Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Caring for Flat Feet

Flat feet are among the most common of foot conditions. You know you have flat feet when the arches of your feet are flat so that when you are standing the sole of your foot completely touches the floor. Flat feet may be caused by the arches not developing during childhood, the result of injury or develop due to nothing more than wear and tear and the stresses of age on the feet. In most cases the condition is painless and does not have any significant impact on mobility. If the condition causes no pain or discomfort, treatment is normally not required. However, in some cases flat feet can lead to ankle and knee problems because the flat arches distort the alignment of the legs. There are two basic types of flat feet- flexible and rigid. A flexible flat foot condition is when the foot look normal when there is no weight on it and become flat only when a person is standing up. A rigid flat foot is flat even when no weight is placed on it. Flexible flat feet are the more common.

Living With Flat Feet

While flat feet do not normally need any treatment, there are a few things that can be done to ensure that the problem is not exacerbated and that mobility is not affected.
  • Stretching. Tight calf muscle are a leading cause of flat feet. The tightness of the muscle causes abnormal force to be exerted on the feet which can cause the arch to collapse. The medical term for this condition is Equinus. A program of stretching exercises to loosen the calf muscle can alleviate the condition. No special equipment is needed and the exercises can be done anywhere at any time. A podiatrist will be able to define the specific exercises that will be best as well as advise if Yoga or other exercise regimens will be of help.
  • Strengthening the arch. The foot is made up of numerous muscles. The ones that originate and terminate in the feet are called intrinsic muscles. Most of these muscles are on the bottom of the feet. People with flat feet typically have weak or poorly developed intrinsic muscles  and a program that will strengthen them will provide increased support for the arches and reduce any effects on mobility that the flat feet may cause. While here too a podiatrist will be able to advise on what specific exercise will be best, even simple ones like trying to pick up marbles or other small objects or even pieces of cloth with the foot will help.
  • Shoe inserts. Inserts that support the arches, or orthotics, can relieve the pressure on the arch when weight is placed on them. The supports help to align the bones and reduce the strain that would otherwise be placed on the muscles and ligaments.
  • Walking barefoot. Although this may seem to be in contradiction to the need for orthotics and extra support for the arches, it is not so. Within limits, walking with the feet bare can strengthen the muscles of the  feet and this may both relieve the pressure on the arches as well as improve stability.
If the condition is a very severe one that limits mobility and / or affects the quality of life, then surgery may have to be considered. There are various surgical options available including the use of an implant to support the bones of the arches, tendon transfers or joint fusions. A surgeon will decide on the right procedure after making a thorough examination of the feet.

As already stated, generally speaking flat feet requires not treatment. But if the condition is causing any pain or affecting mobility, a podiatrist should be consulted without delay.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Understanding Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis and contrary to popular belief, it does not only affect the elderly. While it is more common among those over 30, people of any age can suffer from this condition. Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood. Generally speaking a high level of uric acid is not harmful. But when the levels become too high, the acid may form hard crystals in the joint. When this happens attacks of severe burning pain, swelling  and stiffness of the joint may occur. While gout can affect any joint, the most common place of it to strike in in the big toe. While both men and women can be affected by gout, it is more common in men.

Causes and Symptoms

There are many things that can cause gout to develop, but the most common are being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and consuming excessive amounts of meat and fish that have a high content of Purines and other chemicals. Certain types of medications, including prolonged use of diuretics can also lead to the development of gout.

The most common symptoms of gout are a sudden attack of pain, swelling, tenderness and redness of the big toe, although the attack may occur in other joints including the foot, ankles and knees. The duration of the attacks can vary from a few days to a few weeks. Once the attack has passed there is no way of knowing when the next one will occur; it could be days, weeks months or even years.

Treatment

Gout is not a condition that can be self-medicated. It is imperative that the patient be examined by a podiatrist. The doctor will do a physical exam and also often take a sample of fluid from the effected joint to determine the uric acid level and the amount of crystal formation. Once the condition has been accurately diagnosed, the doctor may prescribe an injection of corticosteroid or a large daily dose of a combination of medicines. And the medication begins to take effect and the symptoms lessen, the medication dosage will typically also be reduced. In many cases the relief will commence within 24 hours of the start of the treatment.

It is essential that the affected foot should be rested during a gout attack. With a doctors approval, over the counter pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication can be taken. But aspirin is strongly contraindicated. This can increase the uric acid levels in the blood. The use of an icepack to reduce swelling can be done if approved by the doctor.

Living With Gout

Once the attack has been brought under control normal activities can commence. The doctor may prescribe a course of medication to reduce the buildup of uric acid in the blood. In addition to this, proper diet can help in managing the condition. Eating moderately, control weight and eating a healthy mix of various food types will control the uric acid levels. In addition to this a reduced, and strictly monitored consumption of seafood, meat and alcohol is important. Drinking lots of water and other fluids regularly will help to flush the excess uric acid out of the system.

Gout can be a debilitating medical condition that can affect the a patient’s lifestyle. But with proper medication and care on the part of the person suffering from the condition, it can be controlled and the impact on the quality of life minimized.