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Jim Maxka, DPM

Hanover (717) 524-1034


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Monday, 16 December 2019 00:00

A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the inward shifting of the bones in the big toe, toward the other toes of the foot. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.

Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. Existing bunions can be worsened by wearing improperly fitting shoes. Trying to cram your feet into high heels or running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet can exacerbate bunion development. High heels not only push the big toe inward, but shift one's body weight and center of gravity towards the edge of the feet and toes, expediting bone displacement.

A podiatrist knowledgeable in foot structure and biomechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates an enlargement of the joint near the base of the toe and a shifting toward the smaller toes, this is indicative of a bunion.

Wearing wider shoes can reduce pressure on the bunion and minimize pain, and high heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem; but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.

For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe. A surgeon may do this by taking out a section of bone or by rearranging the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help keep it properly aligned. It may be necessary even after surgery to wear more comfortable shoes that avoid placing pressure on the toe, as the big toe may move back to its former orientation toward the smaller toes.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 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, 09 December 2019 00:00

Diabetics must be wary of all wounds, regardless of depth or size. Diabetes, a chronic disease in which the body cannot properly use glucose the way it normally would, causes various complications that make wounds difficult to heal. Nerve damage or neuropathy will cause diabetics to have trouble feeling the pain of a blister or cut until the condition has significantly worsened or become infected. A diabetic’s weakened immune system can make even the most minor of wounds easily susceptible to infection. Diabetics are also more prone to developing narrow, clogged arteries, and are therefore more likely to develop wounds.

Wounds should be taken care of immediately after discovery, as even the smallest of wounds can become infected if enough bacteria build up within the wound.  To remove dirt, wounds should be first rinsed under running water only. Soap, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine can irritate the injury and should be avoided. To prevent infection, apply antibiotic ointment to the wound and cover it with a bandage. The bandage should be changed daily. The skin around the wound may be cleaned with soap.

To prevent further exacerbation, see a doctor—especially if you have diabetes. Minor skin conditions can become larger problems if not properly inspected. As the wound heals, make sure to avoid applying pressure to the affected area.

Tuesday, 03 December 2019 00:00

Plantar warts are described as small growths that appear on the heels or other areas of the feet that bear a large amount of weight. The pressure in these areas causes plantar warts to hide behind thick layers of skin called calluses. In most cases, plantar warts are not a serious health issue, and they usually go away without treatment. However, it is still important be mindful of them.

Plantar warts are caused by infections with human papillomavirus (HPV) in the outer layer of skin on the soles of the feet. The plantar warts then develop when the virus enters the body through weak spots at the bottom of the feet, such as tiny cuts and breaks. Plantar warts are not guaranteed for all who encounter the virus. Everyone responds differently to the affects of HPV.

Plantar warts are most common in the following groups: children and teenagers, people with weakened immune systems, people with history of plantar warts, and people who walk barefoot. Exposure to HPV is common in environments such as locker rooms or pool areas.

One of early signs to look out for is a callus, since many plantar warts hide behind them. You can also locate these warts by looking for small, fleshy, rough, grainy growths near the base of the toes and the heel. Early signs of plantar warts are shown by black pinpoints, which are small, clotted blood vessels. Lesions that interrupt normal lines and ridges in the skin of your foot may also be a sign of plantar warts. Any feeling of pain while walking or standing can also be a symptom of plantar warts.

Although most cases are not serious, some conditions may require a visit to your podiatrist.  If you are uncertain that your lesion is a wart, if you have diabetes, or if you are experiencing bleeding, you may need to see a seek professional treatment. Your doctor may offer treatments such as prescribing stronger peeling medicine or using cryotherapy by applying liquid nitrogen to the wart. More serious cases may require minor surgery or laser treatment.

There are simple solutions available to help prevent plantar warts. One common task is to avoid walking barefoot in swimming pool areas and locker rooms, as this is where HPV is commonly present. Keeping your feet clean and dry, while changing shoes and socks daily can also help prevent future plantar warts. If you know someone who has plantar warts, it is important to avoid direct contact with their warts. You should also refrain from picking or scratching your wart if you happen to develop one.

Monday, 02 December 2019 00:00

Elderly Americans are very susceptible to falls as they get older. Everyone experiences decreases in flexibility, balance, strength, and the senses as they age. This correlates to some eye-opening statistics. 1 in 4 Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. An elderly American is being treated for a fall in an emergency room every 11 seconds, and every 19 minutes, an older person dies from falling. In light of these striking statistics, one can see the importance of taking steps to prevent falls.

Finding an exercise program for the elderly is an excellent way to reduce the likelihood of falls. Look for an exercise program that improves strength and balance. Elderly people who live a more sedentary lifestyle, with little physical activity, are at an increased risk of falling. Wearing well-fitted footwear that provides good foot support and cushion will help prevent falls from poorly fitted shoes. Talking to a podiatrist about your susceptibility to falls and about inspecting your prescriptions will help to avoid any medication that could make falls more likely. Due to a decline in the senses among the elderly, having your eyes and hearing checked is recommended.

Around half of all falls occur in the household. Removing tripping hazards in the home and making it more accommodating to older persons can significantly reduce falls. Some notable household changes include increasing lighting around the house, installing grab bars in the shower and bathroom, and making sure the floor is clear of clutter. Other smart options include installing a shower chair, using rubber-bottomed rugs, and placing railings on both sides of stairwells.  

