Bloomington (812) 333-4422


Healthy Diet Choices for Diabetic Individuals

If you’re relatively healthy, your dietary choices are instrumental in helping you to maintain—and perhaps even improve—your health. If you have diabetes, though, those dietary choices are absolutely essential for reducing your risk of serious medical issues.

Even more than that, smart dietary habits may even be able to reverse dangerous conditions caused by diabetes!

Diabetes

For a couple of different reasons, diabetes is a particularly alarming disease. Before we jump into a look at the reasons it is so concerning for an individual, let’s take a quick look at a broader perspective – specifically, the prominence of the disease in our society.

At present, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are over 29 million people in the United States who have diabetes. This number is disturbing in and of itself, but there’s more to the story!

Alarmingly, out of the 29 million who already have diabetes, the CDC reports that approximately one out of every four people with the disease are undiagnosed and do not actually know he or she has it. On top of that, there is a condition known as prediabetes—which is a situation wherein blood sugar levels are elevated, but not quite to the point of diabetes yet (basically, individuals who are on the cusp of the disease)-and over 86 million people fall into this category.

Clearly, this is a big issue in our society. But how does diabetes actually affect the human body, and why would a podiatrist be so interested in talking about this?

Diabetes is a condition that develops when there is excessive blood sugar. This can happen when not enough insulin is produced (Type 1) or the body is unable to use insulin effectively (Type II). Insulin is a hormone that allows the body to properly utilize sugar (glucose).

The excess glucose in the blood can cause problems for most of the body’s organs and nerves, thereby rendering essential systems ineffective (or at least reducing their normal capabilities).

To the second point—why a podiatrist would talk about this particular disease—there is a strong and dangerous connection between diabetes and foot health. You will see what we mean as we look further into this matter.

The systemic damage diabetes causes within the body contributes to heightened risk for issues like heart attacks, strokes, blindness, and kidney failure. Compared to these serious medical problems, foot health might not seem like a major concern – but it is dangerous to underestimate conditions like diabetic foot ulcers and Charcot foot!

Foot ulcers are essentially wounds that do not heal and continue to break down over time. This is caused by damage to the nervous and immune systems from the elevated sugar levels.

The problems often start with lack of sensation on account of diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). If you are unable to feel a cut, scrape, ingrown toenail, etc., then you are unlikely to take measures that will aid in resolving the problem. Further, your body might not recognize the damage as well.

Since your immune system is unable to fight off infections, the risk for gangrene is particularly high. This is especially concerning because there is no cure for gangrene (tissue death) and the only way to prevent its spread is through amputation.

Charcot foot is a condition wherein feet become severely misshapen on account of repeated structural damage. More specifically, what happens is bones in the feet that are weakened break easily. Nerve damage leaves you unable to feel this is happening, so you continue normal activities – which contributes to additional damage.

The cycle continues until the foot is severely deformed. This is troubling enough on its own, but it can also raise your risk for foot ulcers.

Diabetes

Those are clearly some major reasons you need to have a diabetic foot care plan in place (and we can help you create one!). There are going to be a couple of pillars in your plan – including taking measures to manage the disease.

These are some obvious reasons to manage your diabetes and have a solid diabetic foot care plan in place. If you don’t already have one, we can help!

Medication and exercise play big roles in managing diabetes, but so too does adhering to a proper diet.

With regards to healthy diet choices, we are talking about:

  • Eating the right foods. When you get down to it, this is something that absolutely holds true even for those who aren’t diabetic, but is even more important for individuals afflicted with the disease.So which foods need to be included in your diet? Well, a good starting point is to eat plenty of fresh veggies, legumes, nuts, and dairy products. With regards to dairy, don’t be fooled by products labeled as “low-fat” or “fat-free.” Those might sound like healthier options, but it really means that the fat has been replaced with sugar (and carbohydrates) – which you need to avoid completely.In fact, you need to keep in mind that high-fat foods are actually a better option for you than low-fat ones. Put simply, fat does not raise blood sugar levels.
    Foods like legumes and fresh vegetables assist your body with both digestion and blood sugar regulation. In addition, following a diet centered on healthy choices is helpful in making sure you aren’t eating high-sugar, overly-processed foods.
  • Eliminating sugar from your diet. Obviously, you should be aware that typical candy options are particularly bad for you, given the diabetes, but you also need to know that it is important to pass on baked goods made from refined (“white”) flour as well.During the processing of refined flours, parts of the wheat kernel responsible for slowing digestion are stripped away. The remaining product spikes blood sugar levels – which is something you absolutely need to avoid if you are diabetic. (Actually, it is even a good idea for nondiabetic individuals to limit, or even avoid altogether, foods made from white flour.)
  • Avoiding soft drinks. On account of the mind-blowingly high sugar content found in beverages like soft drinks and certain juices, this guideline ties in quite well with the previous one. Your starting point in determining which beverages you should buy at the store, is to turn the containers over and read the nutritional labels. When you do, you can see how much sugar they contain per serving.(The “per serving” part is especially important! Some unscrupulous companies try to make it seem as though their products have lower amounts of sugar by listing unreasonable serving sizes.)There typically isn’t comprehensive nutritional information available at restaurants—although, some are getting better about at least indicating caloric content—so pass on sweet beverages when you’re eating out. Instead, stick to water, unsweetened tea, or order black coffee. If you want a little flavor in your coffee, ask to have some cinnamon in it. Not only does it taste surprisingly delicious, the cinnamon can help to regulate your blood sugar levels.

