Do thickened, crumbly nails have you hiding your feet? Fungal toenails are persistent, ugly infections by fungi underneath your nails. You can come into contact with the microorganisms that cause it almost anywhere though warm, damp locations are particularly risky.
Once you have an infection it doesn’t get better without treatment—often it gets worse. Fortunately many treatment choices exist to help eliminate the sources of the problem. At Foot Care Specialists, PC we offer cutting edge options because we want the best for our patients. A visit to our office is the first step in restoring your toenails to health. Marshall L. Lukoff, DPM will evaluate the state of your infection. A sample is scraped from the surface of the nail and sent to a lab to be tested for the exact organism responsible. After that, we are able to discuss possible treatment options.
NAIL PROCEDURES FOR FAST REMEDIES
Several different nail procedures are available, including partial or complete removal and laser treatment. The CoolTouch laser procedure is cutting edge technology that helps eliminate your nail fungus quickly. This particular remedy has no post-op restrictions or side effects, and the fungus is usually taken care of in three quick treatments—unlike oral medications, which can take months to be effective, have many side effects, and don’t work for everyone. It’s more effective than topical anti-fungal medications like sprays or ointments which can’t penetrate the nail to get to the fungus underneath. The laser uses focused light that easily passes through nail tissue. It deals with the source directly, allowing you to heal more quickly.
The other procedure—partial or complete nail excision—is more involved, but also effective. You are given an injection to numb the toe. From there part of the nail or the whole nail is removed. A CO2 laser is used to eliminate the fungal tissue from your nail bed. Your nail is bandaged and you are given a surgical shoe for protection. We will provide detailed instructions for home care. You are able to walk, albeit carefully, immediately following the procedure, though you will be instructed to keep your foot elevated the majority of the time for the next few days. Because your foot is numbed, if your right foot is treated we do not recommend that you drive.
Many people forget that fungus can get trapped and grow in their shoes, too. When they reuse their shoes, they re-expose themselves to the infection. To completely eliminate the fungus from their feet, they need to kill the infection in their shoes as well. Here at Foot Care Specialists, PC we offer a special ultraviolet light treatment and anti-fungal sprays for footwear. These remedies kill the organisms lurking in the fabric of your shoes so they can’t re-infect you.
Fungal toenail infections do not get better without intentional treatment. Don’t resign yourself to ugly and uncomfortable toenails when Dr. Marshall L. Lukoff, DPM of Foot Care Specialists, PC can work with you to completely eradicate the source.
Ingrown toenails, also known as onychocryptosis, is usually caused by trimming toenails too short, particularly on the sides of the big toes. They may also be caused by shoe pressure (from shoes that are too tight or short), injury, fungus infection, heredity, or poor foot structure. Ingrown toenails occur when the corners or sides of the toenail dig into the skin, often causing infection. A common ailment, ingrown toenails can be painful. Ingrown toenails start out hard, swollen, and tender. Left untreated, they may become sore, red, and infected and the skin may start to grow over the ingrown toenail.
In most cases, treating ingrown toenails is simple: soak the foot in warm, soapy water several times each day. Avoid wearing tight shoes or socks. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed if an infection is present. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications. In severe cases, if an acute infection occurs, surgical removal of part of the ingrown toenail may be needed. Known as partial nail plate avulsion, the procedure involves injecting the toe with an anesthetic and cutting out the ingrown part of the toenail.
INGROWN TOENAILS CAN BE PREVENTED BY:
- Trimming toenails straight across with no rounded corners.
- Ensuring that shoes and socks are not too tight.
- Keeping feet clean at all times.
WARTS (PLANTAR WARTS)
The mere thought of having a wart can be enough to make some peoples’ skin crawl, but these growths are rather common and often harmless. Plantar warts are named as such because they are found on the bottom of your feet, typically in areas that experience pressure. Learning more about them will help you understand where they come from and when to seek treatment.
VIRAL INFECTIONS: THE ROOTS OF PLANTAR WARTS
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus responsible for plantar warts. HPV has over 100 different strains and the majority of them do not lead to warts on your feet. Even when your sole is infected by the type that does, you may or may not end up with a wart. Everyone’s immune system reacts differently to HPV, so one person will develop plantar warts from exposure to a particular strain, whereas the next person might not.
