Fungus Toenails

Thick, ugly toenails.

Everyone has seen them, nobody wants them! People often associate these unhealthy nails with fungal infection.
In truth, about 40-50% of thick, discolored toenails are due to fungal infection. The other 50-60% aredue to a variety of other conditions, including psoriasis, lichen planus, injury, and , most commonly, degenerative changes of the nail.

T is important to determine the exact cause of diseased toenails, as the treatment varies based on the cause. Your podiatrist can determine the diagnosis by taking a small clipping of the nail and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. When the results are available, treatment options can be discussed.

As mentioned, about half of cases are due to fungus infection. This is called onychomycosis or tineaunguim. The incidence of this condition increases with age, affecting 60% of people in their 60s, 70% of people in their 70s, 80% of people in their 80s, and so forth. The most common fungal organisms causing nail infections are called dermatophytes. These are fungi that can only infect skin and nail, and cannot get into your body or bloodstream. They are not highly contagious from person to person. It is known that fungal nail infections often follow nail injury, and can be aggravated by the moist, hot environment of the shoe.

You do not have to live with thick, ugly toenails. Make an appointment with one of our doctors and let us help you!

Overweight, Obesity and Foot Pain

Obesity is a true epidemic. According to World Health Organization statistics, worldwide obesity incidence has tripled since 1975, with 1.9 billion people being overweight and 650 million being obese. In the USA, 36.5% of the population is obese, and it is expected that by 2030, the incidence will climb to 50%. More alarming is the fact that childhood obesity rates have increased from 4% in 1975 to 18% currently.

Overweight and obesity are associated with higher rates of foot and ankle problems that in normal weight individuals. Additionally, certain conditions are more common in overweight people. These include heel pain, plantar fasciitis, midfoot pain, acquired flatfoot, arthritis, as well as edema (swelling),vein problems (including varicose veins and thrombophlebitis), balance problems, gait problems, knee pain, hip pain, back pain, and poor foot function. Diabetes is also associated with obesity.

Overweight children are especially prone to foot problems, especially flatfoot deformity. These conditions, if untreated, can lead to more serious problems in adulthood.

Since the foot has to support the weight of the entire body, it makes sense that excess body weight puts additional stress on the foot. Controlling the foot’s motion and position are essential in the overweight patient.

Most painful foot and ankle conditions in the overweight patient can be managed with conservative care. This often starts with some type of in-shoe orthotic device. We can provide both over-the-counter and custom made devices for this purpose. Additionally, we can provide various types of braces that can be used for many conditions.

All overweight children should be evaluated by a podiatrist. Postural and gait abnormalities in these children , if not treated early, can lead to arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems in adulthood.

In summary, although many foot and ankle problems are seen in overweight and obese people, most can be treated regardless of weight. A thorough foot and ankle examination is recommended for all overweight and obese individuals, even if no symptoms are currently present.

TOE WALKING IN CHILDREN

Most of us have observed small children walking on their tip-toes. About 5% of children toe-walk. Often, this is a phase or habit which stops after a short time. In other cases, however, it can represent a problem requiring treatment.

Any child who continuously walks on their toes should be evaluated by a podiatrist. The podiatrist will observe the child’s gait and will examine range of motion and strength of the foot and leg. Sometimes, an X-ray may be taken to rule out bone or joint abnormalities.

The majority of cases of toe-walking are “idiopathic” or habitual. These cases have no identifiable underlying cause, but often still require treatment.

Another common cause of toe-walking is called “equinus”, which is tightness of the Achilles tendon and the muscles of the back of the leg. This tightness pulls the Achilles tendon down too much as the child walks.
A third cause of toe-walking is neuromuscular or neurodevelopmental disorders. These are often subtle and can be difficult to diagnose.

The treatment of toe-walking is dependent on the underlying condition. Stretching, bracing devices, and in-shoe orthotic devices are all effective in helping to eliminate toe-walking and develop a normal gait. Rarely, surgical intervention may be necessary.

If your child is a toe-walker, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us.

Flip-flops and your feet

Florida living promotes the casual lifestyle and casual attire, including flip-flops. These skimpy sandals are seen everywhere. The variety of available flip-flops is endless, from the cheap, dollar-store type to contoured, thick-soled flip-flops to elegant sequined sandals.

