My Blog
By Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic, PC
December 10, 2019
Category: Podiatry
Tags: Ingrown Toenails  

An ingrown toenail is a common foot problem that occurs when the corner of a toenail, usually the big toe, grows into the skin. As you might imagine, this can cause pain and swelling in the affected area. If you are a healthy individual you can often treat the ingrown toenail with simple at-home care; however, patients with diabetes, nerve damage in the feet or signs of a foot infection should always see a podiatrist as soon as possible.

Causes of an Ingrown Toenail

There are several factors that could increase your risk for developing an ingrown toenail. These include:

  • Heredity: if your family has a history of ingrown toenails you may be more likely to develop them, too.
  • Poorly fitted shoes: shoes that are too tight and cramp up the toes can also cause painful ingrown toenails, particularly in teens whose feet are still growing rapidly
  • Improper nail trimming: if you cut your nails too short or if you cut them at an angle rather than cutting them straight across you could be leaving yourself prone to an ingrown toenail
  • Injury to the toe: jamming or stubbing the toe can also increase the risk of an ingrown toenail (this is most common in athletes)

Treating an Ingrown Toenail

If there are no signs of an infection (e.g. foul odor; skin that’s hot to the touch) and you are otherwise healthy then you can probably treat the ingrown toenail all by yourself from the comfort of your home. Take frequent Epsom salt soaks and apply an antibiotic cream to the area to prevent infection. Again, if there is no infection you can soak nails for several minutes so that they soften, and then gently clip away the affected area of the nail.

If you are experiencing signs of an infected ingrown toenail or if you have diabetes and develop an ingrown toenail it’s important that you seek a podiatrist’s care right away. A podiatrist can treat the infection while also removing part of or the entire nail so that it grows in properly.

Preventing Ingrown Toenails

While there are certain factors such as heredity that cannot be helped, there are certainly measures you can take to reduce your risk for ingrown toenails. For one, always make sure that you wear properly fitted shoes that do not put pressure on the toes.

Secondly and most importantly, you need to know how to properly trim your toenails. Nails should be level with the tips of your toes. If nails are cut too short or if you trim your nails so they are curved at the edges rather than straight then an ingrown toenail is more likely to develop as the nail grows out.

Athletes should also make sure that they are wearing appropriate footwear for their chosen sport. Not all tennis shoes are created equally so if you have any questions about the footwear that you should wear, don’t hesitate to speak with your foot doctor.

By Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic, PC
November 27, 2019
Category: Podiatry
Tags: Toenail Fungus  

Toenail fungus is a common problem that can be rather challenging to get rid of. While toenail fungus can happen to anyone it most often occurs in older adults. If you are noticing that one of your toenails has thickened, become brittle and turned yellow then chances are good that you are dealing with a toenail fungus.

What causes a fungal infection in the toenail?

A toenail fungal infection, known as onychomycosis, is the result of a fungal known as a dermatophyte. While less common, molds and yeasts can also infect the toenails. The reason older adults are more prone to fungal nail infections is because nails dry out as we age, which leads to cracks within the nail. These cracks make it easier for a fungal infection to get inside the nail.

Fungal is all around us. They are more often found in warm, dark, and damp places such as communal locker rooms and showers, gyms, and local swimming pools. It’s also possible to get a toenail fungus from a nail salon so it’s important to know the hygiene and sterilization practices of your local nail salon to make sure that you aren’t at risk for developing a fungal infection.

Treating Toenail Fungus

The good news it that healthy individuals may be able to tackle their toenail fungus on their own with over-the-counter medication. If you don’t have a weak immune system, diabetes or circulation problems then you may choose to try at-home treatments first before turning to a doctor. Those with circulation disorders or diabetes should see their podiatrist right away for treatment if they notice symptoms of a fungal infection. Not seeking treatment could greatly increase a person’s risk for bacterial infections and other potentially serious complications.

There are many over-the-counter products available to treat fungal infections. You will want to find a treatment that is geared specifically to treating fungal infections of the nail. Talk with your local pharmacist to find out the best treatment option. Over-the-counter antifungal medications often come in the form of a cream, ointment or nail polish that you will need to apply regularly for several weeks. If these medications don’t work then it’s time to talk with your foot doctor.

A foot doctor offers a variety of effective strategies for getting rid of toenail fungal infections. The most common treatment option is an oral antifungal medication that works systemically to kill the fungus. This medication is taken for several weeks but you won’t actually see results until the nail grows out clear, which can take up to four months or longer.

Other treatment options include:

  • Medicated nail polish
  • Laser fungal treatment
  • Nail removal surgery (in rare cases)

If you are dealing with a pesky nail fungus then turn to your podiatrist to discover the best strategies for getting rid of this infection as quickly as possible.

By Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic, PC
November 15, 2019
Category: Foot Condition
Tags: Foot Surgery  

When would you need foot surgery? Your Kalispell podiatrist, Dr. Esther Barnes, says reasons and circumstances vary. However, generallyFootHealth people need an operation to reduce pain, correct structural deformity and improve an improper gait. If you're concerned about how your foot looks, feels, or functions, contact Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic for a precise diagnosis and treatment.

 

Does every foot problem require surgery?

The answer is no. In fact, your Kalispell podiatrist believes many other treatment options optimize lower extremity function and comfort. At Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic, Dr. Barnes has an on-staff pedorthist to craft special footwear and orthotics (shoe inserts) to cushion wounds, correct gait problems, accommodate deformities, and more.