This is a good starting point for diabetes-smart eating, but even better is consultation with medical professionals. We can make further recommendations, give advice, and even recommend dieticians who specialize in dietary plans for diabetic individuals.

For assistance with creating a diabetic foot care plan or understanding how to recognize problems at their earliest, most treatable stages, contact the office of Kevin J. Powers, DPM today!

Call (812) 333-4422 to connect with our Bloomington, IN office today!

Madness for College Basketball – NOT Because of Athlete’s Foot!

No matter if you’ve been watching as many games as possible and tracking your office pool brackets—which are probably a complete mess at this point!—or barely have any interest, it’s almost impossible not to know that the Final Four tips off tomorrow (Saturday 3/31) at 6:09 PM (EST). The second game begins at 8:49, and the winners of the two games will compete for the championship on Monday at 9:20. 

Before we go any further, who actually picks out these times? What’s wrong with starting a game on the hour or at the half-hour mark? 

To this point in the tournament, there have been 64 games and college basketball fans have been treated to countless memorable moments and inspiring upset performances from underdogs – especially the historic first-round UMBC upset over #1-seeded Virginia! 

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament receives its “March Madness” moniker on account of the unpredictable nature of the games. Teams that “aren’t supposed to” win do all the time in the annual tournament. This makes it rather maddening when you check out your office pool brackets and see that you’ve barely made any correct picks!

 

Something else that can be maddening is a pair of feet that won’t stop itching! In this case, there are several potential culprits, but the most likely explanation is athlete’s foot – a common fungal infection (tinea pedis). 

Athlete’s foot is a condition caused by fungi in a classification known as dermatophytes. These microorganisms thrive in environments that are moist, dark, and warm, and they feed on a protein (keratin) found in nails, hair, and skin. As you can probably gather, this makes your feet an ideal place for the fungi to set up shop. When you feel an itchy, burning sensation on the surface of your foot, you can be quite confident that this is what is happening. 

In spite of the name, this is not a condition that only happens to athletes or as a result of athletic participation. Instead, this is a common fungal infection that usually starts developing between your toes—areas which often create a hospitable environment for the offensive fungus—and then spreads out over the skin of your foot.  

The fungus that causes the athlete’s foot is easily transmitted by contact, even from indirect sources like shoes, towels, and floors. 

The various warning signs of tinea pedis may either be experienced individually or as a combination of symptoms. These often include: 

  • Burning, itching sensations that become increasingly intense as the infection spreads 
  • A red, scaly rash that often accompanies dry skin 
  • Inflammation, blisters, and foot ulcers (in more severe cases) 

Most cases of athlete’s foot—especially those that are mild or caught early—can be effectively treated at home. For a difficult infection, you may need professional assistance. If you do, 

To improve your chances of successful home care for athlete’s foot, you need to recognize the symptoms so that you can tackle it early. Be alert for a red rash, itching, and burning sensations. When you first become aware of these signs, go to a pharmacy or retail store and pick up any version of nonprescription antifungal and use according to the product’s instructions. 

These particular mediations come in a variety of forms (sprays, powders, lotions, etc.) and using various active ingredients. Some of the common ones are clotrimazole, miconazole, terbinafine, and tolnaftate, and they are intended to be used anywhere from one to six weeks.  

For optimal efficacy and preventing the infection from reoccurring, continue using the medication until it is gone, even if symptoms are no longer present. 

