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.
The ankle is a hinged synovial joint made up of three bones: the tibia (shin bone), the fibula (outer ankle bone), and the talus (between the heel and leg). These three bones are bound, supported, and stabilized by strong, fibrous bands of tissue called ligaments.
A break in an ankle bone can be either traumatic or stress related. This injury may be referred to as a break or fracture. A traumatic fracture can result from tripping, twisting or rolling the ankle, falling, or by blunt impact to the ankle. These traumatic ankle breaks usually occur during sporting activities or accidents. Stress fractures, however, occur over time and are the result of repetitive stress to the ankle. These fractures sometimes occur when a new activity that engages the ankle is introduced, or when the level of activity is abruptly increased or intensified.
There are various symptoms that accompany an ankle break. The most significant symptoms are pain and swelling that occurs in the ankle and sometimes spreads up from the foot to below the knee. Bruising or discoloration may develop eventually. It will be difficult or even impossible to put weight on the affected foot, and in severe cases there may be a visible deformity or even exposed bone.
It is very important to seek immediate treatment when an ankle break occurs or is suspected to have occurred, in order to allow the bone to properly heal and to avoid future complications such as stiff joints, limited range of motion, and osteoarthritis.
To diagnose a broken ankle, your podiatrist will first ask you to explain how the injury occurred and what your symptoms are. They will perform a thorough examination, checking for damage to nerves, blood vessels, and other structures around the injury site. They will also test your range of motion. An X-ray will need to be reviewed and, in some cases, an MRI or CT scan may be necessary.
Proper treatment of a broken ankle will depend on where and how severe the break is, how stable the ankle is, and whether the bone is displaced (misaligned or separated) or non-displaced (broken yet still aligned properly).
Mild fractures (where the bone is non-displaced) may be treated by resting, icing, and elevating the ankle at first, followed by immobilization with a cast or walking boot. Pain and inflammation may be treated with acetaminophen. More severe or complicated fractures where bones or joints are displaced may require surgery.
Recovery time will also vary, and it may take 4-6 weeks or longer for a broken ankle to heal. Your podiatrist will most likely order progressive X-rays or stress tests to be taken in order to monitor the healing process.
Bunions are large bony bumps at the base of the big toe. Medically known as hallux valgus, a bunion is a misalignment of the metatarsophalangeal joint, or big toe joint. The misalignment will generally worsen with time if left untreated.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, with genetics seen as a potential cause. High heels and poorly-fitted footwear, rheumatoid arthritis, and heredity all seem to be potential factors behind the exacerbation of bunions. Women have been found to be more likely to develop bunions in comparison to men.
Bunions do not always produce symptoms. The best way to tell is if the big toe is pushing up against the next toe and there is a large protrusion at the base of the big toe. You may or may not feel pain. Redness, swelling, and restricted movement of the big toe may be present as well.
Podiatrists use a variety of methods to diagnose bunions. If there are symptoms present, podiatrists will first consider that it is a bunion. If not, a physical examination will be conducted to check function of the big toe. Finally, an X-ray may be taken to view the extent of the bunion and confirm it is a bunion.
Typically, nonsurgical methods are used to treat bunions, unless the bunion has become too misaligned. Orthotics, icing and resting the foot, roomier and better fitted shoes, taping the foot, and pain medication are usually utilized first. If the bunion doesn’t go away or causes extreme pain, surgery may be required. Surgeons will either remove part of the swollen tissue or bone to straighten the toe out.
If you have a bunion, it is recommended to see a podiatrist. The longer it is left untreated, the worse it may get. Podiatrists can properly diagnose and treat a bunion before it gets worse.
Flatfoot is a foot disorder that is not as straightforward as many people believe. Various types of flatfoot exist, each with their own varying deformities and symptoms. The partial or total collapse of the arch, however, is a characteristic common to all types of flatfoot. Other signs of flatfoot include:
One of the most common types of flatfoot is flexible flatfoot. This variation usually starts in childhood and progresses as one ages into adulthood. Flexible flatfoot presents as a foot that is flat when standing, or weight-bearing. When not standing, the arch returns. Symptoms of flexible flatfoot include:
Your podiatrist will most likely diagnose flatfoot by examining your feet when you stand and sit. X-rays may be taken to define the severity and help determine the treatment option best for your condition. Nonsurgical treatments can include activity modification, weight loss, orthotics, immobilization, medications, physical therapy, shoe modifications, and ankle foot orthoses (AFO) devices. If nonsurgical methods prove ineffective, surgery may be considered. Multiple surgical procedures can correct flatfoot; and depending on your specific condition, one may be selected alone or combined with other techniques to ensure optimal results.
Foot and ankle pain can be a nuisance in a person’s life, especially if it happens frequently. The best way to prevent this type of pain, is to exercise often. Regular exercise of the foot includes stretching and strength exercises. Stretching exercises can help prevent injuries such as a sprained ankle, while strength exercises can prevent ailments such as plantar fasciitis.
Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and the foot and ankle’s range of motion. These exercises can certainly help with those who participate in high-energy activities such as sports. Many athletes routinely perform foot and ankle exercises to prevent injuries like sprained ankles, which are common injuries where the tendons in the ankle are over stretched. Strength exercises help develop foot muscles for better support and protection.
Most exercises are simple and can be done at home, either standing or sitting. One chair exercise is called “limber up”. In this exercise, a person would start by sitting down with their feet flat on the floor. Then lift one leg up so the feet are not touching the floor, then rotate your foot clockwise 15-20 times, and 15-20 times counterclockwise. Repeat the same process with the opposite leg. Another sitting exercise helps stretch the back of your heel and requires an exercise band. It begins by looping the band around a heavy piece of furniture, or something stable that will not be moved when the band is tugged or pulled. Then sit directly in front of it, and slide one foot into the loop, so that the band curves around the forefoot. Start by pulling the forefoot back and holding it for 5-10 seconds. Doing this 10-15 times on each foot, will stretch the back of your heel, increasing your flexibility.
Foot exercises that require standing are also just as easy and simple. Referred as the “Achilles Stretch”, this exercise stretches the Achilles tendon, making it more flexible, helping prevent foot, ankle, and leg pain. It begins by first standing and facing the wall, with the arms outstretched and the palms on the wall. Then place one foot behind another keeping the back leg straight, and the forward leg bending at the knee. Make sure both heels are flat on the floor and adjust your stance accordingly. With your hips, lean forward to feel the stretch, you can also adjust the distance from your feet to feel the stretch in various parts of the calf. Make sure to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat the same process 3 times with each leg. An even easier foot exercise is simply walking on sand. Walking barefoot on sand both strengthens and stretches your feet.
Doing these exercises regularly can help prevent many foot and ankle problems. Other foot exercises can even relieve pain. For example, those affected with plantar fasciitis can simply sit down on a chair, and then place a tennis ball below their affected foot. By rolling the ball under the foot, and increasing or decreasing pressure, pain will be relieved. With any exercise, it is always important to do a small warmup such as walking a few laps around the house to get the blood flowing. If after doing an exercise to relieve pain such as the tennis ball exercise, or are unsure that your execution is correct, be sure to contact a podiatrist for further instruction.