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Are the Signs of Fungus Afoot?

Sandal weatherFeet are particularly vulnerable to fungal infections, for lots of reasons. Here are just a few: We stick them in sweaty shoes and socks all day. They may not get as much attention from the soap as other parts of your body when you take a shower. If you go barefoot in public, you might be putting them in harm’s way. And because feet don’t always get the same level of circulation, your body might not be able to fight fungal infections as effectively.

The tricky thing about fungal infections like athlete’s foot and fungal toenails is that, the longer you let them go on, the more difficult they become to eradicate. Your skin and nails provide a hearty banquet of the nutrients they need, and they won’t leave without a fight. Worse, since they’re all caused by the same kinds of fungi, an infection can jump from toe to toe, to skin (as athlete’s foot), to other parts of the body (like hands, scalp, or back), to family members.

So, don’t ignore your feet! If you keep an eye out for the signs of a fungal infection, you’ll have a better chance of catching it early and stopping it quickly.

The telltale sign of athlete’s foot is a scaly, itchy, red rash. Although the exact symptoms you experience and the order in which the arrive can vary, most cases begin between the toes. The itchy sensation also tends to be worst in the first few moments right after you remove your socks and shoes. If you begin to notice any of these signs, avoid touching or picking at the rash and begin treatment with an over-the-counter antifungal cream or spray right away.

Fungal toenail infections are even harder to get rid of, so vigilance here is particularly important. The fungus may begin as a simple whitish or yellowish spot under the tip of your nail. It won’t stay that way, though—as fungal nail progress, the area of discoloration spread. Eventually, the nail itself may become thickened, distorted, ragged, or even brittle and crumbly.

If the signs of a fungus are afoot, before it gets bad, get yourself to Foot & Ankle Clinic of the Virginias. Our team can help you get control of your condition and avoid the frustration and embarrassment an infection may cause. To set up your appointment, give us a call at (800) 456-8637.

Itchiness and unsightly rashes from athlete's footDon't Be Rash: Ways to Avoid Athlete's Foot

Trust us: athlete’s foot is one condition you definitely want to avoid. If you’ve ever had it, you know what we mean.

Even a relatively mild case can be extremely aggravating, and even embarrassing. A dry, scaly, reddish rash develops, often along the tops of feet and between the toes. Your feet itch all day, but especially after you take your socks and shoes off when you get home. Your feet look gross, and you feel gross—and that’s just the basic case. More serious instances of athlete’s foot can cause blisters and open sores, and may spread to other areas of your body (including your toenails, groin, scalp, and more).

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus that that feasts on the keratin in your skin, and lies in wait in dark, dank environments, ready to spread by contact. If you want to reduce your risk of picking up an infection this summer, be smart about your activities and hygiene:

  • Wash your feet each day.
  • Dry thoroughly after washing, especially between toes.
  • Change your socks regularly, especially if you sweat a lot. This may mean more than once per day in some cases.
  • Wear shoes made from breathable fabrics.
  • Rotate between multiple pairs of shoes, switching pairs each day. This allows shoes to dry out before you use them again.
  • If you have a history of athlete’s foot, use antifungal sprays or powder inside shoes or on feet regularly.
  • If safe for you to do so (e.g., you don’t have diabetes or other concerns requiring shoes to be worn at all times), go shoeless or even barefoot at home to allow your feet to air out.
  • Don’t go barefoot in public, especially shared facilities such as pool decks and showers. A pair of shower shoes or flip flops is a must.
  • Don’t share towels, socks, or shoes with anyone else—especially if they have an existing fungal infection.

If you do get athlete’s foot, our recommendation is that you pick up an over-the-counter antifungal spray or cream and follow the treatment course on the box or tube. In most cases, this will solve the problem. However, sometimes the over-the-counter remedy isn’t strong enough and you need extra help.

If your situation is especially painful or doesn’t improve after a few weeks of treatment, give the Foot & Ankle Clinic of the Virginias a call at (800) 456-8637. We can offer both a professional evaluation and stronger remedies to help eliminate your fungal infection for good.

Spring FeetSpring Forecast: A Chance of Fungus

The numbers are in, and we have your spring forecast for 2017! It’ll be hot and humid, with lots of rain and a chance of fungus!

Surprised? Don’t be. As temperatures and humidity levels increase, you may find yourself more and more likely to come into contact with dermatophytes, a particular group of fungi that love dark and humid spaces. These fungi also love keratin, a material plentiful in hair, skin, and nails, and if they make their way to your feet they could cause athlete’s foot, fungal toenails, or both.

