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Jim Maxka, DPM

Hanover (717) 524-1034


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Monday, 04 January 2021 00:00

Gout, typically found in diabetic patients, is an unusually painful form of arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. The condition typically strikes the big joint on the big toe. It has also been known to strike the knees, elbows, fingers, ankles and wrists—generally anywhere that has a functioning, moving joint.

The high level of uric acid in a person’s bloodstream creates the condition known as hyperuricema—the main cause of gout. Genetic predisposition occurs in nine out of ten sufferers. The children of parents who suffer gout will have a two in ten chance of developing the condition as well. 

This form of arthritis, being particularly painful, is the leftover uric acid crystallizing in the blood stream. The crystallized uric acid then travels to the space between joints where they rub, causing friction when the patient moves. Symptoms include: pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Additional side effects may include fatigue and fever, although reports of these effects are very rare. Some patients have reported that pain may intensify when the temperature drops, such as when you sleep.

Most cases of gout are easily diagnosed by a podiatrist’s assessment of the various symptoms. Defined tests can also be performed. A blood test to detect elevated levels of uric acid is often used as well as an x-ray to diagnose visible and chronic gout.

Treatment for gout simply means eliminating symptoms. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (Colchicine and other corticosteroid drugs, etc.) will quell the redness, the swelling, and the inflammation. However, managing your diet, lifestyle changes, and using preventative drugs are all helpful toward fully combating the most severe cases.

 Those that lead an inactive lifestyle are at a higher risk for gout. Any amount of exercise decreases the probability of repeat encounters with the condition. Reducing your consumption of red meat, sea food, and fructose-sweetened drinks also reduces the likelihood of chronic gout as well.

Ingesting Vitamin C, coffee, and particular dairy products can help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are new drugs out on the market that inhibit the body’s production of uric acid-producing enzymes. However, reducing or eliminating your overall levels of uric acid is the best remedy to ensuring you lead a gout-free life.

Monday, 28 December 2020 00:00

Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity.  Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.

Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.

Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.

For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.

If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.

Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.  

Monday, 21 December 2020 00:00

An ingrown toenail is a toenail that grows sideways into the nail bed, causing pain and swelling. Ingrown toenails can worsen and cause drainage, turning into a serious infection.

Several factors affect whether a person is at risk from an ingrown toenail. The many causes include being overweight, diabetes, participating in sports, having a fungal infection of the toe, and cutting your nails too short. Ingrown toenails also have a genetic predisposition, causing some people to be more prone to receive the condition than others. Other causes include improperly fitting shoes and shoes that keep the feet damp.

Ingrown toenails can be preventable with certain measures. For starters, allowing your toe nails to grow slightly longer in length will help prevent them from becoming ingrown. If you have already developed an ingrown toenail, soak the affected toe in warm water. This will alleviate the pain and help prevent an infection from forming. Antibiotic soap or Epsom salts may be added to further help the relieving process and avoid infection. Placing cotton beneath the affected area is also suggested, as this may help the toenail grow upwards and not into the nail bed. Swelling and redness can be reduced by resting with your feet elevated.

A podiatrist should be seen if the pain becomes so serious that it prevents you from doing your everyday activities. If a red streak running up your leg appears or if you suspect your infection has spread, contact a podiatrist immediately. Fast treatments can be undertaken to lessen your pain and have you walking comfortably.

An ingrown toenail can be easily treated with a Band-Aid. Simply wrap the affected toe with a Band-Aid to prevent infection and keep the nail from growing out at a painful angle.

In more serious cases, your podiatrist may decide to make a small incision to remove a portion of your toenail. To prevent the nail from growing back, medication will be placed directly into the nail bed. This procedure would be performed under local anesthesia and is a faster method to alleviate discomfort from an ingrown toenail. Post-procedure directions will have you stay off the affected foot for a day. Afterwards, normal activities can be resumed.  

Monday, 14 December 2020 00:00

Neuropathy is the weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet due to damage to the peripheral nerves. The peripheral nerves are responsible for sending information from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of your body. Causes of Neuropathy include: traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, exposure to toxins, and diabetes.

Diabetes is the most common cause, with more than half of the diabetic population developing some type of neuropathy. There are several types of neuropathy and they vary based on the damage of the nerves. Mononeuropathy is classified as only one nerve being damaged. When multiple nerves are affected, it is referred as polyneuropathy. One of the types of polyneuropathy is distal symmetric polyneuropathy. It is the most common for people with diabetes and starts when the nerves furthest away from the central nervous begin to malfunction. The symptoms begin with pain and numbness in the feet and then they travel up to the legs. A rarer form of polyneuropathy is acute symmetrical peripheral neuropathy, which is a severe type that affects nerves throughout the body and is highly associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the peripheral nervous system and can be fatal. Although there are many types of neuropathy, most of them share the same symptoms such as pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, dizziness, and digestive problems. Since neuropathy affects the nerves, those affected should be careful of burns, infection and falling, as depleted sensations disguise such ailments.

