Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Child’s Feet Issues – What you should know

The foot is an anatomical feature of the human body which arguably is most used through a person’s life. It is that part of our anatomy which bears our body-weight and enables us to move.

Along with the ankle, the foot is a strong and intricate part of the anatomical structure which comprises 26 bones, 33 joints and over a hundred tendons, muscles and ligaments. 20 of these joints are actively articulated. The foot is divided into three sub-sections – the forefoot, midfoot and hindfoot.

The forefoot is made up of five toes, each with its own set of proximal long bones, which forms the metatarsus.

The midfoot has five irregular bones which form the arches of the foot and act as a shock absorber when we move. The midfoot connects with the fore and hindfoot through the plantar fascia and other muscles.

The hindfoot consists of the ankle-bone and heel-bone which are connected to the two long bones of the lower leg known as the tibia and fibula.

The arched portion between the toes and the ankle is known as the instep.

Strangely enough, while people take great care of other parts of their bodies, the feet are most often neglected. This could be potentially damaging with young children because their feet are soft and pliable and can easily deform. The feet in children grow very rapidly. During the first year of growth they often reach half the adult foot size. Given this rapid growth rate, the first year is the most important in the development of a child’s foot.

Children suffer less from foot pain and other foot related symptoms than adults because the tissues of their feet are flexible and more resilient. A common complaint with many children is non-specific growing pains in the leg which can result in a deep ache during the night. Other foot conditions which children are prone to are:
  • Ingrown toenails which require immediate attention.
  • Sever’s disease which causes growing pains in the heel.
  • Clubfoot, which is a relatively rare birth deformity. Club foot can be corrected at an early stage but might still cause problems in later life.
  • A common problem with children is sweaty feet which generate an offensive odor.
  • Flatfoot is another condition which children often suffer from. It is generally painless but could be painful in an overweight or older child.
  • A pronated ankle is a condition where the foot rolls inward. In most children it corrects itself but in some it doesn’t, giving cause for concern.
  • In-toe and out-toe walking is sometimes observed in children. In-toeing is when the child walks with the toes pointed inward instead of straight ahead. Children with this condition might trip more frequently than others. This condition generally corrects itself as the child grows older and reaches the age of two, but if it doesn’t then treatment with special shoes or stretching exercises might be advised.
  • Out-toeing is the opposite condition where the feet are turned excessively outward. Again this corrects itself naturally and treatment might be required only in extreme cases.
In many instances foot problems which appear later in life stem from ill-fitting footwear and foot conditions during childhood, which are often neglected or go unnoticed. It pays to have your child’s feet examined by an expert to avoid the very considerable pain and discomfort of a foot condition in adulthood. It is also advisable for a child’s feet to be examined periodically by a podiatrist. The majority of children’s foot conditions can be prevented with good-fitting shoes.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Is feet fungus infectious and how to prevent it?

The skin is prone to a number of fungal infections like ringworm, jock itch, yeast infections and athlete’s foot. 

Athlete’s foot, medically known as tinea pedis, is very common fungal infection which affects the foot. It causes itching, burning, redness peeling and at times sores and blisters.

The fungus which causes Athlete’s Foot thrives in a warm, moist environment like your shoes and socks, and the floors of public showers, swimming pools and locker rooms and in community baths. This fungal infection strikes more in warm, humid climates and during the summer months. While it primarily affects the feet, athlete’s foot can spread rapidly to other parts of the body typically the groin and other locations where the skin is kept warm and moist.

What is the cause of tinea pedis?
The cause of the condition is microscopic fungus which feeds on dead tissue of the toenails, hair and the outer layers of the skin. There are four known types of fungus which cause athlete’s foot, the most common being trichophyton rubrum.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary from one person to the next, but some of the typical symptoms are:
  • Scaling, peeling and cracking or the skin on the feet
  • A formation of blisters, a redness of the skin or the skin becoming soft and breaking down
  • Burning or itching or both
Various types of tinea pedis
There are three different types of Athlete’s foot:
  • Interdigital known also as web infection which is the most common of the three types. It generally affects the space between the two smallest toes and can spread to the soles. It causes scaling, burning and itching.
  • Moccasin: This type of Athlete’s Foot infection generally begins with a relatively minor irritation accompanies by itching, scaly skin and dryness. As it advances the skin might thicken and crack. The infection can spread quickly to the soles and sides of the feet.
  • Vesicular is the least common kind of this skin infection. Usually the first signs are a sudden rash of fluid-filled blisters beneath the skin which most often appear on the underside of the foot but can also appear on the heel, on top of the foot or between the toes.
How do you diagnose Athlete’s Foot?
This condition can be diagnosed by visual inspection. But often scaly, itchy skin is diagnosed as athlete’s foot when in fact it turns out to be some other condition with many of the same symptoms. The most conclusive diagnosis, if there is an element of doubt, is for your doctor to scrape off skin samples and examine them under a microscope for fungal evidence.

What is the best treatment?
General treatment is with application of a topical antifungal medication twice daily and observing strict hygienic measures. Such medication could be in the form of OTC products like medicated talcum powder, ointment, cream or gel. Anti-itch creams should be avoided because they relieve the itch but fail to address the fungus. A prolonged infection might require oral antifungal medication in addition.

Is Athlete’s foot infectious?
Yes it is highly infectious and can spread rapidly with people who share the communal facilities like public showers, for example. It is also quickly transmittable if you share the same footwear and items like towels.

How do you prevent it?
The best way is to wear shoes that breathe, wear shower sandals in public showering rooms and wash your feet daily with soap and water and dry them thoroughly. You could also use a quality medicated foot powder designed to prevent athlete’s foot.