Tuesday, July 2, 2013

5 Tips for Foot or Ankle Surgery Preparation

Guest blogger Brooke Williams talks about preparation for surgery.  She shares some great ideas!

If you have foot or ankle surgery in your near future, you will have to prepare for that surgery in advance to make the recovery as easy as possible.  Here are five tips to help you prepare for foot or ankle surgery.

Tip#1: Understand the Healing Process
Your body has a great healing property and you will want to prepare it to heal itself as best you can.  Your doctors will do some of the repairs, but once you get home, your body will do the rest.  What you need to do in advance is understand the healing process so that you can help it along.  One thing you will need to think about is the nutrition your body will need to heal.  You might want to plan out some meals before the surgery so you can ensure that you will have the right nutrients and vitamins in your diet.  You will also want to think about an exercise schedule to ensure that you don’t get too sore and stiff when you recover.  Understanding what you will have to do to aid your healing will be a great way to start the recovery process before the surgery even occurs.

Tip#2: Study Your Condition
Once you have a diagnosis, you can prepare for your surgery by understanding your injury.  Knowing how you are injured and what the surgeon will do to fix it will help you know what is vulnerable as you recover.  You will then understand what type of activity you can do and what will be more limiting.  The recovery process will go more smoothly if you know what you need to do to avoid hurting the area again.

Tip#3: Know Your Body
No one knows your body better than you do and understanding how it works on a daily basis will help you know when to bring things to your doctor.  If you are able to describe your complaints, notice the differences in your body and understand when you have gong far enough, your recovery process will be much easier.  You are not like any other patient and you need to remember that you are the only one who can fully understand what is going on in your body.  Knowing yourself will help you recover.

Tip#4: Hydration
You will want to stay hydrated before and after the surgery process as well.  Doctors will make sure you get fluids during the surgery, but if you drink before you go in, you will benefit yourself.  Your veins will be easier for the nurses to find and the procedure will be less painful later.

Tip#5: Consider Mobility

It is also a good idea to think about how you will get around after your surgery before it ever happens.  Crutches can be very helpful, but they can also be limiting and they can even hurt.  The good news is there are several other options on the market from Goodbye Crutches.  The Hands Free Crutch, for example, is a device that straps to your leg, allowing you to walk much like normal while retaining the use of your hands.  The Knee Walker is an option on wheels that lets you scoot from place to place using your good leg.  And the Seated Scooter allows you to have somewhere to sit no matter where you have to go.  Examine the options, think about your lifestyle, and then order the best choice for you before the surgery occurs so you can get comfortable and practice with it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Answers To Toenail Fungus Quiz!

Yesterday, I posted a short quiz on toenail fungus (onychomycosis).  As promised, here are today's answers (along with the questions in case you missed them yesterday):

1. Nail fungus is a sign of bad hygiene.

True or False

2. Nail fungus is commonly caused by the fungus that causes ringworm.

True or False

3. Failure to treat athlete’s foot will increase your chances of developing toenail fungus.

True or False

4. Common places to catch infections are locker rooms, pool sides, etc.

True or False

5. Fungal infection of the nail may destroy the nail.

True or False

1. False---Nail fungus is an infective problem. It has no relation with nail hygiene. Nail fungus is caused by a fungus or a type of yeast.

2. True---The fungus of the dermatophyte family that causes ringworm, also causes nail fungus.

3. True---If you don't treat athlete's foot, the infection may reach the nails and infect them.

4. True---Common areas that are infected with fungus like locker rooms, pool sides, etc. are the places where you catch nail fungus infection. Wash your feet after visiting such places, dry them and if you are susceptible to fungal infections, apply an anti-fungal ointment. Wear footwear whenever possible.

5. True---If the infection spreads, the nail may get detached and may fall off.

Unlike when I first began to practice podiatry, there are treatment options for toenail fungus that actually work!  As a new podiatrist, the best options I had available for the treatment of toenail fungus included periodic trimming and grinding down of toenails (which did not resolve the infection) and permanent removal of the affected toenail(s) - not a very popular option. 

