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Posts for tag: fungal infections

This winter has seen record setting low temperatures and all that cold air can do horrific things to your skin and feet. Skin needs moisture to retain its smooth texture, but winter brings a lack of humidity that can leave your heels screaming for more. Not only is dry air causing our heels to crack, but it’s also a combination of dehydration (we tend to drink less water in winter) and our preference for hot showers. Soaking your feet in water does not actually moisturize them. Hot water will pull essential oils from your skin and worsen the cracking.

 

READ MORE: Quick Fixes for Yoru Feet

For some, the inconvenience of cracked heels is only an aesthetic one, but for many others, cracked heels may lead to pain when walking (particularly when barefoot), open and bleeding wounds, or even infection. This can put a  damper on everything from snowman building to just going to work each day.

 

Even if you don’t currently feel pain from your heel fissures, you’ll want to do something about them. Adding moisture is the best thing to do, but we must remove the dry skin first to get to the healthy skin underneath. If your heel fissures are cracked open and bleed or are painful, come see your podiatrist rather then removing the skin yourself. If you heel fissures are just an ugly inconvenience, you can work on them yourself.

 

While taking a long hot bath will dry out your skin, soaking your feet for ten minutes in a warm tub will help soften the dead and dry layers so you can work them off with a pumice stone. Make sure you soak the stone itself as well then firmly rub your feet in circular patterns. Be sure to rinse the stone and your foot every few minutes to rinse away the dead skin cells. It may take several attempts before you start to see a difference, but take it slow and remember, you don’t have to get it all off in one go. The really important step comes next.

 

Moisturize! There’s no point in removing cracked, dry skin only to have more cracked, dry skin appear in its place. Make sure you are properly applying moisturizer to your heels and protect your feet properly during the day and night. Remove dead skin during your evening shower then lather on a thick moisturizer and put a pair of light cotton socks on overtop. This holds the lotion onto your feet so it can soak in overnight. You can do the same during the day, but make sure it’s a pair of warm wool socks. Don’t walk around your home barefoot in winter as this can exacerbate already dry heels. Be sure to use a thick moisturizer, but avoid dyes and perfumes.

 

We may pray for the ice to crack so it can melt and be gone, but a dry, cracked heel won’t go away so easily. If home remedies don’t seem to be cutting it, make an appointment with your podiatrist or with our PediCare salon. Our certified technicians are trained to remove callused and cracked skin gently, leaving your heels smooth and pretty.

 

READ MORE: Year-Round Foot Care

Well, we’ve done it. We made it through Memorial Day weekend which means the next few months can officially be called Summer. Summer means different things to everyone. For some it’s a chance to relax by the pool, for other’s it a time to be active outdoors. No matter what your definition of summer is, you need to have the proper footwear. Let’s take a look at some common summer activities and the appropriate shoes for each occasion…

Around the pool:

It may seem silly to think of shoes at the pool, but protecting your feet is always important. Even if it’s just a pair of flip-flops, make sure you wear shoes anytime you are on the pool deck to protect from fungus-laden puddles that can lead to athlete’s foot. While you’re in the water you don’t need shoes, right? Not exactly. For just floating or playing around no shoes are necessary, but for activities like water aerobics or water running, you’ll want a pair of supportive water shoes and I don’t mean the discount store shoes. You can find good water shoes at a sporting goods store, swim store, triathlon store, or scuba shop.

At the beach:

No one wants to wear shoes at the beach, but you need to at least drive there and get from the parking lot to the sand, right? So shoes are inevitable. I would suggest a slip on shoe (like FitKicks) or a lightweight running shoe with mesh. Your feet are protected on all sides from the hot sand as you set up your towel, but they’re easy to pull back on once you’re done washing your feet to head to the car. Flip-flops are not recommended since they provide no coverage and little traction on wet surfaces.

Walking/Running/Hiking:

These activities may seem related, and they are, but there are definitely better shoes for each of these separately. If you’re just going walking, pick a sturdy tennis shoe that is made for walking; if you’re going running, pick a shoe that is labeled good for runners. It seems simple, but with the bright colors luring you in, fashion can sometimes outweigh function during shoe shopping. Stick to your plan and make sure you’re getting the right thing. There are also specific shoes made for hiking and trail running. It’s best to find these at sporting goods stores or specialty stores such as REI. Trail-running shoes provide better traction and hiking boots provide more support over varied terrains. Get the right thing from the beginning or you may end up visiting us later.