Now, the itching and burning can be bad enough when you have a case of athlete’s foot, but knowing that you have passed it along to your family can only make you feel worse. Fortunately, a little effort can help prevent this. 

When it comes to decreasing your odds of passing the infection along to your family, use the following tips to help: 

  • Make sure that your family members do not make direct contact with your feet. 
  • Wear shower shoes or sandals in the bathroom before and after your bath or shower. This will keep the offensive fungi from finding a temporary residence on the floor until they move on to family members’ feet. 
  • Do not share your towels, socks, or shoes with anyone else. 
  • Use antifungal spray or powder on your feet and in your shoes. 

Your risk of developing athlete’s foot is higher at indoor pools. The reason behind this is that athlete’s foot is a contagious infection caused by a fungus, and fungi thrive in warm, damp environments. If it’s been awhile since you’ve been to an indoor pool, those conditions exist right there on deck!  

Locker rooms and communal showers are also environments that can be damp and warm. Combine this fact with the various patrons who use the facilities and there is plenty of opportunity for fungi to travel from human to ground to human. Even more risky is to borrow someone else’s towel!  

In addition to borrowing a towel from a stranger—or even a friend or loved one!—at the next locker over, another action that can make athlete’s foot more likely is to wear damp socks or shoes.  

Your feet are already ideal breeding grounds for microorganisms—they are dark from being hidden inside socks and shoes; sweat throughout the day; and your body is naturally warm—but damp footwear makes it even better for fungi, which is bad for you. If you suffer from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), be sure to keep an extra pair of socks or two with you and change into them when you notice that your other pair is damp.  

Keep in mind that even the best preventative measures will not always eliminate all of the risk for contracting athlete’s foot. If you have tried your best home care and cannot improve the condition, simply give us a call and we will be glad to take a look and provide stronger treatment options. Call (812) 333-4422 to connect with our Bloomington, IN office today! 

Foot Care During Pregnancy: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Foot Care During Pregnancy

Your body goes through a lot of changes throughout nine months of pregnancy. The baby bump is the most obvious example, but far from the only one! Hormonal changes, increased blood volume, weight gain … your body has a lot of hard work to do to nourish a new life and prepare it for the world.

Unfortunately, sometimes these changes cause extra stress, discomfort, and pain for Mom as a side effect. This includes problems involving the feet, ankles, and lower legs. As your local podiatric team, it’s part of our job to help you understand how these changes might affect your life—and what you can do about them!

Swelling in the Lower Extremities

Swelling feet, ankles, and calves—usually caused by edema—is probably the most universal lower limb symptom of pregnancy. Fluids pool in the lower extremities, causing them to increase in size and look a little puffy.

During pregnancy, your baby’s circulatory system is “hooked up” to yours. Blood volume increases by up to 50% to meet the demand, and your heart has a harder time pumping blood back up from your feet and legs.

Some mild swelling is normal and even beneficial, but if you’re swelling excessively or developing varicose veins you may try these tips:

  • Avoid standing for extended periods of time.
  • Engage in regular light and low impact exercise—especially walking.
  • Put your feet up (above heart level) when resting.
  • Wear compression stockings.
  • Avoid hot and humid outdoor environments.
  • Minimize salt and caffeine intake.
  • Eat more foods rich in potassium (for example, spinach).
  • Sleep on your left side. This is the optimal position for healthy blood flow.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.

Cramping Calves

Hopefully, your anti-swelling tactics will keep cramping to a minimum! Unfortunately, they remain common, especially during the third trimester. Circulatory problems, along with weight gain and pressure on nerves and blood vessels, may contribute to cramping legs.

As with swelling, regular exercise, elevation, and compression stockings may be effective countermeasures for calf cramps. We also recommend a nice calf massage. Recruiting a loved one to provide one is the best option, but self-massage can be effective too. You might also try temporary use of a heating pad.

If cramps are severe, persistent, or otherwise getting in the way of your day-to-day functioning, seek medical attention.

Foot Care during Pregnancy

Feet Change Shape

We’re not just talking about swelling here. Pregnancy can actually alter the underlying bone structure of the feet. These changes may not completely be reversed even after giving birth and returning to your previous weight and fitness level.

During pregnancy, your body produces and releases specific hormones that relax and loosen ligaments, which are connective tissues that attach two or more bones to one another in a joint. This is what allows the body to stretch the way it needs to both during pregnancy and the birth itself.