Trust us: you do not want either of these conditions. Neither of them are likely to “make you sick” or impair your medical health. However, both are deeply distressing and unpleasant. Athlete’s foot creates a rash that is scaly, icky, itchy, and sometimes even smelly. Fungal toenails are even worse—infected nails often turn yellowish or grayish, and become thickened, ragged, and deformed. While athlete’s foot usually can be eliminated with about a month’s worth of topical medications, fungal nails are much more difficult to treat and will probably require an appointment with our office.

If you want to protect yourself this spring, make sure you keep your feet clean and dry, and avoid exposing them to surfaces highly likely to be infected. We recommend:

  • Washing and drying feet thoroughly at least once per day.
  • Changing socks at least daily, or more frequently if they get wet.
  • Rotating between pairs of shoes on a daily basis so they can dry out between uses.
  • Using antifungal powders or sprays in shoes.
  • Avoid going barefoot in public or shared spaces. In particular, this includes showers, gymnasiums, pool decks, and locker rooms. Always bring sandals or shower shoes.

If you do pick up a case of fungal nails this spring, or you find that your over-the-counter solutions for athlete’s foot aren’t working, please make an appointment with Foot & Ankle Clinic of the Virginias. Don’t live with these uncomfortable, embarrassing conditions any longer than you have to! For a consultation and treatment solutions, please fill out our online contact form or call (800) 456-8637.

The Trouble with Tight Achilles Tendons

Your body contains around 4,000 tendons—give or take—but none of them can match the Achilles in either thickness or strength. Also known as the “heel cord,” the Achilles attaches the powerful, explosive calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the foot, inserting into the top of the heel bone.

AchillesThe Achilles, along with the calf muscles attached to it, are responsible for a motion called plantar flexion—in other words, extending your foot at the ankle so that the toes point downward, away from the rest of your foot. Since this is the force that propels you forward when you walk and run, a healthy Achilles is critical for efficient and pain-free locomotion.

A tight Achilles, however, produces many problems. Perhaps most notably, a tight tendon is far more vulnerable to injuries. If stretched too far, an Achilles can tear or even fully rupture, meaning instant pain, significant reduction in ability to walk, and a lengthy recovery (often requiring surgery). Even if it doesn’t rupture, you can still develop acute or chronic inflammation or tendinitis.

Another problem is heel pain. The Achilles tendon doesn’t operate in isolation—it is part of a “chain” that links the muscles of the calf to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot, including the plantar fascia. A tight Achilles pulls on the heel bone from above, while the plantar fascia pulls on the heel from the arch. It’s a real no-win situation for your heel!

If Achilles pain is causing you trouble, please know that help is available. Our team of foot and ankle specialists treats Achilles tendon injuries regularly with a wide range of conservative treatment options, as well as surgery to repair even the most severe ruptures. We’ll help you loosen the tightness, reduce your pain, and repair any damage swiftly and completely. To call about scheduling an appointment at one of our many convenient locations, please dial (800) 456-8637 today.

Bunionettes: Bunions on Your Baby Toes

BunionettesMost people are familiar with bunions—those big, knobby, bony, protruding bumps that can develop on the inside of some feet at the base of the big toe. Did you know, however, that the same thing can happen to the little toe, on the opposite side of the foot? A bunion on the fifth toe is called a bunionette, and don’t let their relatively small size fool you. They can be just as painful and frustrating to deal with as their larger cousins!

Bunionettes may also be called tailor’s bunions for historical reasons—centuries ago, they were a common condition among professional tailors, who would sit cross-legged with the outside of their feet against the ground. Today, you’re more likely to develop one over time from a fundamental defect in the way your feet are structured, or perhaps from wearing tight shoes that pinch your pinky toe.

As with bunions, bunionettes are a progressive condition. That ugly bump isn’t going away anytime soon, so you have two basic options. The first, and the one we prefer to thoroughly explore initially, is conservative management. No, these techniques won’t make the bump go away, but if the bunionette is still relatively minor, they usually will take the pain away and allow you to function normally without discomfort or restriction. Making sure you have wide enough shoes to accommodate your toes, using a little padding to defend against friction, and getting a good pair of orthotics to correct or accommodate any structural flaws in your feet that could be contributing to your pain is, more often than not, more than sufficient.

Unfortunately, a severe bunionette might not be controllable through conservative treatment alone, and that’s when we look at the second option: surgery. Depending on the condition of the bones and the joint, this could be as simple as removing some of the excess skin and swollen tissues. In other cases, bones will have to be cut and repositioned in a procedure known as an osteotomy. Although we see surgery as a last resort, the good news is that bunionette surgery is, on average, highly successful and produces long-lasting pain relief for the great majority of our patients.

If a little bunionette is causing you big problems, don’t ignore the pain. Call the Foot & Ankle Clinic of the Virginias at (800) 456-8637 and schedule an appointment at one of our seven convenient locations.

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