Are flip-flops a healthy choice of footwear? According to extensive biomechanical research conducted over the last ten years, no! To keep the flip-flop on during gait, the toes must bend and grasp the sole of the shoe with each step. This strains several tendons of the foot, resulting in compensatory problems such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Some studies have also associated flip-flop use with knee and back pain.

Flip-flops are especially dangerous for people with neuropathy and for those with balance problems, as they can increase fall risk. They can put diabetic patients at risk for chafing, getting foreign bodies in the shoe, and for microtrauma.

Despite the potential risks, many people will continue to wear flip-flops. If one chooses to do so, a more supportive type with a thicker sole that is contoured for the arch , such as the Vionic product, is recommended. This will reduce some of the strain on the arch and forefoot.

The doctors at Melbourne Podiatry Associates stand ready to answer any questions that you may have regarding flip-flops or any other footwear.

And Lower Extremity Stress Fractures

Dr. Breithaupt was puzzled. The year was 1855, and this Prussian army doctor was noticing that many of his young military recruits were experiencing severe pain in their feet or ankles early in their basic training, particularly after prolonged marching. Dr. Breithaupt discovered that the soldiers were actually developing incomplete fractures of the bones from overuse. He called the condition “march foot , and wrote the first paper describing it. Today we call it “stress fracture”.

Stress fractures are defined as incomplete partial fractures of bones. They comprise 10% of all sports injuries, with 99% of them occurring in the lower extremity.

Unlike “pathological fractures” which occur in weakened or porotic bone (especially in elderly patients), stress fractures occur in otherwise healthy bone due to repetitive mechanical loading. It non-athletes, they often occur when a sedentary period is followed by a sudden increase in activity, or performance of an unaccustomed activity. In athletes, they occur after increasing level of training too quickly.

Risk factors for stress fractures include female gender, increased chronologic age, white race, smoking, obesity, long-term alcohol use, and sedentary lifestyle.

The signs and symptoms of stress fracture include localized pain of relatively sudden onset without a specific injury. Some swelling may be present. Pain is aggravated by activity and is relieved by rest. The most common area involved as the top of the forefoot, in the area of the metatarsal bones.

Diagnoses in the early stage of the injury may be difficult. Although clinical signs are suspicious, the stress fracture will often not appear on x-ray for the first 2 weeks. Diagnostic ultrasound or MRI are valuable in the diagnoses of an early stress fracture and in the confirmation of the diagnosis.

Treatment is fairly simple and is highly successful. Modified activity and immobilization of the affected area for a period of time is the preferred treatment. Often, a removable walking boot will be utilized for more rapid and effective healing.

If you have pain and or localized swelling in the lower extremity, it might be a stress fracture. Seek a consultation from our doctors at Melbourne Podiatry Associates.

Varicose and Spider Veins of the Leg

Are you one of the 25 million Americans suffering from varicose veins? This condition affects 50% of all women and 40% of all men, with the incidence increasing with age. Over 70% of people over age 70 years have the condition.
What exactly are varicose veins? Veins are the blood vessels that bring blood back to the heart. They contain valves that prevent backflow of blood. If these valves fail, the blood “refluxes”, or back flows , causing the vein to become engorged. These engorged veins are referred to as “varicose veins”, “reticular veins”, or “spider veins”, depending on their size.

The engorged veins of all sizes are cosmetically unsightly. However, they can also cause problems such as leg swelling, burning, pain, itching, restless leg symptoms, skin breakdown (ulceration), and skin damage (dermatitis).
In addition to age, risk factors for varicose veins include female gender, obesity, heredity, estrogen therapy, and prolonged standing.

Treatment of varicose veins usually involves foam sclerotherapy, a painless injection of a sclerosant medication to disintegrate the damaged section of vein. Other treatments include radiofrequency ablation, compression to reduce the swelling caused by the varicose vein, and mini-phlebectomy, a simple office procedure done under local anesthesia in which a varicose vein is removed via a series of mini-incisions.

The doctors at Melbourne Podiatry Associates are experts in the treatment of lower extremity venous conditions including varicose veins. If you suffer from this condition, please call our offices for a consultation.

EQUINUS AND ACHILLES TENDON PROBLEMS

Just as with the mighty Greek warrior Achilles, whose only weak spot was his Achilles tendon (for whom it is named), the Achilles tendon continues to cause pain in people today.

The Achilles tendon begins in the muscles in the back of the calf and attaches to the back of the heel bone. Although ruptures , or tears, of the tendon are commonly treated injuries, most Achilles tendon problems are due to abnormal tightness.