But the affects are not limited to ligaments in the abdomen. The joints of your feet loosen, too, and there are a lot of them—66 total at ankle level and below! This combination of loose ligaments and weight gain can flatten your arches and make your feet both longer and wider than before.

You may have to go up a half size or two for your shoes, possibly temporarily—or possibly permanently. If foot pain is more serious, we may set you up with a pair of cushioned insoles to help support your feet and relieve pressure points.

Altered Walking Patterns

Pregnancy alters the way you walk and carry yourself physically. Developing flatter arches is one contributor to this process, but it’s mostly a function of how your overall body shape and center of gravity shift when carrying a child.

To accommodate the additional weight at the front of the abdomen, the back curves more and the hips shift forward. Feet tend to be a little wider set to maintain stability. The combination of these factors can give some pregnant women a distinctive “waddle” as they walk. Feet may roll further during the load-bearing phase, with toes pointed outward instead of straight ahead (overpronation).

Because pregnancy places extra stress on certain muscles, and often forces women to “accommodate” their gait to fit their situation, they may be more prone to injury and pain in the feet, legs, hips, and lower back. Again, light exercise and comfortable shoes can be helpful here. Shoe inserts or custom orthotics may be needed to relieve pressure and stabilize abnormal motion or joints that may be giving way.

Know When to Call for Backup

Not everyone experiences pregnancy the same way, although almost everyone deals with some degree of achiness, nausea, or other side effects. However, while some mildly uncomfortable symptoms are nearly unavoidable, significant foot or leg pain is never normal, even when you’re pregnant.

If struggles with your lower limbs are keeping you up at night or impairing daily functioning, please contact our office as soon as possible so we can help. You can reach our Bloomington, IN podiatry practice at (812) 333-4422 today.

Foot and Ankle Arthritis

foot and ankle arthritis

Some foot and ankle conditions have misconceptions that are commonly held by the general public. For example:

  • Plantar warts are not caused by frogs, toads, or any other amphibian.
  • Bunions are not caused by women’s footwear. (Although, high-heeled shoes can exacerbate an existing condition.)
  • Hot showers will actually dry out your skin, even though its water.

A misconception you can add to that list is “arthritis is only one condition.” Why is this wrong? Because there are actually over 100 different kinds of arthritic conditions!

The reason people think it’s a single condition likely comes from the fact one of these conditions is more prevalent than the rest. (We’ll discuss this momentarily.) In reality, the word arthritis literally means “joint inflammation”—the root “arthron” means joint and the suffix “itis” always refers to inflammation—and there are several medical issues that can cause a joint to swell.

This is very relevant to foot health because each of your feet and ankles have 33 total joints that could potentially become pained and swollen.

Types of Arthritic Conditions Found in Feet and Ankles

Of course, not all forms of arthritis are equally as common. Further, some tend to be more often associated with the lower limbs. These ones include:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA). When we noted earlier how people usually think arthritis is only a single condition, this is the one they are thinking about. In all fairness, osteoarthritis is the most common. Further, it affects the senior population at much greater rate (to the point some think it only happens as we reach advanced years). For all intents and purposes, you can consider OA to be the “wear and tear” version of arthritis that begins to emerge as protective joint lining is broken down over time.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This particular form of arthritis—although, there are groups out there who believe RA should not be considered arthritic—is caused by a chronic inflammatory disease. Because of the disease, your body’s own immune system begins attacking regular body tissues, including joint lining. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but researchers believe it to be genetic in nature. Typically, an infection or environmental factor triggers the issue. At present, the condition itself cannot be cured. So instead, treatment is centered on relieving symptoms.
  • Gout. Typically affecting the joint located at the base of the big toe, gout is a form of arthritis that develops on account of excessive uric acid buildup and crystallization. Uric acid is a normal byproduct of digestion, and it typically filtered out through the kidneys and expelled during urination. With gout, the uric acid is either produced in an excessive quantity or not disposed. When excess gout settles into joints, it forms crystals. Urate crystals have sharp edges, which can press into soft tissues and cause the severe pain associated with gout.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis. Sometimes, the explanation for painful, inflamed joints is an injury that happened years ago. In this case, we consider the condition to be post-traumatic arthritis – and the root cause is typically a bone that was broken at some point in life. The timing of emergence for this kind of arthritic condition can vary wildly. For some people, it is years before the problems develops. Others start to experience it months after the initial injury.