Sports:

There are too many summer activities to list, but many kids participate in sports and need proper footwear for each one. Sports played on courts (basketball, tennis) need shoes that support the ankle and lateral movements better than a running shoe, which is made for shock absorption and cushioning. Sports played on fields (soccer, football, lacrosse, baseball, etc) require cleats. Cleats are designed to “grip” the ground, but there isn’t just one kind of cleat. Cleats for baseball and football have a toe cleat (under the tip of the shoe) that is used to push off for sudden acceleration. Soccer cleats can’t have this feature because of the potential contact with other players and resulting injury. Make sure you’re getting the right ones for your activity.

 

No matter what you like to do in the summertime, make sure you are remembering your feet and picking the best shoe for your activity. It makes a difference.

The now super famous (and infamous) Pokémon Go app was released to the public on July 17th and it’s going to be a great thing for podiatrists…. though not really for their patients.

For those who don’t know, Pokémon Go is a free downloadable app for iPhone and android devices that brings hunting for Pokémon to the real world around you. Users are encouraged to go outside and walk their neighborhoods and cities to find Pokémon, pokestops (areas of interest around the city, usually pieces of art), and meet other Pokémon players. The theory behind this game is brilliant (and I must admit, the game itself is fun). Never before has a video game encouraged its users to be so active and social. However, with special incubators that hatch Pokémon eggs only after you walk certain distances (either 2km or 5km), millions of people who are used to a sedentary gaming lifestyle are suddenly getting up and walking around. And this means big changes for their feet.

We have talked in the past about protecting our feet while we exercise and slowly ramping up levels of activity, but let’s take another look at a few key things that may affect all you Pokémon Go players out there who are suddenly getting active:

  1. Stress fractures

This is a real concern for gamers who may not be used to heavy exercise or may underestimate the distances they are going and the impact on their feet. First of all, we need to make sure that everyone is wearing proper footwear for exercise, and no, that does not mean flip-flops. Increasing the daily impact on your feet through walking increases stress on our bones. As we discussed in March, a stress fracture is a small crack in a bone due to overuse or repetitive strain. This can easily happen to those walking long distances in bad shoes. The time it takes to lace up a pair of tennis shoes is about 30 seconds; the time it takes to recover from a stress fracture (and lose out on all that walking and Pokémon collection in the meantime) is several weeks to months depending on the severity. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the 30 seconds to tie my shoes.

  1. Fungal Infection

For those gamers who were intuitive enough to put on athletic shoes before venturing out, you have a different set of worries than our flip-flop users. You need to worry about foot cleanliness and fungal infections. Fungus likes to grow in warm, moist, and dark places, and all three of those conditions exist inside your shoes. In order to avoid lovely conditions such as athletes foot, I would recommend avoiding excess sweating inside your shoes (using a product like Bromi-lotion may help), changing your socks immediately after they get sweaty, and airing out or even disinfecting your shoes on a regular basis. Changing a key factor of your health, such as walking additional distances every day to catch Pokémon, can greatly impact your feet and their health. Be sure to wash your feet thoroughly and maintain appropriate cleanliness for your shoes. It may save a trip to the podiatrist.

 

  1. Trips/Falls

 

Perhaps the biggest complaint so far concerning the Pokémon Go game is that it takes our eyes off of our environment and onto our phonescreen. This creates a whole new set of concerns when it comes to our feet. YouTube videos are popping up all over the place of Pokémon Go users falling down stairs and running into poles. While these can be funny to watch, those gamers may be doing serious damage to their feet. Every time our foot twists in the wrong way or our toes stub hard against something, we are risking major damage to our feet. If you are walking through the local park and only looking at your phone screen, you can easily step into a hole and twist your ankle or even break a bone. The app alerts you each time you start it up to remain aware of your surroundings, but reports have shown that gamers ignore these warnings and that is how they get into trouble with their feet.

Overall, I support the Pokémon Go app for the major shift it is causing in gaming culture, but I sure hope at least one gamer reads this article and thinks twice about their foot health before venturing out to catch their latest Pokémon. Only time will tell if gamers heed my warning.

Could be dermatitis. Dermatitis is an umbrella term that encompasses any skin inflammation or irritation. Some dermatitis is genetic, like eczema. Some is environmental, like poison ivy. While dermatitis is not generally a serious condition, it can cause significant discomfort and is quite unsightly.