The transmission of the responsible virus does not have to be direct for an individual to be infected. For this reason, a common path to infection comes from walking barefoot in an environment where HPV thrives. Another means of transmission is coming into contact with a wart. This can happen when you touch a wart and then your own feet, or when a parent is attending to a child’s plantar wart.
PLANTAR WARTS ARE GENERALLY HARMLESS, BUT…
Although the growth is typically benign (harmless), it can lead to pain when you walk or stand. If the pain or discomfort is substantial, it may cause you to alter your gait and such changes can potentially lead to joint or muscle issues.
If you have diabetes, you should already be using a daily foot check as part of your diabetic foot care plan. When inspecting your feet, take note of the development of any warts and schedule an appointment with our office when you find one. You do not want to risk this leading to a serious medical complication.
WART TREATMENT OPTIONS
If you want to “wait out” a plantar wart, you can certainly do so. These growths will often go away on their own, without any treatment. The catch, though, is that this can take up to a couple of years. There are a variety of reasons for wanting to remove them—they are causing pain, you have diabetes, or warts make you self-conscious—and, fortunately, we can help.
Our office will work with you to ensure that your plantar warts are effectively and safely removed. Treatment options that we offer include prescription-strength medications or ointments and laser cautery for severe cases.
You may be tempted to try home remedies—retail stores and nationwide pharmacies often have over-the-counter kits for sale—but these only work about half of the time and provide the risk of damaging healthy skin around the wart. It is especially important not to try it on your own if you live with diabetes.
TIPS FOR PREVENTING PLANTAR WARTS
These growths are quite common and most people will develop at least one during the course of their lives. Still, there are measures you can take to decrease the risk. These include:
Do not walk barefoot in places where the wart-causing virus is commonly found. Since HPV can thrive in the warm, damp environments provided by pool decks and gym locker rooms, be sure to wear sandals and shower shoes in such areas.
Avoid making direct contact with warts, including your own. If you do come into contact with one, carefully and thoroughly wash the affected site and your hands. Additionally, do not pick at it, as doing so may spread the virus.
Steps like changing your socks and shoes daily and keeping your feet clean and dry go a long ways to keeping your feet wart-free.
If plantar warts are causing you pain and discomfort, or you would rather not wait a couple of years for them to go away, contact Foot Care Specialists, PC. We have the foot specialists on staff who will take care of the problem for you.
If you look at all of the foot and ankle issues that we treat here at Foot Care Specialists, PC, you will find that they generally fall into a few distinct categories. These categories include structural abnormalities, traumatic injuries (both acute and overuse), and infection. When it comes to infections, athlete’s foot (also known as tinea pedis) is a fairly common one. Understanding what this condition entails will enable you to know how to prevent it and when to seek treatment.
WHAT IS ATHLETE’S FOOT?
In spite of the name, this is not a condition that only happens to athletes or as a result of athletic participation. Instead, this is a common fungal infection that usually develops between your toes—areas which often create a hospitable environment for the offensive fungus—and then spreads out over the skin of your foot. The fungus that causes the infection is easily transmitted by contact, even from indirect sources like shoes, towels, and floors.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ATHLETE’S FOOT?
The various warning signs of tinea pedis may either be experienced individually or as a combination of symptoms. These often include:
- Burning, itching sensations that become increasingly intense as the infection spreads.
- A red, scaly rash that often accompanies dry skin.
- Inflammation, blisters, and foot ulcers.
ARE THERE RISK FACTORS FOR TINEA PEDIS?
We’ve noted that this condition does not only happen to athletes, but there are also circumstances that go hand-in-hand with athletics that can increase the likelihood of it occurring. Examples of this include wearing damp socks (especially those drenched with sweat), sharing towels in a locker room, or showering in a communal area without wearing protective footwear.
In addition to athletic-related risk factors, certain demographics of the general population are more likely to contract an infection than others. Men, individuals who have weakened immune systems, and those who often use gym locker rooms and showers or frequent swimming pools are all more prone to developing tinea pedis.
HOW IS ATHLETE’S FOOT TREATED?
Over-the-counter, antifungal sprays, powders, and lotions tend to be quite effective when it comes to treating mild cases of this infection. The packaging for these products will often specify an appropriate amount of time to see results, but if your condition is not improving you should schedule an appointment with Foot Care Specialists, PC. We will provide stronger treatment, which may entail oral antifungal pills or topical medication, to clear up the infection.
