Putting Your Best Toe Forward

Our poor toes, they really do take a hit. They are small little guys who are often overlooked, forgotten, abused. Those five little guys can literally carry the weight of our bodies: just try standing on the tips of your toes. Your fingers can hardly do that… We don’t really take care of our toes, unless you’re the type who gets a regular pedicure. Is that you? Probably not. (If it is, keep it up, but read on… we’ve got some important tips for you.)

Our toes can suffer different ailments, such as fungus, ingrown nails, dry cuticles, to name a few. Dr. Gotham is an expert when it comes to feet. Here he shares what could go wrong with your toes and how to get them into tip top shape.

Toenail Fungus

Ever look at somebody's toenails and think, Those don't look right?! Chances are that person has toenail fungus. Infected toenails may be white, yellow, or brown and they may be thickened and oddly-shaped.

Unfortunately, nail fungus isn’t easily treated at home. Fungus is an infection that usually begins in the skin and eventually penetrates the nail. To treat fungus, a nail biopsy may be needed to evaluate the fungal infection. Your podiatrist can do this. If fungus is found, treatment generally begins with removing as much of the affected nails as possible by trimming, filling, and mechanically debriding the nail (aka removing damaged tissue) to a more normal thickness and appearance. Medicated antifungal nail lacquer may be prescribed for a localized mild to moderate infection. Prescription oral antifungal medications may be prescribed for a more serious infection. Laser nail treatment is an alternative to oral medication. The laser works by passing a light through the toenail to kill fungus that lives below the nail without causing damage to the nail or surrounding tissues. A newer and more effective procedure is micro-drilling. This is a pain-free procedure that creates micro-pores on the nail bed allowing the antifungal topical to penetrate into the nail plate more efficiently and effectively attacking the source of the nail fungus more directly. Micro-drilling not your cup of tea? It’s not for everybody. Talk to your podiatrist for the best treatment suited to your comfort level.

Nail fungus is unsightly but fortunately there are solutions. So next time your dad pulls off his socks and his toenails make you gasp, let him know there is help. And that no, it will not go away on it’s own. 

Dry Toenail Cuticles

Now, just like the cuticles on your fingernails, cuticles on your toenails can also be dry and split. You want to avoid this because healthy cuticles prevent bacteria from entering your toenail beds. Keep those babies hydrated! To heal toenail cuticles you should be properly hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day. The rest of your body will thank you, too. Maintain the proper moisture balance of your cuticles and feet by lubricating them with Eucerin cream and taking vitamins, such as: biotin, hair, skin & nail vitamins, or prenatal vitamins. Again, your body will love you for this. 

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails are painful. But they can also be excruciatingly painful. They can be so painful that the light weight of a bedsheet can feel like 1000 lbs. To avoid getting ingrown toenails Doctor Gotham recommends clipping your toenails with a straight edge toenail clipper. A straight edge toenail clipper ensures the nails are cut straight across decreasing the chance of ingrown toenails. This can be easily achieved at home. If you are prone to ingrown toenails and not sure how to clip them then talk to a good pedicurist. (There are so many bad ones.) Tell them that you are prone to getting ingrown toenails (a good pedicurist will recognize that as they are working on your toes) and your pedicurist will be sure to cut them as straight as possible. Doctor’s warning: if an ingrown toenail is present it is recommended to be treated by your podiatrist. And don’t wait… the worse the ingrown becomes, the more invasive the podiatrist has to be. And avoid having your ingrowns fixed by a pedicurist. As mentioned, they’re not all great. A bad pedicure could introduce more bacteria and cause more damage. 

If you want to file your nails for a smoother finish after clipping them, you should file your toenails down with an emery board to smooth out the edges. When filing, it's important to file your toenails using light pressure and long strokes in one direction to minimize the trauma to the surrounding nail bed. Extra tip for those who like a little colour in their lives: to make nail polish adhere to the toenails better, lightly buff the nail to clear it of any ridges and any oils for a smoother, cleaner and longer-lasting application.

Tips on giving the little piggies some extra care

Examine the color of your toenails each week. There are several things that can negatively impact the color or texture of your nail. Fungus is a common issue that we see. Yellow or brown and thickened nails are signs of fungal nails that can be easily treated by a podiatrist. Other colors, however, could indicate larger health issues. For example, a black stripe on your nail could be a result of skin cancer, HIV or Lupus.

Avoid walking barefoot (especially at the gym!) Walking barefoot exposes your feet to bacterial and fungal organisms that can infect the skin and nails. These organisms can lead to infections that change the appearance, smell, and comfort of the foot, such as Athlete’s Foot or fungal nails.

Pay better attention to your shoe gear. Make sure that you don’t exhaust the lifeline of your shoe. Rotate your shoes frequently and do not hold on to a shoe when they are worn out. When purchasing shoes pay attention to the quality of your shoes, not just the price. The shoe must fit appropriately and be comfortable. Pay special attention to the size, fit and feel. A comfortable shoe will eliminate foot pain and prevent toe deformities.

Do not conduct “bathroom surgery” on an ingrown toenail. Taking care of an ingrown on your own can result in a serious infection. When you have an ingrown nail you’ll know how bad it is depending on where the pain is. If you have pain that’s just at the tip of the corner it’s something you can just clip and notice that after a day or so of soaking in warm water with epsom salts it goes away. If cutting the tip isn’t sufficient to address the pain and you have pain at the side or at the base of the nail – you need to go to a specialist sooner rather than later. When the pain is at the base of the nail it means that the ingrown nail is deeper and it needs to be addressed by a specialist.

 

Take care of those little piggies, wee wee wee.

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