrist as soon as possible.
An ingrown toenail is a common foot problem that occurs when the corner of a toenail, usually the big toe, grows into the skin. As you might imagine, this can cause pain and swelling in the affected area. If you are a healthy individual you can often treat the ingrown toenail with simple at-home care; however, patients with diabetes, nerve damage in the feet or signs of a foot infection should always see a podiatrist as soon as possible.
Causes of an Ingrown Toenail
There are several factors that could increase your risk for developing an ingrown toenail. These include:
- Heredity: if your family has a history of ingrown toenails you may be more likely to develop them, too.
- Poorly fitted shoes: shoes that are too tight and cramp up the toes can also cause painful ingrown toenails, particularly in teens whose feet are still growing rapidly
- Improper nail trimming: if you cut your nails too short or if you cut them at an angle rather than cutting them straight across you could be leaving yourself prone to an ingrown toenail
- Injury to the toe: jamming or stubbing the toe can also increase the risk of an ingrown toenail (this is most common in athletes)
Treating an Ingrown Toenail
If there are no signs of an infection (e.g. foul odor; skin that’s hot to the touch) and you are otherwise healthy then you can probably treat the ingrown toenail all by yourself from the comfort of your home. Take frequent Epsom salt soaks and apply an antibiotic cream to the area to prevent infection. Again, if there is no infection you can soak nails for several minutes so that they soften, and then gently clip away the affected area of the nail.
If you are experiencing signs of an infected ingrown toenail or if you have diabetes and develop an ingrown toenail it’s important that you seek a podiatrist’s care right away. A podiatrist can treat the infection while also removing part of or the entire nail so that it grows in properly.
Preventing Ingrown Toenails
While there are certain factors such as heredity that cannot be helped, there are certainly measures you can take to reduce your risk for ingrown toenails. For one, always make sure that you wear properly fitted shoes that do not put pressure on the toes.
Secondly and most importantly, you need to know how to properly trim your toenails. Nails should be level with the tips of your toes. If nails are cut too short or if you trim your nails so they are curved at the edges rather than straight then an ingrown toenail is more likely to develop as the nail grows out.
Athletes should also make sure that they are wearing appropriate footwear for their chosen sport. Not all tennis shoes are created equally so if you have any questions about the footwear that you should wear, don’t hesitate to speak with your foot doctor.
Toenail fungus is a common problem that can be rather challenging to get rid of. While toenail fungus can happen to anyone it most often occurs in older adults. If you are noticing that one of your toenails has thickened, become brittle and turned yellow then chances are good that you are dealing with a toenail fungus.
What causes a fungal infection in the toenail?
A toenail fungal infection, known as onychomycosis, is the result of a fungal known as a dermatophyte. While less common, molds and yeasts can also infect the toenails. The reason older adults are more prone to fungal nail infections is because nails dry out as we age, which leads to cracks within the nail. These cracks make it easier for a fungal infection to get inside the nail.
Fungal is all around us. They are more often found in warm, dark, and damp places such as communal locker rooms and showers, gyms, and local swimming pools. It’s also possible to get a toenail fungus from a nail salon so it’s important to know the hygiene and sterilization practices of your local nail salon to make sure that you aren’t at risk for developing a fungal infection.
Treating Toenail Fungus
The good news it that healthy individuals may be able to tackle their toenail fungus on their own with over-the-counter medication. If you don’t have a weak immune system, diabetes or circulation problems then you may choose to try at-home treatments first before turning to a doctor. Those with circulation disorders or diabetes should see their podiatrist right away for treatment if they notice symptoms of a fungal infection. Not seeking treatment could greatly increase a person’s risk for bacterial infections and other potentially serious complications.
There are many over-the-counter products available to treat fungal infections. You will want to find a treatment that is geared specifically to treating fungal infections of the nail. Talk with your local pharmacist to find out the best treatment option. Over-the-counter antifungal medications often come in the form of a cream, ointment or nail polish that you will need to apply regularly for several weeks. If these medications don’t work then it’s time to talk with your foot doctor.
A foot doctor offers a variety of effective strategies for getting rid of toenail fungal infections. The most common treatment option is an oral antifungal medication that works systemically to kill the fungus. This medication is taken for several weeks but you won’t actually see results until the nail grows out clear, which can take up to four months or longer.
Other treatment options include:
- Medicated nail polish
- Laser fungal treatment
- Nail removal surgery (in rare cases)
If you are dealing with a pesky nail fungus then turn to your podiatrist to discover the best strategies for getting rid of this infection as quickly as possible.
While heel pain is a common problem this doesn’t mean that it should just be brushed aside or considered a small matter. Untreated heel pain can lead to long-term pain and other problems. While there are many causes of heel pain the most common cause is plantar fasciitis. This condition causes irritation and inflammation within the thick band of tissue (known as the plantar fascia) that runs along the soles of the feet from the toes to the heel.
The telltale sign of plantar fasciitis is that the heel pain occurs under the heel beneath the heel bone. The pain may radiate to the arches of the feet because the plantar fascia provides support to the arches, as well. Heel pain may be worse first thing in the morning or after long bouts of inactivity. You may notice that your heel pain gets better with movement and exercise but gets worse immediately after.
Many people can treat plantar fasciitis effectively with at-home care; however, if your symptoms are severe, become worse or aren’t responding to conservative home treatments after five days then it’s time to see your podiatrist. A podiatrist will be able to provide you with answers as to what is causing your heel pain and how to best treat it.
Treating Plantar Fasciitis
Simple, conservative measures are usually all that’s needed to treat heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis. This includes:
- Resting and avoiding exercise and high-impact activities that will make symptoms worse
- Icing the heel and arches of the feet up to 20 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day
- Wearing supportive shoes with a low heel
- Placing custom orthotics within shoes for additional support
- Performing specific foot stretching and strengthening exercises
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and swelling
- Wearing a night splint to reduce morning pain and stiffness
Your foot doctor can show you a variety of exercises to perform that can alleviate heel pain and stiffness associated with plantar fasciitis. A podiatrist can also make prescription shoe inserts to provide your feet with the proper cushioning and structural support they need to reduce pressure points and improve the biomechanics of your feet.
Those with severe and persistent heel pain may require more aggressive treatment options such as ultrasound, steroid injections or shockwave therapy. Chronic plantar fasciitis may even require surgery to get rid of inflammation and tension within the plantar fascia. Surgery is rare but may be necessary when other treatment options have failed to properly manage and treat symptoms.
If you are dealing with heel pain for the first time it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist who can determine the cause of your pain and provide you with a customized treatment plan to get your heel pain under control.
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