The best way to prevent neuropathy is to manage any medical conditions such as diabetes, alcoholism, or rheumatoid arthritis. Creating and managing a healthy lifestyle can also go a long way. Having a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can keep the nerves healthy. These types of food have the nutrients to prevent neuropathy. Regularly exercising can help as well, but it is best to consult with a doctor about the right amount. In addition to diet and exercise, avoiding risk factors will also prevent neuropathy. This includes repetitive motions, cramped positions, exposure to toxic chemicals, smoking and overindulging on alcohol.

Monday, 07 December 2020 00:00

The feet, being the foundation of the body, carry all of the body’s weight and are therefore prone to experiencing pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing foot pain, it is important to determine where in the foot you are experiencing this pain to help discover the cause of it. While pain can be experienced virtually anywhere in the foot, the most common sites of foot pain are in the heel and ankle.   

Heel pain can be due to a multitude of conditions including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and heel spurs. Pain experienced in the ankle can be a sign of an ankle sprain, arthritis, gout, ankle instability, ankle fracture, or nerve compression. In more serious cases, pain in the foot can be a sign of improper alignment or an infection.

Foot pain can be accompanied by symptoms including redness, swelling, stiffness and warmth in the affected area. Whether the pain can be described as sharp or dull depends on the foot condition behind it. It is important to visit your local podiatrist if your foot pain and its accompanying symptoms persist and do not improve over time.

Depending on the location and condition of your foot pain, your podiatrist may prescribe certain treatments. These treatments can include but are not limited to prescription or over-the-counter drugs and medications, certain therapies, cortisone injections, or surgery.

If you are experiencing persistent foot pain, it is important to consult with your foot and ankle doctor to determine the cause and location. He or she will then prescribe the best treatment for you. While milder cases of foot pain may respond well to rest and at-home treatments, more serious cases may take some time to fully recover.

Monday, 30 November 2020 00:00

Foot and ankle injuries are common among people who participate in sports. Several factors contribute to this. They include failing to stretch or warm up properly, not wearing the proper type of shoe and not taping or providing other types of support for the ankle or foot. The most common foot and ankle injuries suffered by people involved in sports are plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and Achilles tendon damage or ruptures. If not treated properly, they can lead to permanent disability.

Treating these injuries is relatively simple if they are identified and addressed early. Many athletes dismiss the initial aches and pains associated with injury as just soreness or tired muscles. Their first response is usually to try to work through it. This can lead to serious problems. Many minor injuries are made far more serious when athletes continue to put strain and pressure on them. That attitude can change a mild strain into a serious strain and a minor tear into a rupture. Athletes should have unusual aches and pains evaluated by a skilled medical professional.

Plantar fasciitis is a painful injury. It is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue running from the heel to the base of the toes. If left untreated, it can lead to a degenerative disease called plantar fasciosis. There are several effective treatments for this ailment. Doctors often prescribe rest, massages, stretching, night splints, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids or surgery, usually in that order. The most effective treatment for plantar fasciitis is orthotics, which offers foot support. Surgery is occasionally used as a last resort, but it comes with the risk of nerve damage and infection and often does not stop the pain.

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Running, jumping and walking all impact this tendon. Two common injuries to the Achilles tendon are tendonitis and a rupture of the tendon. Tendonitis is inflammation in the tendon often caused by an increase in the amount of stress placed on it. Non-surgical treatments include rest, ice or anti-inflammatory medication.  A rupture (tear) of the Achilles tendon can be treated by placing the lower leg in a cast for several weeks or with surgery. Many physicians feel surgery is the better option because it lowers the risk of re-ruptures. Both methods require 4 to 6 months of rehabilitation.

Ankle sprains are the most common sports related foot and ankle injury. A sprain occurs when the ligament holding the ankle bones and joint stretches beyond its normal range. It can be treated non-surgically with a combination of rest, ice wrapped around the joint for 30 minutes immediately after injury, compression by a bandage and elevating the ankle above the heart for 48 hours. This combination is referred to as RICE. Severe ankle sprains in which the ligaments are torn may require reconstructive surgery followed by rehabilitation.

Monday, 23 November 2020 00:00

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body; it is a tough band of fibrous tissue that stretches from the bones of the heel to the calf muscles. This tendon is what allows us to stand on our toes while running, walking, or jumping, it is common for this tendon to become injured. In severe cases, the Achilles tendon may become partially torn or completely ruptured. However, this tendon is susceptible to injury because of its limited blood supply and the high tensions it endures.

The people who are more likely to suffer from Achilles tendon injuries are athletes who partake in activities that require them to speed up, slow down, or pivot. Consequently, athletes who engage in running, gymnastics, dance, football, baseball, basketball, or tennis are more likely to suffer from Achilles tendon injuries. Additionally, there are other factors that may make you more prone to this injury. People who wear high heels, have flat feet, have tight leg muscles or tendons, or take medicines called glucocorticoids are more likely to have Achilles tendon injuries.

