Dr. Fahim Discusses Remedies for Heel Pain

In a new video, Dr. Ramy Fahim, a foot and ankle surgeon with Ankle & Foot Care Centers in Warren, Ohio, talks about heel pain and remedies for the condition.

Most cases of plantar fasciitis, commonly called heel pain, can be treated successfully without surgery, Dr. Fahim points out.

Over-Use, Improper Stretching Can Spark Tendinitis

smeskoTendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon, a thick cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. Achilles tendinitis, or an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, is one of the most common causes of foot or ankle pain.

Other types of foot/ankle tendinitis include posterior tibial tendinitis and peroneal tendinitis.

Tendinitis can result from an injury or over-use, says Dr. Mark S. Smesko, a podiatric physician and surgeon with Ankle & Foot Care Centers in Youngstown, Ohio.

Improper stretching prior to exertion or incorrect form during physical activity can also contribute to the development of tendinitis, Dr. Smesko said.

Some people, including those with “flat feet,” tight tendons or arthritis, are particularly prone to tendinitis.

“Pain is the most common symptom of tendinitis,” Dr. Smesko said. “The pain of tendinitis is most noticeable when you try to move that part of your body. The involved tendon may swell.”

Home Care

Rest and ice can ease the pain of tendinitis, Dr. Smesko said. He recommends staying off a painful foot or ankle as much as possible and applying ice for up to 15 minutes at a time, three to four times a day.

When to Visit a Podiatrist

“If ice and rest don’t eliminate the pain, or if the pain persists beyond a week, it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist,” Dr. Smesko said. “Don’t put that off. Tendinitis can become a chronic problem, and it’s much more difficult to treat a chronic problem than an acute injury.”

Diagnosis and Treatment

A podiatrist seeing a patient with possible tendinitis will ask a patient questions about the pain and his or her general health and likely perform a complete physical examination of the feet and ankles, he said.

The doctor may order X-rays or an MRI to rule out any other problems that often cause pain, like a fracture or torn tendon.

Treatment will focus on relieving the pain and preventing further injury.

“A podiatrist may create shoe inserts or a soft cast to effectively immobilize the affected area,” Dr. Smesko said. “It could take a couple of weeks for a tendon to heal. Medication could be involved as well.”

Prevention

Custom orthotics can help control the motion of feet and decrease the chance of a patient re-developing tendinitis. A podiatrist may also recommend certain stretches or exercises to increase the tendon’s elasticity and strengthen the muscles attached to the tendon.

“Gradually increasing your activity level with an appropriate training schedule can also help prevent tendinitis,” Dr. Smesko said. “For example, it’s better to build up to a 5K run instead of simply tackling the whole course the first day.”

Easy Measures to Discourage Athlete’s Foot

podolskySevere cases of athlete’s foot, officially known as tinea pedis, can require advanced treatment.

But many cases of the common condition can be prevented with some very easy measures, says Dr. David Podolsky, a podiatric physician and surgeon with Ankle & Foot Care Centers in Youngstown, Ohio.

Keep your feet dry

Athlete’s foot fungus tends to thrive in a dark, warm, moist environment, and that’s often exactly what we have inside our shoes, Dr. Podolsky said.

“It’s important to hand-dry feet completely with a towel after bathing and/or swimming,” he said. “Only a little bit of moisture is needed to retain athlete’s foot fungus.”

Wear the right socks

Light-colored and/or polyester socks are preferred over dark-colored or nylon socks, Dr. Podolsky added.

Nylon socks don’t breathe well, so moisture tends to stay on our feet instead of being wicked away, he said.

“Likewise, dark stocks tend to sustain heat than reflect it,” he said. “That adds to the potential for the foot fungus to grow.”

Try absorbent foot powder

Absorbent foot powder used in the shoes on a weekly or twice weekly basis will also help to wick moisture away from the feet and socks, Dr. Podolsky said.

Initial use of an over-the-counter athlete’s foot cream or spray, applied directly to the affected areas on a daily basis, may also be helpful.

If signs of athlete’s foot persist for two weeks, a visit to a podiatrist would be a good idea.

2 Easy Steps Can Discourage Wounds, Save Feet

gronerAs a wound care specialist, Dr. Thomas Groner sees dozens of debilitating foot wounds every week and knows that many of them could have been prevented by one of two very easy actions.

“First, it’s very important to look carefully at your feet and let your foot doctor know if you notice anything unusual,” said Dr. Groner, clinical director of the podiatric residency program at the Alliance Community Hospital Wound Care Center.