Today, however, I can offer three options for treating toenail fungus.  First, for mild cases, there are topical antifungal medications.  I prefer a medication called Formula 3.  It is applied twice daily for one year.  This does take some effort on the part of the patient, and for severe cases, the medication has a hard time penetrating the toenail deep enough to actually kill the fungus.  Formula 3 is available for sale in my office.

The second option available is an oral mediation called terbinafine.  This is the generic version of Lamisil.  Because it is taken internally, the medication becomes incorporated into the toenail, and over a period of several months, the toenail gradually grows out clear.  Over the years, I have seen a lot of success with terbinafine.  However, not everyone is able to take terbinafine.  Some patients cannot take terbinafine due to potential harmful interactions with other medications they are taking.  In addition, those with kidney or liver disease should avoid terbinafine. 

The final option that is now offered at Concord Foot and Ankle Clinic is the use of the PinPointe FootLaser.  This laser was specifically designed to treat toenail fungus, and is FDA approved for the treatment of the onychomycosis.  The PinPointe FootLaser works by gently heating the toenail bed, thereby killing the fungus.  Once the fungus is killed, the toenail gradually grows out clear.  This is a procedure that is done in the office, taking 30 to 60 minutes.  Some patients may experience temorary warmth during the procedure; however, anesthesia is not required.  Because of the gentle way the PinPointe FootLaser works, there are no known side effects, and is a treatment option open to almost everyone.  As with other treatments for onychomycosis, clearing of the toenail takes several months, and is seen first at the base of the nail as new, disease-free nail begins to grow out.  To learn more about the PinPointe FootLaser and to see if it is right for you, visit my website by clicking here.  While there, you can browse through the gallery of before and after pictures.  You may also wish to simply call my office at (574) 875-8698.  We would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

With all the treatments now available for onychomycosis, there is no reason for anyone to continue to suffer with this condition. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Toenail Fungus Quiz

One of the most common conditions treated by podiatrists is toenail fungus (onychomycosis).  When infected, toenails become thickened and discolored (often yellow, white or brown).   While always unsightly, severe cases can cause considerable pain, especially when shoes are worn.  When I first started practicing podiatry, treatment options were limited.  However, there are now options available to successfully treat the condition.  First though, let’s take a quiz on toenail fungus. 

1. Nail fungus is a sign of bad hygiene.

True or False

2. Nail fungus is commonly caused by the fungus that causes ringworm.

True or False

3. Failure to treat athlete’s foot will increase your chances of developing toenail fungus.

True or False

4. Common places to catch infections are locker rooms, pool sides, etc.

True or False

5. Fungal infection of the nail may destroy the nail.

True or False

How do you think you did?  The answers to the quiz will be given tomorrow, along with a discussion of the exciting new treatment options available.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why Pain is Good

Really?  How can this be?  To talk to most people, they will do just about anything to avoid pain.  Indeed, I spend a lot of my time treating patients who have pain that keeps them from doing the things they enjoy in life.  Just ask a person with heel pain, or a painful ingrown toenail, and they will tell you how much pain is, well, a pain!  But pain is there for a reason.  Pain lets us know that there is something wrong and needs attention.  Imagine if you were to break a bone in your arm and have no pain.  You would likely not think there was anything wrong.  You would not protect the arm or seek treatment.  And it is likely that the fracture would not heal properly.  This is why pain is good, even though no one likes it.

For my diabetic patients, pain is not only good, but vital.  Problem is, many patients with diabetes develop a condition called peripheral neuropathy.  With peripheral neuropathy, the sensory nerves (primarily in the feet and lower legs) do not function as they should.  The pain signal is not transmitted to the brain.  This leads to some severe consequences.

