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Posts for tag: women's issues

Your toes are permanent roommates and if you’ve ever had a roommate, you know that people who live in close proximity need their space. Your toes are no different! When you crowd your toes by wearing pointed-toe shoes, high heels that put pressure on the front of the toes, or any shoe with a narrow toe box, it can lead to a hammertoe. What is a hammertoe? I’m glad you asked…

 

A hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. It most often occurs in the second, third, and fourth toes. When your toes are curled under for extended periods of time, they begin to hold that shape. It may become painful to stretch or manipulate the toe and secondary issues such as blisters, corns, and calluses can arise. Improperly fitting shoes are a huge factor in the development of hammertoes. They are also more likely to develop in toes that have experienced a trauma, such as a bad break, jam, or stub. There are some genetic risk factors too, so let your podiatrist know if you have a family history of hammertoes (even if you haven’t developed one yourself). Arthritis and muscle imbalances are also causes of hammertoes.

 

READ MORE: Hammertoes

 

Women are more susceptible than men and the chances of developing this condition increase as you age. If your second toe is longer than your big toe, you will need to pay particular attention to the way your shoes fit and give extra space. Your shoes may also become uncomfortable due to corns or calluses that form on the bump of the toe. Use a pumice stone to reduce calluses and put a silicone or moleskin pad on the toe to avoid further rubbing.

 

Time is of the essence with a hammertoe. If treatment begins as soon as the toe begins to bend (when it’s still moveable), the condition can often be halted with simple methods such as toe exercises, roomier shoes, toe splints, or orthotics. If you allow your hammertoe to go untreated until it is fixed into position, which is what about 50% of our patients do, a surgical solution may be your only option. Your podiatrist might release or reposition the tendons and ligaments holding the toe curled or use pins and bone fusions to correct the bend.

 

The best thing you can do for your feet is to wear the proper shoes and make an appointment with the FAAWC immediately when you notice a hammertoe developing. We’re here to help.

 

READ MORE: Quick Tips for the Shoe Store

We always think of spring as the time of new birth, but in fact August holds the prize as the month with the highest birth rate for women in the US. Since 7/10 pregnant women report foot and ankle problems, it’s a good idea to take a look at why. Ruling out all the obvious problems stemming from the massive changes going on inside your body, one culprit that we can avoid are high heels. There are a lot of myths concerning the health risk of high heels during pregnancy, but the truth is they’re not going to magically harm you, but there are risks to wearing high heels (or really any non-supportive shoe) while pregnant. There three main reasons for this:

  1. Change to the center of gravity - Women gain weight during pregnancy, this is a fact that is often over-dramatized, but even if you keep a healthy diet and exercise, the life form inside you has volume and weight so you will inevitably being getting larger and heavier. This completely changes your center of gravity, pulling you forward and resulting in extra pressure on the knees and feet. High heels will also shift a woman’s center of gravity forward, compounding the problem. If you insist on high heels, choose something very low that offers support. Your feet will thank you.

 

  1. Muscles - Lot’s of fun things happen to your leg muscles when you’re pregnant. Cramps are a common symptom of muscle fatigue due to increased body weight. Hormones released during pregnancy will loosen the muscles and ligaments in the foot, so when we use our foot muscles too much with no support (like when we wear high heels), permanent changes to the foot can occur. Wear tennis shoes with Velcro or slip on shoes with arch support. If you must wear heels, do so for short periods of time and raise your feet afterwards to reduce swelling.

 

  1. Tripping - Remember that center of gravity thing we just talked about? Not only does that tilt women forward adding pressure to their feet with every step, it also makes them unstable, which can lead to a nasty fall. Technically, this can happen to anyone wearing high heels at any time, but if you’re pregnant a fall could mean serious complications for both mother and baby. It’s best to just go with a flat and supportive shoe that keeps you firmly planted on the ground.

While high heels are not the enemy, they should be avoided as much as possible during pregnancy to protect the health of everyone involved. Your muscles need support so that your feet can keep up with your kid for years to come. 

Continuing on with our theme of arthritis, let’s take a look at Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Unlike other types of arthritis that can develop from overuse or injury, Rheumatoid Arthritis comes from within. Classified as an autoimmune disorder, RA occurs when the body attacks its own tissues, specifically the lining of the joints. One of the reasons rheumatoid arthritis and foot care go together is that the early signs of RA occur in the smaller joints, like where your toes attach to your feet.

The spaces in between your joints have a membrane called the Synovium. This is a specialized tissue that lines our joints and maintains the synovial fluid, which reduces friction between joints and absorbs shock from our movement. For reasons unknown to science (although they have a few clues), some people’s bodies decide to treat this tissue like a foreign invader and will attack.

When attacked, the body reacts with swelling, redness, and stiffness. During these attacks, or flares, the synovium thickens, causing damage to the surrounding cartilage and bone. Flares can last for days or months and the longer and more often your RA symptoms remain, the more likely you are to have permanent damage. Constant thickening of the synovium can stretch and weaken the connections between tendons and ligaments and lead to permanent physical deformity. While the disease generally starts in the fingers and toes, it can easily spread to the wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, and further.

Science only has a few clues as to why some people develop RA while others don’t. Age (first occurs in people between 40 and 60 years old), sex (women account for 70% of RA patients), obesity (especially when diagnosed at a younger age), and family history (certain genetic markers are thought to contribute to RA) are all contributing factors to your risk for rheumatoid arthritis.