CAN I PREVENT THE CONDITION FROM HAPPENING?
We would rather know that you were able to prevent a case of athlete’s foot (Jane, this will link to the new blog that accompanies this page) than have to deal with it, so consider taking the following preventative measures:
- Keep your feet clean by washing them daily with soap and warm water. When you are done, be sure to thoroughly dry them, especially the areas between the toes.
- Throughout the day, do your best to keep your feet dry. In order to help promote dryness, go barefoot in your home now and then—unless you have diabetes!—and let your feet breathe.
- If you have a condition known as hyperhidrosis, you are prone to excessive sweating and should always keep spare pairs of dry socks with you to change into on an as-needed basis. If you are going to the gym or know that your feet will become sweaty, it is a good idea to have an extra pair, too.
- Have at least two different pairs of shoes and alternate between them every day. Doing so provides a good opportunity for your footwear to properly dry out after use.
- Wear shower shoes or sandals every time you use communal showers at the gym or walk on the deck of an indoor pool.
Keep in mind that even the best preventative measures will not always eliminate all of the risk for contracting athlete’s foot. If you have tried your best home care and cannot improve the condition, simply give us a call and leave it to the pros.
CORNS AND CALLUSES
Your body has an assortment of tricks up its sleeve to heal itself and provide protection from dangerous situations. When you consider everything your body can do in these regards, it’s rather remarkable. It is able to mend broken bones, fight off foreign viruses, and clot blood to prevent loss. Sometimes these efforts lead to unintended consequences, such as when additional bone tissue is developed that becomes a painful heel spur. Another example is when corns and calluses lead to discomfort or even pain
UNDERSTANDING CALLUSES AND CORNS
The average person is quite familiar with calluses, whether they can be found on palms due to manual labor, fingertips from practicing the guitar, or the feet from running great distances. Calluses are simply hardened, compacted layers of dead skin that your body develops to protect itself from excessive friction or pressure. Corns are basically the same thing, except they have an inner core that might be soft from sweat being trapped when it formed.
It is important to note that corns and calluses do not cause pain in and of themselves. If you have either on the bottom of your foot and rest your bare foot on an ottoman, you would not be able to feel it. The problem, though, is that when pressure is applied to a corn or callus you will likely experience pain.
KNOW THE CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS
Repetitive actions that create friction and pressure on your skin will cause a callus or corn to develop and grow. Sources of this friction and pressure include ill-fitting shoes and forgoing socks. Ill-fitting footwear is responsible, or contributes to, a tremendous array of foot and ankle conditions. Shoes that are tight and have high heels can compress your foot and result in constant irritation from the pressure. On the other side of the coin, footwear that is too loose can cause your foot to repeatedly rub against the inside of the shoe as it slides around. Socks provide the cushioning that a corn or callus will attempt to replace if it isn’t. there, so you are best making sure to wear them with your shoes.
Various foot conditions and deformities can increase the likelihood of developing a corn or callus on your foot, including bunions, hammertoes, and a bone spur. Bunions protrude to the inside edge at the joint where the big toe meets the foot. They may have a callus or corn from rubbing against the inside of footwear. Hammertoes lead to friction from the top of the inside of the shoe and heel spurs result in excess pressure on the back of the foot.
STRAIGHTFORWARD DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Corns and calluses are pretty straightforward with regard to diagnosis. A simple examination is sufficient for ruling out other potential conditions like cysts or warts. The only reason an X-ray might be used is to find out if a physical abnormality is responsible for your corn or callus.
Treatment for these growths begins at home by avoiding activities (when possible) that caused them in the first place. Replacing ill-fitting footwear with shoes that fit properly, trying protective pads, and other self-care methods might correct the condition.
If you have tried home treatment options without success and need professional help, there are several techniques that can be used. We can pare down the thickened skin in-office with the use of a scalpel (something that should not be attempted at home). Callus-removing medication and a pumice stone may be able to help and we will provide instructions in the use of either method. Orthotics (custom-made medical inserts) can serve to prevent recurring calluses or corns. In rare cases, surgery to fix the alignment of a bone that causes friction may be the treatment you need.
Don’t let pain from corns and calluses interfere with your daily life! When the pain and discomfort is simply too much, Foot Care Specialists, PC is here for you. Call our Quincy, MA office by calling or use our online form to request an appointment.