FOOT CONDITIONS

WOUND CARE

There are over than 21 million known people with diabetes in the United States, and this staggering figure continues to grow by almost one-half million annually. It has been estimated that an equal number of persons with diabetes remain undiagnosed. A person develops diabetes when their body is unable to maintain a normal level of sugar in the blood. Insulin, the hormone that regulates the level of sugar, is either not used properly by the body or it is produced in inadequate amounts. When this occurs, diabetes is the result.

Diabetes wreaks havoc with many major organ systems in the human body. Among others, it tends to create some of the worst and life altering complications in the feet. Over one half of diabetic hospital admissions are foot related. This is typically due to the disease process’ effect on the nerves and blood vessels. As a result, the main complications include neuropathy (altered sensations which can eventually lead to numbness), peripheral arterial disease, increased risk of infection, decrease in tissue integrity and compromised healing capacity.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral Neuropathy can manifest itself as abnormal sensations such as burning, tingling, numbness, and pain. Often, patients report feelings of ants crawling on their skin. Treatment can include medications, infra-red light therapy such as Anodyne, and surgical nerve decompression.

PLANTAR FASCIITIS

Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis, a condition that is sometimes also called heel spur syndrome when a spur is present. Heel pain may also be due to other causes, such as a stress fracture, tendonitis, arthritis, nerve irritation, or, rarely, a cyst.

Because there are several potential causes, it is important to have heel pain properly diagnosed. A foot and ankle surgeon is able to distinguish between all the possibilities and determine the underlying source of your heel pain.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends from the heel to the toes. In this condition, the fascia first becomes irritated and then inflamed, resulting in heel pain.

Causes
The most common cause of plantar fasciitis relates to faulty structure of the foot. For example, people who have problems with their arches, either overly flat feet or high-arched feet, are more prone to developing plantar fasciitis.

Wearing non-supportive footwear on hard, flat surfaces puts abnormal strain on the plantar fascia and can also lead to plantar fasciitis. This is particularly evident when one’s job requires long hours on the feet. Obesity may also contribute to plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms
The symptoms of plantar fasciitis are:

  • Pain on the bottom of the heel
  • Pain in the arch of the foot
  • Pain that is usually worse upon arising
  • Pain that increases over a period of months

People with plantar fasciitis often describe the pain as worse when they get up in the morning or after they’ve been sitting for long periods of time. After a few minutes of walking the pain decreases, because walking stretches the fascia. For some people the pain subsides but returns after spending long periods of time on their feet.

Diagnosis
To arrive at a diagnosis, the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain your medical history and examine your foot. Throughout this process the surgeon rules out all the possible causes for your heel pain other than plantar fasciitis.

In addition, diagnostic imaging studies such as x-rays or other imaging modalities may be used to distinguish the different types of heel pain. Sometimes heel spurs are found in patients with plantar fasciitis, but these are rarely a source of pain. When they are present, the condition may be diagnosed as plantar fasciitis/heel spur syndrome.

FLAT FOOT

As discussed above, many health conditions can create a painful flatfoot.

Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD)

Anatomy of the foot and ankle.
Damage to the posterior tibial tendon is the most common cause of AAFD.

The posterior tibial tendon is one of the most important tendons of the leg. It starts at a muscle in the calf, travels down the inside of the lower leg and attaches to the bones on the inside of the foot.

The main function of this tendon is to hold up the arch and support your foot when you walk. If the tendon becomes inflamed or torn, the arch will slowly collapse.

Women and people over 40 are more likely to develop problems with the posterior tibial tendon. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Having flat feet since childhood increases the risk of developing a tear in the posterior tibial tendon. In addition, people who are involved in high impact sports, such as basketball, tennis, or soccer, may have tears of the tendon from repetitive use.

For in-depth information on posterior tibial tendon dysfunction: Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction

Arthritis
Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause a painful flatfoot. This type of arthritis attacks not only the cartilage in the joints, but also the ligaments that support the foot. Inflammatory arthritis not only causes pain, but also causes the foot to change shape and become flat.

The arthritis can affect the back of the foot or the middle of foot, both of which can result in a fallen arch.

For in-depth information about rheumatoid arthritis of the foot: Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle

Injury
An injury to the ligaments in the foot can cause the joints to fall out of alignment. The ligaments support the bones and prevent them from moving. If the ligaments are torn, the foot will become flat and painful. This more commonly occurs in the middle of the foot (Lisfranc injury), but can also occur in the back of the foot.

In addition to ligament injuries, fractures and dislocations of the bones in the midfoot can also lead to a flatfoot deformity.

For more information about injuries to the midfoot: Lisfranc (Midfoot) Injuries

Diabetic Collapse (Charcot Foot)
People with diabetes or with a nerve problem that limits normal feeling in the feet, can have arch collapse.

This type of arch collapse is typically more severe than that seen in patients with normal feeling in their feet. This is because patients do not feel pain as the arch collapses. In addition to the ligaments not holding the bones in place, the bones themselves can sometimes fracture and disintegrate – without the patient feeling any pain. This may result in a severely deformed foot that is very challenging to correct with surgery. Special shoes or braces are the best method for dealing with this problem.

For in-depth information about diabetic arch collapse: Diabetic (Charcot) Foot

BUNIONS

Bunions (Hallux Abducto Valgus)

Even though bunions are a common foot deformity, there are misconceptions about them. Many people may unnecessarily suffer the pain of bunions for years before seeking treatment.

What is a Bunion?

A bunion (also referred to as hallux valgus or hallux abducto valgus) is often described as a bump on the side of the big toe. But a bunion is more than that. The visible bump actually reflects changes in the bony framework of the front part of the foot. The big toe leans toward the second toe, rather than pointing straight ahead. This throws the bones out of alignment – producing the bunion’s “bump.”

Bunions are a progressive disorder. They begin with a leaning of the big toe, gradually changing the angle of the bones over the years and slowly producing the characteristic bump, which becomes increasingly prominent. Symptoms usually appear at later stages, although some people never have symptoms.

Causes
Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion.

Although wearing shoes that crowd the toes won’t actually cause bunions, it sometimes makes the deformity get progressively worse. Symptoms may therefore appear sooner.

Symptoms
Symptoms, which occur at the site of the bunion, may include:

  • Pain or soreness
  • Inflammation and redness
  • A burning sensation
  • Possible numbness

Symptoms occur most often when wearing shoes that crowd the toes, such as shoes with a tight toe box or high heels. This may explain why women are more likely to have symptoms than men. In addition, spending long periods of time on your feet can aggravate the symptoms of bunions.

 

Diagnosis
Bunions are readily apparent – the prominence is visible at the base of the big toe or side of the foot. However, to fully evaluate the condition, the foot and ankle surgeon may take x-rays to determine the degree of the deformity and assess the changes that have occurred.

Because bunions are progressive, they don’t go away, and will usually get worse over time. But not all cases are alike – some bunions progress more rapidly than others. Once your surgeon has evaluated your bunion, a treatment plan can be developed that is suited to your needs.