November Articles 2015

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Feet

Although rheumatoid arthritis actually attacks multiple bones and joints throughout the entire body, ninety percent of people who actually develop this condition usually do so in the foot or ankle area. Those who develop this kind of arthritis in the feet usually develop symptoms around the toes and forefeet first, before anywhere else. Rheumatoid arthritis appears to have a genetic component. If it runs in the family, then you will be more likely to develop it as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints. This causes inflammation of the membrane lining, and the gradual destruction of the joint’s cartilage and even bone.

Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with RA include pain and swelling of the feet. Stiffness in the feet is also another common symptom that people experience. Those who have RA in the feet usually feel the pain in the ball or sole of their feet. This can get to be very painful at times. A person's joints can even shift and become deformed after a period of time.

In order to properly diagnose RA in the feet it is usually necessary for a doctor or podiatrist to evaluate the area. Your doctor will also question you about your medical history, occupation, etc., to determine whether anything in your lifestyle may have triggered the condition. There are a number of tests that may be performed to help diagnose RA such as a rheumatoid factor test, although there is no one single test that will tell you for sure if you have RA. There are different X-rays that can be taken as well to determine if a person has RA in their feet.

There is a range of treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of RA is usually a lifelong process that includes a variety of methods of treatment and therapy. Your doctor can prescribe special shoes that should help with arch support as well as heel support. A physical therapist can help those with this condition learn exercises which will keep their joints flexible. Surgery may be needed to correct some of the issues with the feet, such as bunions, and hammertoes. Fusion is usually the most successful surgical option for rheumatoid arthritis. However, people need to keep in mind that there are some risks associated with these surgeries.

Everything You Need to Know About Gout

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 metatarsal phalangeal joint on the big toe; though it has 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 and the children of parents who suffer gout will have a two in ten chance of developing the condition as well. 

This form of arthritis, again noted as being particularly painful, is the leftover uric acid crystallizing in the blood stream and travel to the space between joints where they rub causing agonizing friction when the patient moves. Symptoms include: pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Tertiary side effects may include fatigue and fever though reports of these effects are very rare. Some patients have reported that, as the temperature drops (when you sleep for instance) the pain may intensify.

Most cases of gout are easily diagnosed by a podiatrist’s assessment of the various symptoms, however there are defined tests that can be performed. A blood test to detect elevated levels of uric acid is often used as well as the use of 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, diet, lifestyle changes, and preventative drugs are necessary to fully combat the most severe cases.

 Those that lead a sedentary lifestyle are at a higher risk for gout. Any amount of exercise decreases probability of repeat encounters with the condition. Also, staying away from, or reducing drastically, consumption of red meat, sea food, and fructose-sweetened drinks reduces the likelihood of chronic gout as well.

As for diet, beyond what has already been mentioned, ingesting Vitamin C, coffee, and particular dairy products help on the preventative maintenance side of healthy living. While new drugs are out on the market that inhibit the body’s production of uric acid-producing enzymes, reducing or eliminating as much as possible your overall levels of uric acid will ensure you lead a gout-free life.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains can be a serious injury that should be given immediate attention and care, despite not being as severe as a broken ankle. An ankle sprain can lead to a significant amount of pain, as well as limited mobility. They are often characterized by swelling and discoloration of the skin, which occurs when the ligaments are stretched beyond their limits.

The simple act of walking can sometimes cause a sprain, which makes them a very common injury for anyone. They occur when the ankle twists in an awkward way or rolls over itself, causing a pop or snap in the tendons around the ankle. Some people are more at risk than others, including athletes who continually push their bodies to the limits and also people who have previously suffered accidents to the feet, ankles, or lower legs.

Most of the time, an ankle sprain is not severe enough to warrant rushing to the hospital. There are many at-home treatment options available to you, including propping the leg up above your head to reduce blood flow and inflammation, applying ice packs to the affected area as needed, taking over the counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication, using an ACE bandage to wrap and support the injured ankle, and most importantly, remaining off your feet until the ankle has fully healed.