Unfortunately, the effects of RA can be felt way beyond your joints. RA can also lead to complications with your skin, eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, nerve tissues, bone marrow, or even blood vessels. We will explore a few of these things next week when we look deeper into autoimmune disorders.

Diagnosis is not an exact science either. The early stages of RA can be hard to catch since they mimic other arthritis conditions. A family history may be taken, blood tests may be performed to look for indicating markers, and x-rays may be taken to track the progression. There are many choices for treatment options, but the disease is not curable and medications simply reduce or stop symptoms.

For the early stages, over the counter pain medications may be all that are needed to reduce swelling and pain. Steroid shots can be prescribed to relieve acute symptoms, but are not a long term solution. The two most popular options are Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and Biologic agents. DMARDs can slow the actual progression of RA, but come with some nasty side effects to the liver and lungs. Biologics is a newer class of drugs that target the body’s trigger system for RA flares. However, you do put yourself at a higher risk for infection.

Needless to say, rheumatoid arthritis can be a very painful and lifelong disease, but it doesn’t have to stop you from living a full life. Early diagnosis and early treatment can help you battle RA and maintain and active and healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing joint pain. You hold your own future in your hands (or feet, in this case).

This month we are looking at the exciting world of arthritis. Last week we discussed gout, a type of arthritis brought on by the buildup of uric acid in the body. This week, let’s take a look at Osteoarthritis. Sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cushioning between our joints wears down bringing all sorts of problems with it.

All of us use the joints in our bodies every single day. Just look how many there are in your hand and arm alone. Now, think about how much your feet (in particular) twist, bend, flex, and move in a single day or even a single hour. That’s a lot of movement! Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people across the globe. And sometimes there is very little we can do to prevent it. Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:

  • Old age – The longer you’ve been using your joints, the more likely they are to be worn down and cause symptoms.
  • Sex – Women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis (and we’re not exactly sure why).
  • Weight – Carrying a lot of extra weight puts extra stress on our joints and can lead to a faster breakdown of the protective tissue in our joints.
  • Your job – If your job puts constant strain on a single joint or set of joints (such as a job that involves lots of standing and walking) this could contribute to the breakdown of joint tissue.
  • Genetics and bone deformities – Unfortunately, some people are born with a malformed joint or even just a genetic predisposition to develop osteoarthritis.
  • Injuries – Any injury to a joint, even if it seems fully healed, can contribute to osteoarthritis later in life.

The signs of osteoarthritis start simply, but the disease is progressive and will worsen over time. Symptoms include pain (imagine that), stiffness or tenderness, loss of flexibility, possible bone spurs, and some people experience the feeling of their bones grinding together when they move.

X-rays and MRIs are the best way to diagnose osteoarthritis. A family history and physical examination are also generally conducted. Blood or joint fluid tests may be required to differentiate between osteoarthritis and other types of arthritis. If your pain is being caused by osteoarthritis, there is a myriad of treatment options to choose from.

Many patients can be treated with over the counter pain relieving medications. They may also benefit from gentle exercises, such as yoga, or physical therapy. If the pain cannot be managed with OTC meds, your doctor may suggest cortisone injections. This is a limited treatment option, since the maximum recommended treatment is less than four injections a year. In worst-case scenarios, joint replacement surgery may be necessary.

If you experience pain, stiffness, or a grinding sensation in your joints, and especially if you have a family history of arthritis, please make an appointment with your doctor to be checked for osteoarthritis. Catching this progressive disease early is important in order to slow the degeneration of your joint tissues. As I have said many times before, pain is not normal, if you are experiencing it on a regular basis, go see your doctor. Your joints will thank you!

Ladies, many of us love to wear heels, and why not? Heels can be empowering and make us feel sexy and Amazonian (especially if you’re on the shorter side). But do we really know what those heels are doing to our feet? Among the myriad of problems associated with high heels, let’s look at Haglund’s Deformity also known as “Pump Bump”.

In some ways this is a misnomer, since Haglund’s Deformity can occur in both men and women and from many types of shoes. The “bump” is true though. Haglund’s Deformity is an enlarged bump on the bone of the heel. When this bump rubs against a hard surface (like the back of a stiff high heel or a structured men’s dress shoe) it irritates the bursa next to your Achilles tendon. An inflamed bursa causes bursitis, which is a painful condition brought on by repeated stress to a single area.

READ MORE: Bursitis

People who have high arches, tight Achilles tendons, or a tendency to walk on the outside of their heel are more predisposed to have Haglund’s Deformity. If you develop this deformity, you will know by the pain, swelling, and redness surrounding a noticeable bump on the back of your heel.

Haglund’s Deformity can be diagnosed with a simple doctor visit and x-ray. Most cases of Haglund’s Deformity are treatable with anti-inflammatory medications, heel pads, heel lifts, ice, stretching exercises, orthotics, or physical therapy. If these methods don’t provide relief, surgical options may be considered.

The best way to protect your feet from Haglund’s Deformity is to avoid wearing shoes with stiff backs that press on your heel. I’m not saying that you can never wear your favorite pumps again, but it may be a good idea to cut down on the amount of time you wear them. Consider wearing flats to and from the office or party or switching it up with a cute backless heel that will avoid putting pressure on the same area. Heels are cute; “Pump Bump” is not. Protect your feet with proper shoes and treatment from the FAAWC.

READ MORE: High Heels and Neuromas