 

Situations requiring surgery

Only your podiatrist can determine if you need foot or ankle surgery, its type and how you'll recover. Dr. Barnes will examine your foot and gait, do specialized X-rays or other imaging and consult with your primary care physician about your medical history as needed.

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) outlines many kinds of foot and ankle operations, many of which may be performed in-office on an outpatient basis. They include:

  • Bunionectomy to remove the bony bump associated with the base of the big toe. This operation may re-align the toe, too.
  • Fusion surgery removes the cartilage from a foot or ankle joint and adds pins, screws, or plates to stabilize it.
  • Toenail removal corrects an ingrown toenail or one severely damaged by traumatic injury. Matrixectomy destroys the nail bed so the nail cannot grow again.
  • Heel spur removal often accompanies the treatment of an inflammatory condition called plantar fasciitis.
  • Hammertoe correction straightens this deformity common to diabetics. A wire or implant maintains the new position of the toe.
  • Achilles tendon release actually lengthens a tight and painful tendon that connects the calf muscle and heel.
  • A neuroma surgery removes benign growths of the nerves in the ball of the foot. This operation relieves pain, tingling and numbness.

 

After surgery...

The team at Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic will help you recover from your foot surgery. Whether you need pain medication, supportive footwear, crutches or other items and services to maximize your foot and ankle function, expect a care plan customized to your needs and overall health.

 

Find out more

Please contact Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic in Kalispell, MT, if you have a foot or ankle problem. Usually, early intervention avoids surgery. Count on Dr. Barnes's expertise and compassionate attitude to guide you in the proper direction. Call today for a consultation: (406) 755-2818.

By Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic, PC
November 12, 2019
Category: Podiatry
Tags: Plantar Fasciitis  

While heel pain is a common problem this doesn’t mean that it should just be brushed aside or considered a small matter. Untreated heel pain can lead to long-term pain and other problems. While there are many causes of heel pain the most common cause is plantar fasciitis. This condition causes irritation and inflammation within the thick band of tissue (known as the plantar fascia) that runs along the soles of the feet from the toes to the heel.

The telltale sign of plantar fasciitis is that the heel pain occurs under the heel beneath the heel bone. The pain may radiate to the arches of the feet because the plantar fascia provides support to the arches, as well. Heel pain may be worse first thing in the morning or after long bouts of inactivity. You may notice that your heel pain gets better with movement and exercise but gets worse immediately after.

Many people can treat plantar fasciitis effectively with at-home care; however, if your symptoms are severe, become worse or aren’t responding to conservative home treatments after five days then it’s time to see your podiatrist. A podiatrist will be able to provide you with answers as to what is causing your heel pain and how to best treat it.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Simple, conservative measures are usually all that’s needed to treat heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis. This includes:

  • Resting and avoiding exercise and high-impact activities that will make symptoms worse
  • Icing the heel and arches of the feet up to 20 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a day
  • Wearing supportive shoes with a low heel
  • Placing custom orthotics within shoes for additional support
  • Performing specific foot stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Taking over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and swelling
  • Wearing a night splint to reduce morning pain and stiffness

Your foot doctor can show you a variety of exercises to perform that can alleviate heel pain and stiffness associated with plantar fasciitis. A podiatrist can also make prescription shoe inserts to provide your feet with the proper cushioning and structural support they need to reduce pressure points and improve the biomechanics of your feet.

Those with severe and persistent heel pain may require more aggressive treatment options such as ultrasound, steroid injections or shockwave therapy. Chronic plantar fasciitis may even require surgery to get rid of inflammation and tension within the plantar fascia. Surgery is rare but may be necessary when other treatment options have failed to properly manage and treat symptoms.

If you are dealing with heel pain for the first time it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist who can determine the cause of your pain and provide you with a customized treatment plan to get your heel pain under control.

By Step Ahead Foot & Ankle Clinic, PC
November 04, 2019
Category: Podiatry
Tags: Foot Care   Baby Feet  

A child's feet grow rapidly during the first year, reaching almost half of their adult foot size. This is why podiatrists consider the first year to be the most important in the development of the feet. Proper care at a young age is essential for healthy development.  Since many adult foot ailments develop in childhood, periodic visits to your child’s podiatrist and basic foot care can help minimize these problems later in life.

A child’s feet are formed from soft, pliable cartilage which makes them more susceptible to deformities. A young child can be affected by foot conditions such as:

  • Intoeing
  • Out-toeing
  • Flat feet
  • Warts
  • Heel pain

Tips for Parents

Parents can help promote normal, healthy foot development for their baby.

  • Examine your baby’s feet regularly. If you detect anything unusual, contact your child’s pediatrician or podiatrist right away.
  • Encourage exercise.  Lying uncovered allows the baby to kick and move feet and toes freely so not to inhibit normal development.
  • Cover feet loosely. Tight clothing or covers restrict movement.
  • Alternate your baby’s position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot may place unnecessary strain on the feet and legs.

Growing Up

As your baby continues to grow and develop, so will the feet. It may be necessary to change shoe and sock size every few months, as tight-fitting footwear can aggravate pre-existing conditions. After your child takes their first steps, you should also carefully observe walking patterns. Intoeing, out-toeing, and gait abnormalities can be corrected when they are detected early.

A baby’s feet will carry them throughout life, so it’s important to begin good foot care at a young age. Neglecting your child’s foot health invites problems in other parts of the body, such as the back and legs. Whether you have questions about your child’s foot health or suspect a problem with the development of your child’s feet, please contact our office. We want every step your child makes toward adulthood to be pain-free and easy!





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