Signs of dermatitis include reddened, itchy, raised, swollen, or scabby skin. When these symptoms appear on the feet and have no obvious cause (such as walking through a field of poison ivy barefoot) we have to look at other factors such as shoe contact dermatitis.

Shoe contact dermatitis occurs when the foot produces an allergic reaction to a compound or material used in shoe making. Rubber accelerators and rubber glues are common culprits. For leather shoes, chemicals such as dimethyl fumarate, chromates, and formaldehyde (all commonly used to treat leather products) can provoke an outbreak. Another common cause are specialty dyes and metal decorations containing nickel or cobalt.

Now, I know what you’re going to say, “but Doc, I’ve worn these shoes for years and this has never happened before”. Unfortunately, just blaming it on a new pair of shoes doesn’t quite work. Chromates, used in leather tanning, can slowly leach out of the material and onto the foot due to our feet sweating inside the shoes. Materials can wear thin over time, exposing glues and bonding agents that may have been previously covered. And unfortunately, it is not uncommon to suddenly become allergic to something that you used to be fine around.

Treating shoe contact dermatitis and preventing it from returning are relatively easy. Identify and remove the offending pair of shoes from your wardrobe and avoid contact with those materials again. Allergy skin tests can be helpful in determining what specifically you are allergic to. For future shoe buying purposes, go for materials treated naturally (ever heard of vegetable tanned leather?) and think about replace rubber insoles with foam. To take care of your shoes, control your foot perspiration with powders, creams, or good socks and make sure to air out your shoes regularly.

The only caveat to shoe contact dermatitis is that it’s important to rule out more serious possibilities. Jumping to the allergic reaction conclusion could leave you ignoring the possibility of bacterial or fungal infections, undiagnosed psoriasis, or other causes. If you have any question about what is causing that annoying, inflamed, itchy rash on your feet, make an appointment with your podiatrist to be sure.

 

A while back we talked about fungus and the lovely things it can do to your toenails. However, we didn’t talk about what happens when fungus infects our skin. The most common fungal infection of the foot is athlete’s foot or tinea pedis, if you want to sound really smart. Athlete’s foot was first described in a medical text dated 1888, but had probably been around for centuries. The first reported case in the United States was traced back to 1920 and may have been introduced to the US by soldiers returning from WWI.

The tinea fungus is responsible for the condition we know as athlete’s foot and there are a few important things you should know First of all, athlete’s foot is really only skin deep and therefore not generally dangerous (just uncomfortable and unsightly). The fungus enters the keratin, or first layer of skin, usually on the bottom of the foot or between the toes and starts to grow there. Usually, the keratin layer of our skin is being flaked off and replaced by the skin underneath, but the fungi responsible for athlete’s foot slow down this process and so the skin remains in a constant state of infection.

This type of fungal infection is contracted through either direct contact with an infected person or contact with a surface on which the tinea fungus is present. Behaviors that put you at risk for athlete’s foot include walking barefoot in public showers, locker rooms, or swimming pools, sharing socks or shoes with infected people, wearing tight and enclosed shoes, and keeping your feet wet for long periods of time. The easiest way to avoid issues with athlete’s foot is to avoid the above behaviors! Always wear shoes in public showers and around pools (or any wet or moist place where fungus might like to grow) and keep your feet dry and air them out every once in a while if you wear enclosed shoes for long periods of time (like athletes do).

Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include a painful, itchy, burning, stinging feeling between the toes or on the sole of your foot, blisters that itch, cracking and peeling skin between the toes, and discolored or thick nails that pull away from the nail bed. You may experience just one of these symptoms or all of them. Cases can range in severity, but are generally easily treatable with over the counter creams and medications. If your athlete’s foot persists or seems healed and then returns, your doctor may prescribe a topical or oral prescription anti-fungal.

Severe cases of athlete’s foot can present with other symptoms. Allergic reactions to the fungus, secondary infections, and infection spreading to the lymph system can occur and require more serious treatment. Diabetics or those with decreased sensitivity need to monitor their feet closely to check for signs of complications and should see their podiatrist immediately for a treatment plan.

Whether mild or severe, no one likes athlete’s foot. If you think you may have athlete’s foot, please contact your doctor to be sure you are not experiencing symptoms of a more serious problem. Keep your feet dry and wear your shoes to the pool. It’s that simple to avoid the itchy, burning, unsightly problem of athlete’s foot.