A common symptom of an Achilles tendon injury is pain above the heel that is felt when you stand on your toes. However, if the tendon is ruptured, the pain will be severe, and the area may become swollen and stiff. Other symptoms may be reduced strength in the lower ankle or leg area, and reduced range of motion in the ankle. When the Achilles tendon tears, there is usually a popping sound that occurs along with it. People who have acute tears or ruptures may find walking and standing to be difficult.

If you suspect you have injured your Achilles tendon, you should see your podiatrist to have a physical examination. Your podiatrist will likely conduct a series of tests to diagnose your injury including a “calf-squeeze” test. Calf squeeze tests are performed by first squeezing the calf muscle on the healthy leg. This will pull on the tendon and consequently cause the foot to move. Afterward, the same test will be performed on the injured leg. If the tendon is torn, the foot won’t move because the calf muscle won’t be connected to the foot.

Monday, 16 November 2020 00:00

Cracked heels can make life very frustrating and embarrassing when displaying the bare feet. Aside from being unpleasing to the eye, they can also tear stockings and socks and wear out shoes at a faster rate. When severe, cracked heels may cause pain or infection.

Cracked heels are a problem for those who are athletic, those who may walk a lot, and those who have especially dry skin. Those who use medication that dry the skin, those who swim often, wearing certain types of shoes, and those who are diabetic may have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors whose skin produces less oil may also have trouble with cracked feet. There is no one way to develop cracked feet, and there is no cure.

Today, the market consists of numerous products that have a variety of ingredients to promote healing. Some of these are over-the-counter. Others are prescribed by a doctor, especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

Some doctors recommend wearing socks at night for those with rough skin. This helps further healing, and helps creams stay on longer and better absorb into the skin.

One way to alleviate dryness that causes cracked heels is by using moisturizers both day and night. Another way is to make sure the skin is clean and dry at all times. Using a pumice stone to buff away dead skin before putting on moisturizer can also help. Cracked heels will not respond to the cream unless the outer layer of skin is first removed through exfoliation. After exfoliation, lotion or ointment will be absorbed by the skin more easily.

Foods that produce healing and balance can also help the skin from within. Everything that is put into the body can either help it or hurt it. Taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc can also be very beneficial.

Nevertheless, not all products are guaranteed to help treat cracked feet. Seeing a professional is best if other treatments options were unsuccessful. A podiatrist should be able to give the best advice to help with this problem.

Monday, 09 November 2020 00:00

Many foot diseases and conditions become more serious and common among the elderly. Some of these conditions include diabetic ulcers, ingrown toenails, fungus, arthritis, corns, and calluses. Unfortunately, it may be harder for older adults to take care of their own feet, but there are some precautions they can take in order to avoid any serious conditions.

Dry, cracked heels tend to be a common problem for older people. In order to avoid this, you should always keep your feet clean and well moisturized. Special feet moisturizers should be used as average lotions might not provide enough moisture for dry and cracked heels. Daily foot inspections are crucial for the elderly to detect any irregularities in their earliest stages. During the aging process, blood circulation tends to slow down causing older people to not feel their feet as well as they used to. This often results in foot problems going unnoticed.

Fungal and bacterial conditions thrive on elderly feet because older adults are less likely to keep their feet clean and dry; this makes it easier for bacteria to take hold in their dry, cracked skin. Elderly people should be sure to thoroughly dry their feet, especially in between the toes, after bathing. This will help them avoid developing any fungal infections. Additionally, clean cotton socks should be worn after the feet are dried.

Cutting toenails straight across will help prevent ingrown toenails. When toenails are cut too lose, the nail might break through the skin resulting in an ingrown nail. Clippers should be used to cut the nails in order to make the cut even.

Elderly people who have diabetes are at risk of developing serious foot problems that may lead to amputation. Ulcers that are left untreated can lead to gangrene. Dry and cracked feet, fungus, and untended cuts under the nails may also lead to infections.

Fortunately, Medicare covers many different types of services for foot care. Elderly people with any of these foot conditions should seek the help of a podiatrist and perform daily foot inspections in order to ensure that they have healthy feet.

Monday, 02 November 2020 00:00

Flatfoot is a condition that occurs when the arches on the foot are flattened, which allows the soles of the feet to touch the floor. Flatfoot is a common condition and it is usually painless.

Throughout childhood, most people begin to develop arches in their feet, however, some do not. Those who do not develop arches are left with flatfoot. The pain associated with flat feet is usually at its worse when engaging in activity. Another symptom that may occur with those who have this condition is swelling along the inside of the ankle.

It is also possible to have flexible flatfoot. Flexible flatfoot occurs when the arch is visible while sitting or standing on the tiptoes, but it disappears when standing. People who have flexible flatfoot are often children and most outgrow it without any problems.

There are some risk factors that may make you more likely to develop flatfoot. Those who have diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of flatfoot development. Other factors include aging and obesity.

Diagnosis for flat feet is usually done by a series of tests by your podiatrist. Your podiatrist will typically try an x-ray, CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI on the feet. Treatment is usually not necessary for flat foot unless it causes pain. However, therapy is often used for those who experience pain in their flat feet. Some other suggested treatment options are arch supports, stretching exercises, and supportive shoes. 

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