July Articles 2014

What is Gout?

Gout is a form of arthritis that is unusually painful. A slight touch can send shooting pain. The most common area for gout to occur is in the metatarsal phalangeal joint of the big toe. Other areas of the body frequently affected by gout are the knees, elbows, fingers, ankles and wrists. 

Gout occurs when there are elevated levels of uric acid in the blood. This condition is called hyperuricemia. Hyperuricemia is a genetically pre-disposed condition about 90% of the time and occurs because the kidneys do not produce the correct amount of uric acid. Children of parents who have had gout will have a 20% chance of developing it themselves. The excess uric acid in the blood forms crystals that deposit in between joints causing friction with movement. 

Symptoms of gout caused by this friction include pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Fever and fatigue may occur as well, although these symptoms are rare. The pain can be worse during the night when the body’s temperature lowers.

Gout can be diagnosed clinically by a doctor’s observation of the redness, swelling, and pain. More definitive tests can be performed by the doctor as well. Blood tests check for elevated uric acid levels in the blood. The synovial fluid in the joint can also be withdrawn through a needle to be checked for uric acid crystals. Chronic gout can be diagnosed by X-ray.

Treatment given for acute gout diminishes the symptoms. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs such as Colchicine and other corticosteroid drugs will stop the swelling, redness, and inflammation in cases of acute gout. If gout becomes chronic, there are multiple ways to combat it. Lifestyle changes and changes in diet may be necessary, as well as preventative drugs. 

Gout can be aggravated by a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise will reduce probability of future cases of gout. Certain foods cause or increase the risk of gout and their consumption should be avoided or kept at a minimum. These foods include red meat, alcohol, sea foods, and drinks sweetened with fructose. 

Lifestyle changes and diet that help prevent gout include exercise and certain foods that help decrease the chance of gout recurring. Gout preventative foods include Vitamin C, coffee and some dairy products. New drugs have been discovered that inhibit the body’s production of certain enzymes. These are the enzymes that produce uric acid. Lowering your levels of uric acid will greatly reduce the chances of developing further cases of gout.

 

Nerve Disorders of the Foot and Ankle

Similar to well-known nerve disorders in the hands, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve disorders that affect the foot and ankle occur in patients for reasons ranging from stress to genetics. Nerve disorders of the foot should be addressed right away because they may be immobilizing in serious cases. Two of the most common nerve disorders of the foot and ankle are Interdigital Neuroma and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.


Interdigital Neuroma is caused by localized inflammation of one of the nerves that controls toe sensitivity in the frontal area of the foot. This inflammation is generally only found in the second or third interspace, and any other symptoms similar to Neuroma on other digits should be checked against other disorders. Symptoms include chronic burning or tingling sensations between the affected toes which can, at times, migrate to the toes themselves. This pain is often increased by walking, running, or by wearing shoes that compress the toes, such as high heels. A doctor should be consulted if this pain is chronic and if the symptoms get worse.

Typical examinations to determine the presence of Neuroma include radiographs, MRIs, and even bone scans of the affected area. Bone scans are only required if degeneration of bone is suspected, however. Surgery is often not required to alleviate the symptoms of Neuroma, and in many cases functional orthotics can be used to alleviate the stress of constant weight on the affected toes. Surgery is recommended for those patients that suffer from symptoms for 6 months or more, so reporting symptoms early can increase the rate of non-surgical recovery.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition that is less common than Interdigital Neuroma, is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in that it is caused by a compression of the nerve caused by any number of factors (mostly associated with excess pronation). Typically seen in those that have either flatfeet or valgus heel positions, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome has patients complaining of moderate to severe ankle pain that starts along the bottom of the foot and often proceeds to the calf. Some more extreme cases occur with partial numbness and even atrophy of the foot and surrounding muscles.

If there is a good chance that someone has Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, an EMG test is often used to diagnose the condition.  If the diagnosis is positive, an MRI can be used to identify the compression of the nerve. Treatment with NSAIDS, functional orthotics, and rest off of the feet is often prescribed, but again, long standing symptoms require surgery, as do exacerbated symptoms caused by lesions present between nerves.


