Podiatrist in San Leandro, CA
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All About Broken Ankles

Broken ankles are a serious injury that can lead to an inability to walk, function, and also cause a significant amount of pain. A broken ankle is actually a break in one of the three bones in your body that connect at the ankle joint, the tibia, the fibula, and the talus. The tibia and fibula are your two primary leg bones that connect at the knee, which sit directly upon the talus bone. This is protected by a fibrous membrane that allows for movement in our ankle joint. A broken ankle is usually caused by the foot rolling under or twisting too far, causing one of these three bones to snap.

A broken ankle is different from an ankle sprain, which occurs when the ligaments are ripped or torn but no bones have been broken. However, a sprain can still be very severe, causing bruising in the foot and an inability to hold your own weight, much like a broken ankle would. If you cannot stand on your own weight and suspect that you have a broken ankle, the first thing to do would be to get an immediate x-ray to determine the severity of the break.

A common way to break your ankle is to roll over onto it with enough pressure to break the bones, usually done while engaging in exercise, sports, or some other physical activity. Another common cause is a fall or jump from a large height.

Broken ankles can cause severe pain, but immediate relief can come from elevating the feet above your head to reduce blood flow to the injured area. You can also apply ice packs to the ankles to help reduce the swelling, redness, inflammation, and pain. After these initial steps, getting a cast on and staying off your feet as much as possible will aid in the recovery of the broken ankle, because the less movement and stress the ankle has to endure, the more complete it will heal. A doctor can determine if surgery is needed in order to heal correctly. In these cases, an operation may be the only option to ensure the ability to walk properly again, followed by physical therapy and rehabilitation.

It is highly important to determine if surgery is needed early on, because a broken ankle can become much more severe than you realize. If not professionally treated, the broken ankle will inhibit your walking, daily functioning, and produce a large amount of pain, so the quicker you act, the better.



Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athletes foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.

Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow, thrive, and spread, this is the most commonly affected area, but it is known to grow in other places. However, for obvious reasons, the term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.

The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as obviously the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. On top of this, the extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.

Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.

Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. While it is hard to completely avoid, you can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, as these are not desirable conditions for tinea to grow. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, treating it with topical  medicated creams, ointments or sprays will not only help eliminate it but also prevent it from coming back.



Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

Stress fractures occur in the foot and ankle when muscles in those areas are weakened from too much or too little use. When this happens, they stop cushioning the foot and ankles from the impact of hitting the ground. Because there is nothing to protect them, the bones of the foot begin to absorb the full impact of each step someone takes. The added stress causes little cracks to form in the bones that are under the most pressure. These cracks are called stress fractures.

Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Individuals who run, play tennis or basketball, or practice gymnastics tend to experience these fractures more frequently. Anyone is susceptible to this problem, though. Individuals who are normally sedentary and suddenly begin an intensive high impact work out may get stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not strong enough to handle and cushion the intensity of their activity. Osteoporosis may also cause someone to get stress fractures, because the disease weakens an afflicted person's bones and makes it easier for them to break down.

The pain from these fractures will occur in the general area of the fracture. It may be intermittent or constant, and will cause sharp or dull pain along with swelling and tenderness. Engaging in any kind of activity, high impact or otherwise, will aggravate the pain. If the intensity of the activity increases before the stress fracture has properly healed, it can cause a full fracture. This is a much more serious problem, and will probably prevent you from applying any pressure on the foot at all.

Treatment can vary depending on the individual and the degree of injury. The primary way to treat a stress fracture is to rest the hurt foot. Some fractures will heal quickly with only a little bit of rest, while others may require a long rest period and the use of crutches. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.

In order to avoid getting stress fractures, make sure to get plenty of calcium and Vitamin-D. They will help to keep your bones strong, and make them less likely to break under pressure. If your new exercise regimen is running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. For example, if you plan to walk every day, you could ride a bike on some days to take the stress off of your feet. Make sure to wear supportive shoes to better protect you feet.

If you begin to experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If the symptoms do not go away, see an orthopedic specialist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.

 

Nerve Disorders of the Foot and Ankle

Similar to well known nerve disorders in the hands, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve disorders that affect the foot and ankle occur in patients for reasons ranging from stress to genetics. Nerve disorders of the foot should be addressed right away because they may be immobilizing in serious cases. Two of the most common nerve disorders of the foot and ankle are Interdigital Neuroma and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

Interdigital Neuroma is caused by localized inflammation of one of the nerves that controls toe sensitivity in the frontal area of the foot. This inflammation is generally only found in the second or third interspace, and any other symptoms similar to Neuroma on other digits should be checked against other disorders. Symptoms include chronic burning or tingling sensations between the affected toes which can, at times, migrate to the toes themselves. This pain is often increased by walking, running, or by wearing shoes that compress the toes, such as high heels. A doctor should be consulted if this pain is chronic and if the symptoms get worse.

Typical examinations to determine the presence of Neuroma include radiographs, MRIs, and even bone scans of the affected area. Bone scans are only required if degeneration of bone is suspected, however. Surgery is often not required to alleviate the symptoms of Neuroma, and in many cases functional orthotics can be used to alleviate the stress of constant weight on the affected toes. Surgery is recommended for those patients that suffer from symptoms for 6 months or more, so reporting symptoms early can increase the rate of non-surgical recovery.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition that is less common than Interdigital Neuroma, is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in that it is caused by a compression of the nerve caused by any number of factors (mostly associated with excess pronation). Typically seen in those that have either flatfeet or valgus heel positions, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome has patients complaining of moderate to severe ankle pain that starts along the bottom of the foot and often proceeds to the calf. Some more extreme cases occur with partial numbness and even atrophy of the foot and surrounding muscles.

If there is a good chance that someone has Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, an EMG test is often used to diagnose the condition.  If the diagnosis is positive, an MRI can be used to identify the compression of the nerve. Treatment with NSAIDS, functional orthotics, and rest off of the feet is often prescribed, but again, long standing symptoms require surgery, as do exacerbated symptoms caused by lesions present between nerves.

 

 

 

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