Exercise for arthritis

Nonsurgical Treatment for Arthritis

Treatment for arthritis in a foot or ankle will depend, naturally, on the specific condition causing problems, along with the severity of symptoms. Conservative care for arthritis may involve a treatment plan consisting of:

  • Regular exercise. We know it might seem counterintuitive to move more often when stiff, inflamed joints make it painful to move, but exercise is one of the best ways to combat the effects of arthritis.
  • Proper medication. Our office will either prescribe or recommend certain medications that can relieve pain and reduce inflammation in affected joints.
  • Plenty of vitamin C. Studies show that vitamin C plays a role in managing inflammation in the body, including in arthritic joints.
  • Managing your weight. The amount of force on feet when walking or running is multiple times the weight of your body. The less your body weighs, the less force placed on arthritic foot and ankle joints.
  • Adhering to a gout-safe diet. Gout is an arthritic caused by a product from breakdown of certain foods. You can manage, and even prevent, the condition by eating a diet centered on fresh fruits and veggies, an increase in water intake, and limited quantities of fatty meats.

Surgical Intervention

Our hope is to resolve your pain and difficulty with nonsurgical means, but there are definitely cases—particularly ones that are rather severe—wherein surgical intervention constitutes the best opportunity to resolve the problem.

Types of arthritis surgery we may recommend include:

  • Arthrodesis (fusion).Arthrodesis is a procedure wherein we fuse the bones of the joint completely together, thereby making one continuous bone out of two or more bones. The goal of this particular procedure is to reduce pain by eliminating any possible motion in the arthritic joint.
  • Arthroscopic debridement.This surgery is often helpful in early stages of arthritis. Debridement (cleansing) is a procedure we use to remove loose cartilage, inflamed synovial tissue, and bone spurs from around the arthritic joint.
  • Total ankle replacement (arthroplasty).In a total ankle replacement, we remove the damaged bone and cartilage, and then position new plastic or metal joint surfaces to restore the function of the affected joint.

There are pros and cons of each respective type of surgical procedure we use to treat arthritis, and we will carefully review these with you beforehand. It’s important to us that you are educated on surgery and able to make an informed decision. If you ever have any questions regarding your planned procedure, simply let us know and we will be glad to answer them for you.

Professional Care for Foot or Ankle Arthritis in Bloomington, IN

If you have any questions about arthritis and how it can affect the lower limbs, or if you need to schedule an appointment for diagnosis and treatment, contact our Bloomington office and we will be glad to help. No matter if nonsurgical or surgical arthritis treatment is right for your case, you can trust our team to work hard to provide the care you need.

For more information on arthritis in a foot or ankle—or to request your appointment—call (812) 333-4422 today!

Do I Really Need Custom Orthotics?

custom orthotics

We get it. We’re all on the lookout to save a few bucks where we can. The off-brand cereal that tastes just as good for half the cost. The barely-used designer jacket that pops up at the local thrift store. That comfy chair that granddad doesn’t want any more. All great ways to get deluxe quality at bargain prices.

So when you’re facing a rack of slick-looking “orthotics” at the pharmacy—maybe even next to a foot pressure monitor promising a “custom fit”—it’s natural to wonder whether you really need to get a pair of custom orthotics from a podiatrist. Couldn’t you just get by on a cheaper, mass-produced insert?

Truthfully, only a foot expert can answer that question fully. But unlike “off-brand” food products or gently used clothes and furniture, prefabricated orthotics and custom orthotics are not just cheaper versions of the same basic tool. There is a significant gap between what each item can realistically achieve.

To start, custom orthotics are made to fit your feet exactly. Even if you stand on a testing kiosk and a computer tells you which “custom fit” you need, the truth is that store-bought insoles just aren’t in the same league. The best you will get is an approximate fit. This may provide some moderate relief from the extra cushioning and arch support, but for more serious foot pain you’ll almost certainly notice the difference.

Custom orthotics, unlike regular inserts, are meant to treat specific medical conditions. At your appointment, your foot specialist with carefully examine your feet and arrive at a diagnosis. We’ll also measure your feet using a scan or mold in order to create a precise fit. The type of orthotics, materials used, and other features can be selected based on the specific needs revealed during your examination. And of course, when your completed orthotics arrive, we can make a few final adjustments as necessary to ensure a perfect match.

Custom orthotics are also much more durable than generic inserts, so in addition to better performance, they also prove the better financial value over the long run. They’re a little more expensive up front, but they work better, you won’t have to replace them as often, and they can often be repaired or adjusted rather than junked when materials wear down or your needs change.