A patient I saw recently was a perfect example the consequences of peripheral neuropathy.  He was working and stated that at the end of his work shift, his foot felt uncomfortable.  When he took off his shoe, he found that he had stepped on a nail that had gone through his shoe and into one of the bones in his foot.  Now, if I had stepped on a nail, you can bet that I would know right away that something was very much wrong.  I suspect that everyone around me would be aware as well, as they would likely cover their ears from my screaming.  However, this patient likely walked around for at least a few hours with a nail in his foot!  This of course made a bad situation worse.

Most of the time, the problems I see are not as dramatic in their presentation, but have the potential to be equally as devastating.  Quite often, it is not the nail in the foot that causes the ulcer or sore to form, but the constant light pressure from a callus or ill-fitting shoes that causes damage to the skin.  For this reason, I strongly urge all my diabetic patients to inspect their feet daily looking for signs of an ulcer developing.  These signs can include redness, swelling, bleeding.  If calluses are present, darkening of the callus can be a sign of bleeding and skin breakdown.  A best case scenario is to have a spouse, partner or friend inspect the feet, as it can be difficult to fully examine your own feet.  And by all means, if anything is seen that raises a concern, DO NOT DELAY calling your podiatrist to have your feet looked at!  It may save you from a long, difficult healing process.  It may avoid the need to amputate your leg.
To learn more about diabetes and its effects on the feet, please visit my website at http://www.concordfootdr.com/diabetic-foot-care.html

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Success Story!

About 2 weeks ago in my last blog posting, I talked about one of the treatment options for painful morton's neuromas - a cortisone injection.  Those who may remember, the "patient" was myself.  I had been having moderate pain in my right foot from the neuroma, and it was getting worse.  I decided to inject my foot with Kenalog, a type of cortisone.  The purpose of the injection was to help to relieve pain, and hopefully cause some shrinking of the neuroma itself. 

After my injection, I noticed an immediate decrease in pain.  This was expected, since I also had included a local anesthetic in the injection.  After several hours, the local anesthetic wore off, and the pain came back just as bad as before.  This was to be expected, and I was not surprised.  I can see how this can be discouraging to patients though, which is why I warn them that he effects of the cortisone can take a few days to become evident.  When I woke up the next morning, I was pleased to find that my pain level was decreased by about 50%.  The next day, the pain was 100% resolved!  That was a welcome relief!  Since that time, I have not had any pain in my foot whatsoever!

The real question now is this:  How long will this pain relief last?  The honest answer to that question is that I really don't know.  In most cases from patients I have injected for this condition through the years I have been in practice, pain relief will last for several months.  I do have some patients who never have symptoms again, others will come back 6 months later stating the pain has returned.  I have no problem with giving injections a couple times per year on an ongoing basis to control symptoms.  However, if the symptoms come back more quickly, it's time to get more aggressive.  I, like my patients, am hoping for the best!  Look for further updates on this subject in the coming months!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Treating a Morton's Neuroma via a Cortisone Injection

As a podiatrist, I have treated the condition called morton's neuroma many, many times over the course of my 22 years in practice.  However, my latest patient hit much closer to home.  Me!  Turns out I have developed a neuroma in my right foot recently, and have had the opportunity to experience first hand what my patients have been experiencing all these years. 

A morton's neuroma occurs in the forefoot and consists of inflammation and swelling of the nerve.  This will frequently cause pain that will radiate out to the 3rd and 4th toes.  Often there is a tingling, burning or shooting sensation reported.  It is unclear the precise cause of this deformity, but damage to the nerve is suspected.

There are numerous treatment options available to treat this condition.  In my office, I like to start with simpler options first.  In my case, I decided to administer a cortisone (steroid) injection to the nerve.  This can be helpful in decreasing the inflammation and pain in the nerve, although the relief from an injection is often not permanent.  Other treatment options include the use of orthotics, anti-inflammatory medications, icing, decreasing activity levels, and surgery.  Like most patients, I would like to avoid surgery!