Abnormal tightness of the Achilles tendon itself is referred to as “equinus”, from the Latin “equus”, meaning “horse”. The Achilles tendon pulls the foot down, or “plantarflexes” it. When tested, if the ankle cannot move up at least ten degrees from the neutral position, the patient is considered to have an equinus condition. Symptoms associated with equinus include Achilles tendinitis, pain in the back and/or bottom of heel (retrocalcaneal bursitis and plantar fasciitis), calf muscle pain, bunions, pain and/or calluses of the forefoot, arch pain, knee pain, back pain and toe-walking.

Fortunately, equinus and its symptoms are usually effectively treated with conservative measures including stretching, bracing, orthotics, physical therapy modalities, and anti-inflammatory medications. Although rarely necessary, surgical lengthening of the Achilles tendon itself or of the tight calf muscle can be performed.
Early evaluation and treatment of equinus deformity is recommended before compensatory problems develop. If you have any of the symptoms of equinus, please call our offices for an appointment.

INGROWN TOENAIL

The ingrown toenail is probably the most common condition that we treat. It presents as pain along the edge of the toenail. Although the great toenail is the commonly involved, any nail may be affected. Often, the ingrown toenail area is infected.

Treatment involves clearing any infection and removal of the ingrown section of nail. This is a minor procedure performed in the office. Patients may walk, wear shoes, and resume normal activities immediately after the procedure.

Treatment of ingrown toenails is available by all of our doctors in each of our offices: downtown Melbourne, Eau Gallie, and Palm Bay. If you or a loved one has been suffering from an ingrown toenail, please call us!

ORTHOTIC DEVICES

Because the feet support the entire body, it is important that they do so in a correctly-aligned manner. Many people have feet that are malaligned, and this malalignment affects the entire body. This can result in a variety of symptoms and compensation mechanisms.

One way to make feet “straighter” is to wear a device in the shoe called an “orthotic” or an “orthosis”. The terms “orthotic” and “orthosis” come from the Greek “orthos”, meaning “straight”. An orthotic device it is specifically designed to realign abnormal foot function. Unlike an arch support, which is a cushion that provides shock absorption, an orthotic device actually treats a biomechanical problem.

Pre-fabricated orthotic devices of different shapes are often dispensed for various conditions. These suffice in many patients, but others will have a greater benefit from a custom orthotic. A custom orthotic is made from a plaster impression of the foot and is specifically created from the impressions. It is the most effective type of orthotic device.

Many conditions can be improved with orthotic therapy. These include arch pain, heel pain, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, foot arthritis, ankle instability, knee pain, back pain, hip pain, adult and children’s gait abnormalities, flatfoot, high arch foot, and foot strain, to name a few. Additionally, custom orthotic devices are used to treat a variety of sports conditions and there are even sports- specific orthotics available for many sports (including cycling, football, tennis, soccer, skating, etc.). Orthotics for high-heeled shoes are also available.
Melbourne Podiatry Associates offers both pre-fabricated and custom orthotic devices. This type of treatment may be just which you need !

Blood Clots in Travelers

Blood clots in the legs of airline travelers were first reported in the 1950s and were termed “traveler’s thrombosis”. The condition is now known as “venous thromboembolism” (VTE) and is not specific to travel. However, long-haul travel is
a significant risk factor for VTE, and the association has been extensively studied in recent years.

An international concensus statement categorizes VTE into three risk groups: low, moderate, and high. High risk includes people with a history of blood clots; malignancy; pregnancy; obesity; and coagulation disorders. The risk of long-haul airline travel ranges from 0-2%
in a low risk person and rises to 5% in a high risk person. Although there is a risk of VTE from all long distance travel including long
rides in cars, buses, and trains, air travel has a much higher risk, up to 26% highe, for unknown reasons.

VTE risk increases with the length of the flight. Also, taking several long flights within a short period of time increases risk. The prevention of VTE in all risk groups is the use of compression stockings. Sometimes, in certain high-risk travelers, anticoagulant therapy is prescribed. Although insufficiently documented, good hydration and leg exercises during flight are also recommended.

High-risk persons should consult their internists for specific recommendations for VTE prevention. Frequent travelers should consider decreasing back-to-back long flights. All travelers should consider compression stockings. The doctors at Melbourne Podiatry Associates can discuss VTE with you and recommend the appropriate stockings.