So, do you really need those custom orthotics? Again, it’s impossible to say without an evaluation. It’s possible that ordinary inserts—despite their limitations—may provide acceptable relief for your condition. This is more likely to be the case if your pain is milder, or more temporary. However, in a lot of cases, the custom orthotics really will perform much better, and be the better choice by most if not all measures.

Ready to find relief for your foot and ankle pain? Give Kevin J. Powers, DPM in Bloomington, IN a call today at (812) 333-4422.

Is It Time to Update Your Orthotics?

update orthotics

A good pair of custom orthotics can last for several years without wearing out, especially if you take good care of them. However, inevitably, there will come a time when your orthotics must be updated in some way—whether that means you need a whole new set, or you just need your current ones adjusted, repaired, or refurbished.

How will you know when that time comes? Here are some things to check or think about.

  • The “imaginary string test.” Take your orthotics out of your shoes, place them on a hard and flat surface, and stand on them. Now bend one knee forward, keeping the other foot flat. Imagine dropping a string from the kneecap. Would it fall between the first and second toes? If not, your orthotics are probably worn out or misaligned.
  • Signs of physical wear. Scan your orthotics for obvious signs of damage, including cracks, warping, compressed padding, and the like. Now press the arch of the orthotic with your hands. Does it retain a sturdy shape, or fold like a deck of cards? Arches that collapse too easily probably aren’t offering the support you need anymore.
  • Pain. Here’s another telltale sign—your feet hurt. A working pair of custom orthotics should restore proper alignment to your feet and give you all the support and cushioning you need to get through your day. If you find that pain is returning or your feet are easily fatigued or become sore, your orthotics may need work.
  • The soles of your shoes. Check the bottom of any pair of shoes you regularly use with your orthotics. How is the tread wear? If it looks unusual or uneven (for example, one shoe is much more worn than the other), it’s a sign that your orthotics aren’t properly aligned.
  • Significant lifestyle changes in the recent past. Your orthotics were built to address a specific problem (or set of problems) at a specific point in your life. But our feet, bodies, and problems may change over time. If you’ve had a recent surgery, pregnancy, weight change (gain or loss), or other lifestyle factor, that could influence the effectiveness of your orthotics.

As a general rule, it’s good practice to return to our office at least once per year to have Dr. Powers check your feet and your orthotics. You don’t have to be in pain or notice any obvious signs that something is wrong. Even a few tiny adjustments can help you get the greatest benefit from your custom orthotics and increase their useful lifespan. If it’s been over a year since your orthotics were checked, or you are experiencing any problems with them, call us today at (812) 333-4422.

Winter Foot Care

Winter Foot Care

You may be tempted to neglect your feet during the colder months. As the saying goes, after all, “out of sight, out of mind.” But just because they are hidden away in your new pair of boots, doesn’t mean you should ignore your feet once the temperature drops.

It is important to check your feet during winter rather than waiting until there is a problem. Healthy feet are fundamental for overall health. Foot problems affect every part of your life, from standing and walking to exercising and taking part in your daily activities.

With that in mind, here are some top tips for keeping your feet healthy this winter:

Put away your summer footwear and invest in quality winter shoes and boots. Your footwear choices play a big role in your foot health – all year long. This means you should sport models that will keep your feet warm and dry.

Winter shoes and boots also need to have thick soles and adequate grip so your feet can remain stable on slippery surfaces – which is obviously important when the ground is covered in snow and ice.

Take proper measures to reduce the risk for fungal infections. Keeping feet warm during our colder months is an obvious goal for your winter footwear. Unfortunately, boots and closed-toe shoes can lead to extra sweating. In turn, this contributes to toenail fungus and athlete’s foot.

The good news is there are steps you can take to lower your risk.

As a starting point, wear socks with moisture-wicking properties and that have improved breathability.

This is good practice throughout the entire year, but alternate your footwear every other day. An extra 24 hours between wear gives each pair a better opportunity to dry completely, which is important because fungus needs moisture to survive.

Keeping with the theme of “reducing moisture,” pass on wearing toenail polish during the winter. Your feet are usually hidden anyhow, and your toes won’t miss the extra moisture (but any fungi will!).

Prevent and treat dry heels. The problem with excessively dry skin is that it can become cracked and fissured. This not only may be painful, but it also creates an entry way for microorganisms into the body.

Fortunately, dry skin is treatable and can be prevented from happening in the first place.