“Second, it’s important to wear shoes that fit right,” he said.

Although those seem like simple preventive measures, they are often overlooked.

In many cases, that’s because diabetes can blunt the feeling in one’s feet. If a person suffering from such numbness doesn’t physically look closely at his or her feet, warning signs may be missed and poorly fitting shoes could rapidly turn a small wound into a dangerous one.

In other cases, patients may feel the pain of a new wound but conclude it’s too minor to justify a doctor’s appointment, then grow complacent as the wound gets worse.

“There are people who have lost their legs, and it could have been prevented,” Dr. Groner said.

These conditions -- (from top) a heel ulcer, a neurotropic ulcer and dry gangrene -- can often be prevented but can also lead to amputation. (Images courtesy of American Podiatrict Medical Association.)
These conditions — (from top) a heel ulcer, a neurotrophic ulcer and dry gangrene — can often be prevented but can also lead to amputation. (Images courtesy of American Podiatric Medical Association.)

“It’s not uncommon for someone who has lost feeling to wear loose-fitting shoes and get a blister,” he said. “If they don’t notice, that blister can turn into a wound before they see it.

“For people with diabetes, the risk of not feeling a wound is complicated by the greater likelihood that they might step on a sharp object and develop a serious infection without realizing it.”

The APMA has published some compelling statistics about the dangers of wounds. A landmark study in the 1980s found that some 85 percent of amputations in people with diabetes are preceded by a foot ulcer. Other research suggests that more than 80 percent of diabetic lower extremity amputations are preventable (read more here).

Dr. Groner has some suggestions for those who may have lost feeling in their feet:

  • Ask a caretaker or relative to regularly check your feet for you, especially the bottoms of feet where forerunners to serious wounds often start and may go unnoticed for days or weeks.
  • Look into custom-fitted diabetic shoes, which are often covered by insurance. They’re wider and deeper and have a custom insert that’s molded specifically to the patient’s foot. Some insurance plans cover new diabetic shoes every year.

“Since it’s been established that wounds so frequently lead to amputations, I tell my patients that it is important to prevent wounds as opposed to treating them after they occur,” Dr. Groner said.

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Skin Cancer is Risk to All, No Matter the Skin Color

williamsBy Dr. Kwame Williams

Many African-Americans and other people with dark skin believe they face lower risk for skin cancer than light-colored people.

And while that is true, complacency surrounding that fact often leads to late detection of cancer among patients with dark skin, which means their cases are often more deadly. Moreover, many may not be aware that one form of cancer – acral lentiginous melanoma, or ALM, which often occurs in the feet – is more common among darker people.

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma, a serious cancer that starts in the skin’s pigment cells, has become more common in the United States each year for at least 30 years. The lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 1 in 40 for whites, and only about 1 in 1,000 for blacks and 1 in 200 for Hispanics.

However, the ACS also reports that the survival rate for melanoma is much lower among blacks – just 73 percent, vs. 91 percent among whites. Doctors say that could be because cases among African-Americans get detected later, when chances for survival are lower.

Deadly ALM

People with darker skin are more likely to be afflicted with ALM, a rare and aggressive cancer that is often found on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and beneath toenails and fingernails. These are areas that many people ignore.

We don’t hear much about ALM, but it caused the 1981 death of Musician Bob Marley at age 36. The melanoma that started beneath his toenail was originally thought to be a bruise from playing soccer.

ABCS of melanoma

The bottom line is this: No matter what color your skin is, you need to regularly look for, keep an eye on and ask your podiatrist about unusual moles, bumps or patches on your feet.

Here are what podiatrists call the “ABCs of melanoma.”

  • Asymmetry – When a lesion is divided in half and the sides don’t match.
  • Borders – Borders look scalloped, uneven or ragged.
  • Color – There may be more than one color. These colors may have an uneven distribution.
  • Diameter – The lesion is wider than a pencil eraser (greater than 6 mm).

To detect other types of skin cancer, look for spontaneous ulcers and non-healing sores, bumps that crack or bleed, nodules with rolled or “donut-shaped” edges, or scaly areas.

Preventing skin cancer on the feet and ankles is similar to doing so with any other body part. Limit sun exposure and be sure to apply sunscreen when you’re outdoors and your feet and ankles are exposed.

Further reading

For more information on skin cancer in the feet, visit this article on the American Podiatric Medical Association website.

For more on ALM, check out this article from the Washington Post.