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October 2019

Monday, 28 October 2019 00:00

Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail is a nail that has curved downward and grown into the skin.  This typically occurs at either the nail borders or the sides of the nail.  As a result, pain, redness, swelling, and warmth may occur in the toe.  If a break in the skin forms due to the ingrown nail, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area; this is typically characterized by a foul odor and drainage.

Ingrown toenails have multiple reasons for developing.  In many instances, the condition is a result of genetics and is inherited.  The most common cause, however, is improper trimming; cutting the toenails too short forces the skin beside the nail to fold over.  An ingrown toenail can also develop due to trauma, such as stubbing the toe, having an object fall on the toe, or participating in activities that involve repeated kicking or running.  Wearing shoes that are too tight or too short can also cause ingrown toenails.

Treatment for an ingrown toenail varies between patients and the severity of the condition.  In most cases, it is best to see your podiatrist for thorough and proper treatment.  After examining your toe, your podiatrist may prescribe oral antibiotics to clear the infection if one is present.  Surgical removal of either a portion of the nail or the entire nail may also be considered.  In some cases, complete removal or destruction of the nail root may be required.  Most patients who undergo nail surgery experience minimal pain afterward and can return to normal activity the following day.

Ingrown toenails can be prevented with proper nail trimming and by avoiding improper-fitting shoes.  When cutting the toenails, be sure that you are cutting in a straight line and avoid cutting them too short.  Shoes should not be too short or tight in the toe box.

Monday, 21 October 2019 00:00

Hyperhidrosis of the Feet

Hyperhidrosis of the feet, also termed plantar hyperhidrosis, is characterized by excessive sweating of the feet that can be onset by any cause, such as exercise, fever, or anxiety. Most people suffering from hyperhidrosis of the feet also experience hyperhidrosis of the hands, or palmar hyperhidrosis. Approximately 1-2% of Americans suffer from this disorder.

Sweating is a healthy process utilized by the body in order to cool itself and maintain a proper internal temperature, which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. In individuals with hyperhidrosis, the sympathetic nervous system works in "overdrive", producing far more sweat than is actually needed.

Plantar hyperhidrosis is considered primary hyperhidrosis. Secondary hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that occurs in an area other than the feet, hands, or armpits, and this indicates that is related to another medical condition, such as menopause, hyperthyroidism, or Parkinson's disease.

Symptoms of hyperhidrosis of the feet can include foot odor, athlete's foot, infections, and blisters. Because of the continual moisture, shoes and socks can rot which creates an additional foul odor and can ruin the material, requiring shoes and socks to be replaced frequently. In addition to the physical symptoms, emotional health is often affected as this disorder can be very embarrassing.

If left untreated, hyperhidrosis will usually persist throughout an individual's life. However, there are several treatment options available. A common first approach to treating hyperhidrosis of the feet is a topical ointment. Aluminum chloride, an ingredient found in antiperspirants, can be effective at treating hyperhidrosis if used in high concentration and applied to the foot daily. Some individuals can experience relief this way, while others encounter extreme irritation and are unable to use the product. Another procedure is the use of Botulinum Toxin A, commonly referred to as Botox. This is injected directly into the foot, and is effective at minimizing the sweat glands in the injected area. These injections must be repeated every 4 to 9 months.

If these treatments are ineffective, oral prescription medications may be taken in an effort to alleviate the symptoms. Again, some will experience relief while others do not. Going barefoot reportedly provides relief for most sufferers.

A final approach to combating hyperhidrosis of the feet is through surgery. Surgery has been less successful on patients with plantar hyperhidrosis than on those with palmar hyperhidrosis. It is only recommended when sweating is severe and other treatments have failed to work. This kind of surgery usually involves going into the central nervous system, and cutting nerves to stop the transmission of signals telling the foot to sweat.

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is usually the result of a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, can be the result of excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream. This restricts how much blood can flow through arteries. Reduced blood flow to a certain area of the body severely limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients that part of the body receives. This leads to degeneration in the muscles and other tissues. Sometimes, poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by other conditions, such as the damaging or inflammation of blood vessels, known as vasculitis.

The lack of oxygen and nutrients caused by poor blood circulation can restrict muscle growth and development, as well as cause muscle pain and cramps, weakness, and stiffness. Other common symptoms include numbness in the legs and feet, skin discoloration in the affected limbs, slower nail and hair growth, and erectile dysfunction in men. In more severe cases of PAD, pain can be present even when a person isn't exercising, and may range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is more common in those who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, who smoke, or who have a family history of PAD or related conditions such as a heart attack, stroke, etc. Diabetes and smoking place a person at greatest risk for developing poor blood circulation, although advanced age, over 50, can also increase risk.

If you are experiencing poor blood circulation in the feet and legs caused by PAD, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke caused by this condition. If you smoke, quit completely. This will increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Exercising and reducing the saturated fats in your diet. Saturated fats come from fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk, etc., can make a difference in improving blood circulation in feet. It is also important to avoid developing influenza and to carefully control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

Your doctor may recommend combining lifestyle changes with a prescription medication regimen to improve blood circulation. The most commonly-used medications for PAD are called statins and work by blocking the amount of enzymes in your body that produce cholesterol. They are known by the brand names Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor, and others.

Monday, 07 October 2019 00:00

Diabetic Foot Conditions

Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, which is required for glucose to feed your body’s cells. It is typically caused by the immune system mistaking healthy cells for foreign invaders and destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. On the other hand, people with Type 2 diabetes cannot respond to insulin properly, and eventually cannot produce enough.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, with 1 in 4 having no idea they have it. Surprisingly, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. The symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, fatigue, hunger, and even blurry vision.

Diabetes can also affect the feet as well. Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage to your feet, which could then lead to symptoms such as tingling, pain and numbness in the feet. Neuropathy can be very dangerous to a person with diabetes, since it prevents them from feeling injuries such as cuts or blisters in the feet, and if not detected early enough, may lead to infection. Neuropathy can also lead changes in the shape of your feet and toes. The best way for people with diabetes to prevent or delay neuropathy is keeping their blood glucose levels in their target range. This consists of eating right, having the correct amount of exercise, and taking medications.

Diabetes can also create calluses and foot ulcers as well. Calluses build up faster and occur more frequently with those affected by diabetes. If there are too many calluses, therapeutic shoes and inserts may be required. It is important to have calluses trimmed by a health professional, as doing it yourself may lead to infections. If these calluses continue to develop and thicken, they can lead to foot ulcers. Foot ulcers are open sores, that appear on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe. These ulcers can lead to future infections if not treated and may possibly result in losing a limb. It is important to report any ulcers to your podiatrist right away. Your doctor may take x-rays to examine the foot and clean out any dead and infected tissue.

Lastly, diabetes can also lead to poor circulation and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). The poor circulation in the feet and leg area is a result of diabetes narrowing and hardening, eventually slowing down the blood flow in that area. The best way to prevent this is to keep away from smoking and follow your doctor’s advice for maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol. PAD is similar to this complication. PAD is when blood vessels narrow or are blocked by fatty deposits. PAD also increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes and is a common condition to those affected by diabetes. The combination of both PAD and neuropathy may lead to infections and can result in amputation of certain limbs. PAD can be prevented with wearing the proper foot wear and regularly taking care of your feet.

If you want to take care of your feet, you should wash and dry them carefully and perform daily inspections to check for cuts, blisters, or swelling. Any physical activity you partake in should be approved by your health care provider. You should also be sure to wear special shoes if advised to do so by your doctor.

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