With regards to prevention, you may want to rub petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) onto your heels after your bath or shower. This works because the petroleum jelly acts as a sealant – locking in the moisture so it doesn’t evaporate. Another approach that can work well is to massage a thick moisturizing cream into your feet, which also stimulates circulation.

Treatment for an existing case of dry heels can include those steps, along with using a pumice stone to smooth out rough or callused skin. When doing this, start by softening the stone with water and then gently rubbing it on the heels. Be sure to keep in mind the fact your goal is not to try and debride all dry skin in a single session!

Stay active. The motivation to exercise and work out can start to fade away as temperatures drop and the days shorten, but becoming inactive can be a big mistake. Moving your body helps to generate heat and keeps a healthy blood flow going down to your feet.

Of course, one of the best winter (or any season!) foot care tips is to come see us at the office of Kevin J. Powers, DPM if you need professional treatment. Remember, it is always best to address a problem early, so contact us today by calling (812) 333-4422.

What Your Feet Say About Your Whole Body Health

Many people think about foot health, or heart health, or lung health, or any other kind of physical well-being separately, as if they’re not all part of the same body. However, this is too simplistic an approach. In truth, foot health is just one part of whole body health—everything is connected, and every part of the body relies on the others to achieve the greatest level of fitness. Moreover, the health of your feet can often tell you a lot about the rest of your body.

Take peripheral neuropathy and peripheral artery disease, for example. These are both systemic conditions that are frequently linked with diabetes, and that are caused by, influence, and affect your entire body. But for many people, the symptoms strike first—and worst—in the feet and toes. Cold toes, numbness, discoloration, muscle weakness, cramping in the legs, and other symptoms could all be signs that your body is suffering from a more extensive disease. If blood vessels are narrow and clogged in the feet, there’s a good chance they’re narrowing elsewhere too—and that could mean a heart attack or stroke in your future.

Foot Health

Consider also the problem of dry, flaking skin around the heels or balls of the feet. This could, of course, be an isolated incident. Or, it could be the early signs of a thyroid problem, which could affect blood pressure, nerve health, and metabolism throughout your entire body.

Even something as basic as ordinary foot pain can create wider problems. For starters, misalignments in feet don’t tend to stay isolated to the feet. Your entire skeleton has to compensate for issues with its foundation, and that can produce knee, hip, and lower back pain. But on an even more basic level, if your feet hurt, you’re probably not going to be very interested in doing a lot of walking or exercising. That, obviously, can have a snowball effect on the entire state of your physical wellbeing.

Your feet, as it turns out, can be a surprisingly effective diagnostic tool for identifying whole body health risks! So, stop and ask yourself—what are my feet telling me about my health? About my future risks?

If you are experiencing any kind of foot pain, discomfort, or problem, please call the office of Kevin J. Powers, DPM today. Early examination and treatment can not only relieve your pain more easily, but help you identify risks and prevent future threats to your physical health. You can reach us in Bloomington, IN at (812) 333-4422.

Exercise and Protecting Feet

It’s not groundbreaking news to know you need to be physically active (along with eating well and getting plenty of sleep) for optimal health. What you may not know or consider, however, are the effects exercise can have on your feet.

Now, those effects can be both positive and negative. On the positive front, exercise can improve circulation, help muscles absorb more oxygen and nutrients, and help you shed pounds – which obviously means less weight on your feet and ankles.

At the same time, activities like exercising and participating in sports increase your risk of lower limb injuries.Female runner stretching runner doing warm-up

This injury risk isn’t enough to keep you from being activity, however. On the contrary, leading a sedentary life can actually lead to even bigger problems (for your entire body). Further, foot and ankle sports injuries are often treated without needing surgical intervention.

We know it’s easy to hear about professional athletes who have season-ending injuries and require surgery to repair damaged tissues. This might lead you to believe that’s the case for most sports and exercise-related injuries. What you should keep in mind is the fact reporters don’t often find it newsworthy to report about athletes who benefit from conservative measures to control inflammation and/or use physical therapy to improve range of motion and joint function.