Despite this, an ankle sprain can turn into a severe injury that might require hospitalization. If the ankle ligaments or muscles are damaged from a tear or rip, that is one sign that the sprain is severe enough to warrant going to the hospital and possibly having surgery done. Even after the surgery, the recovery process can be long, involving rehabilitation sessions administered by a podiatrist to get your ankle back to full health.

The severity of your sprain might become apparent if you are unable to stand or walk, non-stop pain is occurring over a prolonged period of time, swelling is much more severe than initially present, or if you start to experience tingling or numbness. These signs might show that your ankle sprain might actually be a broken ankle, an injury that requires immediate medical attention.

While not completely avoidable, ankle sprains can be curbed with some preventative treatment measures. These include wearing appropriate fitting shoes that not only provide a comfortable fit, but also ankle support. It is also recommended to stretch before doing any kind of physical activity, as this will help lower your body’s chance for an injury.

Barefoot Running

Barefoot running is becoming a popular running trend that has been permeating through the running and jogging communities. The act of running without shoes changes more about the motions of your stride than you may think, and choosing to run without shoes is not the only adjustment you will have to make.

Whenever you run normally, with shoes, your heel strikes the ground first as you land while you roll over the ball of your foot and push off with the front part and toes. Barefoot runners actually land on the front part of their feet and not their heels, shifting the impact from the back to the front of the foot. In order to do this safely and without much injury, runners need to reduce their stride to create softer landings.

One of barefoot running’s biggest advantages is the reduced risk of injury. Landing on the front of your foot with a reduced stride lessens the stress placed on the back of the foot, heels, and ankles. It also works out many muscles in the feet, ankles, and lower legs that you do not normally get to strengthen because of the different motion.  Your posture and balance are also improved with barefoot running, as is your sensory input from your feet to the rest of your body. Studies have shown that ironically, countries that have large populations of people who do not wear shoes every day are at lower risk for foot and ankle injuries and complications.

However, there is still some skepticism behind barefoot running because of some disadvantages it brings. One of these is the complete lack of protection for your feet while running. Bruises, scrapes, cuts, and even blisters can easily form when you have no protection from sharp or rough objects on the ground. Landing on the front of your feet can also cause Achilles tendonitis because of the overuse of the Achilles tendon.

Despite this, barefoot running can be made safe and enjoyable if you make a slow transition from your normal running routine into barefoot running. You cannot simply start the activity out of the blue one day, but instead gradually work your way from walking to jogging to running, increasing the distance each time. It is also recommended to start off on flat, even surfaces that do not contain sharp or dangerous objects because your feet are now unprotected. Minimalist running shoes are a great middle ground to start with because they combine the protection of shoes with the fit and feel of barefoot running.

Every Day Foot Care

Our feet are of great importance in our lives. However, they are something we tend to neglect. When this becomes a habit, it can cause significant trouble. Pain, limited mobility, and expensive doctor’s visits can occur when foot problems are ignored. If feet are cared for and looked after each day, however, they will perform without pain or complication.

Hygiene is the most basic way to care for your feet. Washing and drying them thoroughly every day is most important. Cleaning between your toes, and keeping your toenails trimmed and short is essential. Using moisturizer is also important if your feet feel dry or appear cracked.

Remember to avoid using moisturizer between your toes. This can cause fungi and bacteria development if cream sits in that area. The skin can also macerate between the toes when moisturizer is used.

Footwear is also an important aspect of keeping your feet healthy. Making sure your shoes are the correct size is key when picking them out. Shoes should not feel too tight, but snug. If a shoe is too loose, they can also cause problems. Shoe shopping is recommended to be done later in the day, because the feet will have settled and swelled to their full size by then. Wearing high-heels or flip-flops too often should be avoided to keep their feet healthiest. Wearing shoes that are good for your feet, have padding on your soles, and support the ankles and arches are most important.

Additionally, socks should be worn when closed-toe shoes are worn. Though they may feel hot during the summer, they are important in absorbing sweat and moisture off the feet. Without socks, the buildup of sweat in a closed-toe shoe can cause fungi and athlete’s foot.

The right shoes can make a difference in your everyday foot care. Make sure that your shoes show no signs of wear, and chose shoes that offer support for your arches and overall foot. Make sure cleaning your feet is a part of your daily routine. This way, your feet will stay healthy and safe.