Finally, discuss with a doctor and your family about your fear of falling. This will help to increase awareness among the population on the need for fall prevention. A lack of awareness on the matter, and a downplaying of importance are what increase the risks of falling. Following these tips can help to reduce the risk for yourself and your loved ones.

 

Monday, 25 November 2019 00:00

Stress fractures are small breaks in the bone that are caused by repetitive stress. They typically occur due to overuse, forcing the bones of the foot or ankle to continually absorb the full impact of each step taken. Stress fractures can also be caused by abnormal foot structure, osteoporosis, bone deformities, or wearing improper footwear during exercise.

Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Those who run, play tennis or basketball, or practice gymnastics tend to experience these fractures more frequently. Anyone is susceptible to this problem, though. Individuals who are normally sedentary and suddenly begin an intense, high impact workout may sustain stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not yet strong enough to handle and cushion the intensity of their activity. Osteoporosis may also cause someone to get stress fractures, because the disease weakens an afflicted person's bones and makes it easier for them to break down.

Pain from stress fractures typically occurs in the general area of the fracture. Pain can also manifest as “pinpoint pain” or pain that is felt when the site of the injury is touched, and can be accompanied by swelling. It may occur during or after activity, and it may disappear while resting and return when standing or moving. Engaging in any kind of activity, high impact or otherwise, will aggravate the pain. If the intensity of the activity increases before the stress fracture has properly healed, it can cause a full fracture.

Treatment can vary depending on the individual and the degree of injury. The primary way to treat a stress fracture is to rest the hurt foot. Some fractures will heal quickly with only a little bit of rest, while others may require a long rest period and the use of crutches, immobilization, or physical therapy. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.

If you are undergoing a new exercise regimen in running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. Make sure to wear supportive shoes to better protect you feet.

If you begin to experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If the symptoms persist, consult with your podiatrist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.

Monday, 18 November 2019 00:00

The ankle joint is the point at which the bones of the leg and foot join. This joint is crucial because it is responsible for the foot’s mobility. Ankle pain is typically the result of inflammation from an injury to bones, joint space, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or muscles in the area. Commonly associated symptoms with ankle pain are bruising, redness, numbness, stiffness, weakness, and tingling.

The most common causes of ankle pain are sprains and injuries. Ankle sprains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries. Sprains occur when the ligaments of the ankle become partially or completely torn due to sudden stretching. Sprains can occur on either the inner or outer sides of the ankle joint. Usually, these injuries occur when the ankle is twisted in an activity by stepping off an uneven surface. More specific causes include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoarthritis, and Achilles tendonitis.

If you are experiencing ankle pain, you should consult with your podiatrist to choose the best method of care for you. Your doctor will conduct an examination of your ankle to determine the underlying cause of the pain.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019 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, 04 November 2019 00:00

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is a compression of the posterior tibial nerve. The posterior tibial nerve runs along the inside of the ankle into the foot. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is named for the tarsal tunnel, which is a thin space along the inside of the ankle beside the ankle bones. This space contains various nerves, arteries, and tendons, and includes the posterior tibial nerve. The tibial nerve is the peripheral nerve in the leg responsible for sensation and movement of the foot and calf muscles. In tarsal tunnel syndrome the tibial nerve is compressed, causing tingling or burning, numbness, and pain.

Common causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome involve pressure or an injury. Injuries that produce inflammation and swelling in or around the tunnel may place pressure on the posterior tibial nerve. Direct pressure on the tibial nerve for an extended period of time, sometimes caused by other body structures close by or trauma to the tibial nerve, can result in tarsal tunnel syndrome. Diseases that damage nerves, such as diabetes or arthritis, may cause tarsal tunnel syndrome. Those with flat feet are at risk for developing the condition, as the extra pressure and strain placed on the foot may compress the posterior tibial nerve.

Feeling different sensations in the foot at different times is a common symptom of tarsal tunnel syndrome. An afflicted person may experience pain, tingling, burning or other unusual sensations in the foot of the affected leg. Symptoms are primarily felt on bottom of the foot and/or the inside of the ankle. Symptoms can appear suddenly and may occur due to overuse of the foot.

To diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome, your podiatrist may examine the foot and tap the posterior tibial nerve to see if symptoms surface. He or she may also order an MRI to determine if a mass is present.

Treating tarsal tunnel syndrome will depend on the decision of your podiatrist. Multiple options are available, however, and can include rest, ice, immobilization, oral medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), physical therapy, injection therapy, orthotics, supportive shoes, braces, and surgery.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019 00:00

Our feet are arguably the most important parts of our bodies because they are responsible for getting us from place to place.  However, we often don’t think about our feet until they begin to hurt. If you have pain in your feet, you need to first determine where on the foot you are experiencing it to get to the root of the problem. The most common areas to feel pain on the foot are the heel and the ankle.

Heel pain is most commonly attributed to a condition called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia, which is the band of tough tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes becomes inflamed. Plantar fasciitis pain is usually worse in the morning, and it tends to go away throughout the day. If you have plantar fasciitis, you should rest your foot and do heel and foot muscles stretches. Wearing shoes with proper arch support and a cushioned sole has also been proven to be beneficial.

Some common symptoms of foot pain are redness, swelling, and stiffness. Foot pain can be dull or sharp depending on its underlying cause. Toe pain can also occur, and it is usually caused by gout, bunions, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, sprains, fractures, and corns.

If you have severe pain in your feet, you should immediately seek assistance from your podiatrist for treatment. Depending on the cause of your pain, your podiatrist may give you a variety of treatment options.

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