Of course, perhaps the best reason you shouldn’t let a certain degree of foot and ankle injury risk keep you from leading an active lifestyle is the simple fact there are measures you can take to lessen that risk, including:

  • Wear proper footwear. Your injury prevention plan starts with ensuring you are choosing activity-appropriate footwear that features robust arch support, ample cushioning under the heel, and a solid heel counter to promote correct biomechanics. This also means you need to wear your custom orthotics (if we’ve prescribed them for you).
  • Ease into activity. If you are excited to start your healthy journey to better health via exercise, it can be tempting to jump right in and give it everything you’ve got. The problem with this is the human body needs time to adjust to new activities and processes. A smart approach for becoming more active is to start at relatively lower levels of intensity and duration, and then build them up over time. One trick you might want to use that can help is to record your workouts. In doing so, you will be able to look at where you started and see how much progressive you’ve made! (This can help fuel your motivation to keep up the good work.)
  • Warm up and stretch. Before you head out for a run, engage in a workout session, or play a recreational sport, always take a little time to prepare your body by warming up and stretching first. A 5-10 minute period of brisk walking or light jogging followed by dynamic stretches will lower your injury risk.
  • Mind the playing surface or running track or trail. Uneven terrain can make it more likely for you to sustain a sprained ankle, which is already a high-risk kind of injury. You can negate the risk a bit by paying attention to the surface. Watch out for damaged areas in the field or exposed tree roots on your running trail. To help with this, try exercising or playing sports during the daytime or in well-lit areas.
  • Cross-train. Running is an exceptional exercise – one humans have been doing since the dawn of mankind. At the same time, it is an activity that does place tremendous force loads on your lower limbs. You can give your feet and ankles some much-needed reprieve by swapping out a couple of running sessions during the week for lower-impact exercises like cycling, swimming, yoga, and even walking (which is a vastly underrated form of exercise!).

Following these tips can protect your feet from common foot and ankle sports injuries, but don’t forget the importance of listening to your body and coming to see us before embarking upon a new fitness program. We can evaluate the current state of your lower limbs and identify potential concerns.

We hope you are able to stay safe when exercising or playing favorite sports, but we also know there’s no way to completely eliminate all injury risk when humans move our bodies. If you need treatment for a foot or ankle injury—or any kind of lower limb issue—contact our Bloomington office by calling ((812) 333-4422 and we will be happy to help.

Diabetic Skin Care

Diabetes causes systemic damage and can really impact every part of the body, including the skin on your feet. In fact, skin problems are sometimes even the first sign a person has diabetes.

It’s estimated that as many as one-third of diabetic individuals will have a skin issue either caused or affected by the disease at some point in their lives. Fortunately, most of these conditions are easily treated if caught early.

Even better, many are preventable if you take the right diabetic skin care measures.

There are several things you can do to prevent skin problems when you have diabetes, including:

  • Keep your diabetes well-managed. People with high glucose levels tend to have dry skin and less ability to fend off harmful bacteria. Both contribute to increased risk of infection.
  • Keep skin clean and dry. Microorganisms like fungal spores and bacteria need moisture to survive. Completely drying your feet off before putting on socks and wearing moisture-wicking socks are ways to deny them the water they need.
  • Prevent dry skin. Whereas too much moisture is bad, so too is skin that is too dry. Excessive dryness causes skin to crack, which then increases the risk of infection. Moisturizing the tops and bottoms of your feet can be beneficial.

Diabetic Skin Care

(If you are concerned about making sure you strike the right balance between “too damp” and “too dry,” come see us and we will help you with this.)

  • Avoid very hot baths and showers. Moisturizing soaps may help. Afterward, use a doctor-approved skin lotion, but don’t apply it between your toes – extra moisture in those areas can encourage fungal growth.
  • Treat cuts right away. Wash minor cuts with clear, running water. Do not use soap—even antibacterial kinds—as this may cause irritation for the wound. Apply antibiotic cream or ointment and then cover the minor cut with a fresh, sterile bandage or gauze. If the cut (or other kind of wound) is severe, seek immediate medical care.
  • During the cold, dry months, keep your home more humid (to prevent skin—especially in the bottoms of the heels—from becoming cracked and fissured). Depending on your particular situation, you may benefit from bathing less often during this time of year.
  • Use a mild soap or body wash. Harsh soaps can irritate the skin and potentially lead to bigger problems.
  • DO NOT try to resolve skin problems on your feet—like calluses, warts, and ingrown nails—by yourself. Instead, come see us at our Bloomington, IN office and have the work done in a safe environment by a trained medical specialist.
  • Take good care of your feet. Check them every day for sores and cuts. Wear broad, flat shoes that fit well. Always check your shoes for foreign objects before putting them on.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns. Remember, we are here to help you with any foot or ankle condition, especially when diabetes is in the picture!

For more information—or to schedule an appointment with our office—give us a call at (812) 333-4422.

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