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Good Foot Health Is Essential for Overall Wellness: Don't let problems with your feet slow you down.

Ailments that affect your feet can interfere with your ability to stay mobile and independent, so it's important to monitor your foot health and take action if problems develop.

"Common conditions that cause foot pain include bunions and plantar fasciitis," notes John J. Doolan, DPM, FACFAS, clinical assistant professor of podiatry in surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine. "Fortunately, conservative care, including properly fitting footwear and orthotics (shoe inserts), often provides effective pain relief."

Bunions

A bunion is a bony prominence that forms at the base of the big toe. "Some patients are genetically predisposed to having deformities that cause bunions," notes Dr. Doolan.

Wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels can make bunions worse. Choose shoes with a wide toe box that won't put pressure on the bunion. Using orthotics that remove the pressure from your big toe joint also may help.

Applying ice and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help relieve pain. For severe, ongoing pain that limits your mobility, surgery may be needed.

Toenail Fungus

"Onychomycosis" is the medical term for thickening and discoloration of the toenails caused by a fungal infection. For many patients, the condition is painless, but many women elect to treat the condition because it is unsightly.

Onychomycosis can be treated with oral and/or topical antifungal medications. However, it may take several months to a year to eliminate a fungal infection, so be sure to use medications as directed. Keeping your nails trimmed and thinned can help topical medications reach the infection in the deeper layers of the nail.

Onychomycosis raises your risk of getting a bacterial skin infection that can spread beyond your feet, which is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes or compromised immune systems. If you notice any changes in your toenails, see your doctor so you can begin any necessary treatment and avoid complications.

Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs the length of your foot from your toes to your heel bone. When this ligament is inflamed, the condition is called plantar fasciitis.

"Heel pain is the hallmark symptom of plantar fasciitis; the pain is usually worst when you take your first steps in the morning," explains Dr. Doolan.

You are at greater risk of plantar fasciitis if you frequently wear shoes that lack adequate support, such as flip-flops or flat shoes. You're also more likely to develop this condition if you have a high arch, you are flat-footed, or you are overweight or obese.

To prevent or ease plantar fasciitis, choose shoes with good arch support and adequate cushioning, especially athletic shoes, and avoid going barefoot. Doing exercises that stretch the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in your feet can relieve plantar fasciitis, and putting a heel lift into your shoe may also help. For some patients, steroid injections are used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

If a do-it-yourself approach isn't effective for your foot condition, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. He or she can determine what treatment may help, or if your condition may need to be evaluated by a podiatrist (foot specialist).

Choosing Shoes

Ill-fitting shoes can contribute to and aggravate conditions such as bunions and plantar fasciitis, so invest some time when choosing footwear.

Make sure shoes have enough room at the toe; your toes need adequate "wiggle room" and should not touch the front of the shoe. Avoid shoes with pointed toes or heels more than 2 inches high.

Your feet swell throughout the day, so try on shoes later in the day to get the best fit. When trying on shoes, put on both shoes; your feet aren't exactly the same size, so make sure the shoes fit both of your feet. Then, walk around in the shoes for a few minutes until you can tell if they cause pain or discomfort on any areas of your feet.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

To prevent toenail fungus:

* Fungus thrives in warm, moist conditions, so be sure your feet are completely dry before putting on socks and shoes. If your feet sweat, wear well-ventilated shoes and socks that absorb perspiration.

* If you live with someone who has nail fungus, clean your tub, shower, and bathroom floors often with a disinfectant, and don't share nail clippers or files.

* If you get pedicures in a nail salon, ask about their procedures for cleaning and disinfecting. Disinfectant solutions should be used for a minimum of 10 minutes, and they should contain a bactericide, fungicide, and virucide.

Caption: If foot pain is restricting your mobility, see a podiatrist for evaluation and treatment.
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Title Annotation:BONES & JOINTS
Publication:Women's Health Advisor
Date:Mar 1, 2018
Words:763
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