For your viewing pleasure, I had my assistant record myself administering the injection.  My experience was like that of many of my patients over the years - the injection for a neuroma is not that painful.  The fact that I was able to give it to myself while standing is a good indication that this was not a traumatic experience.  As I continued with the injection, I could feel the area become numb, since I also injected a local anesthetic with the cortisone.  You may notice that the injection took over a minute.  I have found over the years that injecting slower decreases the pain, since the local anesthetic will numb the area as the injection proceeds.  Typically though, the cortisone will take a few days before patients notice relief following a cortisone injection.


I will update this blog in the coming weeks to let you know if my injection helped to relieve my symptoms.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When Should I Call My Podiatrist?

Over the years, I have noticed that many of my patients hesitate to call my office for an appointment, wondering if the problem they have will just get better by itself.  Sometimes, that is the correct thing to do – wait a few days to see if it gets better.  If it does get better, then you’ve saved yourself from having to come in to see the doctor.  However, there are some instances when waiting a few days (or weeks) can be dangerous, and you can end up with a very serious problem that could have been treated without too much difficulty had it been addressed sooner.  I would like to discuss a few instances where waiting to see the doctor is a poor choice.

If you have diabetes, and notice any redness, blistering, warmth or open sores on your feet, I personally want to see you ASAP.  We will make room for you on the schedule.  We will stay late.  If for some reason, we can’t see you, we may even recommend you go to the emergency room at the hospital.  It is shocking how fast a little blister on the foot can progress to a large, infected ulcer (sore), leading to possibly loss of the leg itself.  If you have had a past history of a foot ulcer, or have poor circulation, you are at even greater risk.  Please don’t wait to call!

Any injury that causes significant pain, you really should have it looked at.  Often, patients will say that they didn’t think they needed to be seen after an injury because they could still walk.  The ability to walk or move the injured part of the foot, they reason, means it is not broken.  While this may sound reasonable, it is in many cases not so.  I have seen many fractures over the years that were dismissed as a simple sprain just because they could still walk.  Your suspicion for a fracture should be higher if you see significant swelling, pain that persists beyond a few days, or see bruising around the injured site.  And, when you come to my office, I may believe there is a fracture based on my exam of you, but even I won’t know for sure in most cases until an x-ray is taken.  Fractures that are not addressed can lead to poor healing, or in some cases, lack of healing at all.

Ingrown toenails are something that patients will put up with for weeks, and in some cases, months before coming in to see me.  And it is true that mildly ingrown toenails will sometimes work themselves out.  However, I have found that a lot of patients delay coming in to have the ingrown toenail treated because of fear of the minor surgery to remove the ingrown nail.  Let me put that fear to rest.  The vast majority of patients who have ingrown toenails removed say to me afterwards that the procedure was not anywhere near as painful as they had feared, and they express relief at how much better the toe feels afterwards.  Contrast that to the patient I am currently treating.  He has a severely ingrown, infected toenail that has been literally festering for years.  In his case, the infection has gone into the bone, and he now is scheduled to have his toe amputated to remove the infected bone.  This is not something that happens frequently, but had I been able to address his ingrown toenail when it first became an issue, he would have been relieved of years of pain, and he would not be losing his toe.

Finally, heel pain is a problem that patients tend to procrastinate treating.  If a patient were to begin to feel the symptoms of heel pain (also known as plantar fasciitis), I would recommend first using over the counter arch supports.  If the symptoms are not improving in a week or so, I would recommend having the patient into the office to see me to verify the diagnosis, and begin more aggressive treatment of the condition.  Plantar fasciitis is a condition that can almost always be treated successfully using conservative measures.  I have found that those patients who do go on to require surgery, their symptoms have been present for longer periods of time, often without any treatment being received at all.

The list I have provided in this blog is certainly not conclusive.  In short, if a patient feels any concern at all about their feet, I recommend having them come in for an evaluation.  It may be that nothing is wrong.  If that’s the case, you’ll have peace of mind.  However, if something more serious is amiss, we can get you on the road to a full recovery.