 

Flip-flops and Feet

Flip-flops are some of the most comfortable and convenient kinds of shoes there are. They let you freely move your toes, aren't constrictive, and allow your feet to breathe. They can also be worn with almost any attire, and match most clothing styles. Unfortunately, wearing flip-flops can also be very dangerous. These sorts of shoes can harm your feet in more ways than you may think.

Although they are comfortable, constant flip-flop use can lead to problems with the ankles, hips, and lower back if worn on a long-term basis. This is because people walk much differently in flip-flops than they do in other shoes like sneakers. Their natural gait is being forced to change, throwing the body off and causing stress to different parts of the body. Flip-flops can also lead to problems in the arches of your feet, and pain in the balls of your feet. There is little to no support provided by flip-flops, so some parts of the foot undergo much more stress than normal.

Flip-flops can cause more obvious short term problems as well, like ankle sprains and frequent blisters. Because these shoes are relatively weak and can easily bend while walking, wearers are far more likely to trip and hurt their ankles. Flip-flops can also cause bad blisters, because their straps are constantly rubbing up against the foot. Additionally, someone wearing flip-flops is more prone to infections, due to the openness of the shoe. It very easy to scrape and cut your foot when wearing flip-flops because they offer little protection for the foot. If left untreated and uncovered, these same cuts can get dirtied and infected as flip-flops wearers walk around.

In order to avoid this, make sure to get a pair of flip-flops that will keep your feet as safe as possible. When looking to purchase flip-flops, you should check that the actual sole is sturdy and firm. The flip-flops are too floppy if the sole droops and wiggles a great deal when lifted off the floor. These will offer very little support, and may lead to other problems like tripping.

If you only purchase flip-flops made of high quality, sturdy materials, you won't have to worry about this. Although they will cost a little more, flip-flops made of these materials will last longer, and will protect your feet more so than a cheap pair of flip-flops. Also, make sure to buy from a reliable brand name. You can often find relatively cheap shoes from these companies, and once you have bought them you know they will last.

You can still wear your favorite flip-flops, just avoid wearing them every day of the week, or for extended periods of time. It is also recommended that you replace flip-flops every three or four months, in order to be sure that they provide maximum protection to your feet.


 

Corns: What Are They, and How Do You Get Rid of Them

Corns are areas of the skin where it has thickened to the point of being irritating and sometimes painful. Corns are circular or cone-shaped and are commonly found on the feet where there are areas of pressure or friction, such as on the little toe where it may rub against shoes or on the ball of the foot. The medical term for corns is helomas.

Corns can easily be confused with a callus, but there is a difference between the two. Corns can be a raised bump that feels hard to the touch and painful. They consist of a thick, rough area of skin that may be dry and waxy. Corns tend to be surrounded by inflamed skin and are usually smaller than calluses.

The key to treating a corn is to remove the dead skin that has built up. Salicylic acid is the most common medication used to accomplish this. Salicylic acid works by dissolving keratin, the protein that makes up the majority of corns. You can purchase salicylic acid over-the-counter in the form of wart removers. It comes in medicated pads, drops or creams. People with diabetes should not use salicylic acid, but should immediately consult their doctor.

To treat corns, apply the medication directly onto the corns according to the product directions. The top layer of the corn will turn a white color. When that happens, the layers of skin can then be peeled away, making the corn smaller. It is never a good idea to try and shave off corns with razors or other pedicure equipment. This can lead to infection. If your corns get infected or do not respond to over the counter treatment, a visit to the doctor is necessary.

Orthotic inserts fitted by a podiatrist also help to treat corns and help prevent their return. Inserts fit into shoes and help to adjust the way your foot fits in your shoe, thus fixing the way you walk. This will reduce friction, lowering your chances of getting a corn and eliminating the pain for current corns.

Surgery is seldom an option for corns, but does occur on rare occasions. Surgery for corns actually deals with the underlying issue causing the corns. During surgery, the bone is shaved and any abnormalities are corrected to reduce the amount of friction that occurs during walking.

The first step to preventing corns is to reduce any possible friction. Wear well fitting shoes that don’t rub on your feet. If you notice rubbing developing, pads can be purchased to help reduce the friction. These can be purchased over the counter and are simply placed on the area that is being irritated. Friction can also be reduced by using cushioned insoles in your shoes, and making sure to wear well-fitting shoes. This will make sure your foot is not being squeezed awkwardly, and stop corns from forming in the first place.

 

 

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