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Do Your Feet Hurt?

From your heels to your toes, find what you can do for your foot pain

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4. Toenail Fungus

Chances of developing a toenail fungus increase with age; an estimated 50 percent of men and women are affected by this nasty condition by age 70.

Symptoms

  • Loosened or lifted nail
  • Crumbly, ragged or thickened nail
  • Streaks or spots down the side of the nail
  • Dark color, caused by buildup of debris under the nail

Causes

You risk developing a toenail fungus if: your feet perspire heavily or you wear tight shoes; you walk barefoot in public showers, swimming pools and gyms; you have minor nail or skin injuries that provide a convenient entry for the fungus.

What you can do

  • Wash your feet regularly and dry them thoroughly.
  • Wear socks made of synthetic fiber, which wick away moisture better than cotton or wool socks.
  • Soak your feet daily in a mixture of one part white vinegar to two parts warm water for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse well and pat your feet dry. If your feet become irritated, cut down to two or three times a week.
  • Apply a small amount of Vicks VapoRub to the affected nail once daily, using a cotton swab or your finger. A small study shows an 83 percent improvement after 48 weeks.

What your doctor can do

Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream to use on the nail itself or one of the newer antifungal drugs you take by mouth. Laser therapy for toenail fungus is a relatively new method and long-term data on its effectiveness are lacking. In addition, it can be expensive — about $1,000 — and it's not covered by insurance. In severe cases, you may need surgery to remove the nail, but it will grow back.

Who's Taking Care of YOUR Feet?

Podiatrist
Podiatrists specialize in the medical and surgical care of the foot, ankle and lower leg. They complete four years of podiatric medical school to earn the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine and then go on to two or three years of accredited postgraduate medical and surgical residency.

Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons specialize in the treatment of the foot and ankle. They complete four years of medical school to earn the degree of Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy and then go on to four or five years of accredited postgraduate medical and surgical residency. After they complete residency training, both podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons are eligible for board certification, which requires passing an exam to assess medical knowledge and clinical judgment.

If the Shoe Fits

Shoes that don't fit properly are a major cause of these common foot ailments. "Although feet continue to change with age, very few adults have their shoe size checked regularly" says Steven D.K. Ross, MD, clinical professor of orthopedics at the University of California, Irvine. "Arches tend to drop with time, so they get longer and the forefoot grows wider. Yet people are likely to wear the same size shoe they did when they were adolescents. Then they wonder why their feet hurt and they have problems with them." So have your feet measured at least once a year when you shop for shoes.

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