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Keeping Children's Feet Healthy

As a parent, your most important job is taking care of your children in every possible way. You watch what they eat, you protect them from harm, but it is important to be proactive in taking care of their health, especially when it comes to their feet. Having healthy, well taken care of feet in childhood is crucial in helping eliminate problems later in life, especially in the back and legs. As children grow, their feet require different types of care. Here are some ways you can help keep your children's feet healthy, from birth to school age.

Babies require a lot of care in general, but don't forget their feet. Since babies don't walk yet, their feet can be easy to overlook, but it is still important to take care of them. In the first year of life a baby's feet grow and change very much, so it is important that you do not put any tight shoes or socks on your baby's feet. Let your baby stretch and kick her feet so he or she can feel comfortable.

When a baby turns into a toddler, they are now on the move and it is important that your toddler has comfortable and protective shoes to walk in. Now is the time you may notice different things about your child's feet, but know that children at this age are just getting the feel for walking, so don't be alarmed if they seem to walk funny. It is normal for a toddler to be unsteady on their feet.

When your child gets older and leaves the toddler stage behind, it is now important that you teach them how to take care of their own feet. Show them proper cleaning and hygiene so that their feet do not develop fungus or infection. Since children are constantly running and playing, it is also important to watch out for injury or pain. Children are still growing, and certain injuries can effect the bones growth and development so it is vital to have all injuries checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Comfortable shoes that cushion the foot and provide protection from hours of rough play are highly recommended.

Children and babies are constantly growing and developing, and it is your job as a parent to make sure that nothing is hindering their ability to mature at a normal rate. This includes properly taking care of the feet, as healthy feet are important in order to live a normal, fulfilling life.


Systemic Diseases of the Foot

There are several systemic diseases, or diseases that affect the whole body, that either display symptoms in the feet or affect the health of the feet. Common systemic diseases that affect the overall health of the feet, and the patient’s ability to walk comfortably, include gout, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders, and arthritis.

In gout, which is caused by an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body, the most common symptoms of pain, inflammation, and redness occur at the metatarsal/phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. Any excess levels of uric acid, crystallize and are deposited in tendons, joints, and surrounding bone and muscle tissue. Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation and other drugs to lower uric acid levels in the body. Gout most commonly affects those who are overweight, have low protein diets and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Diabetes mellitus is an increase in the level of blood sugar in which the body cannot counteract with naturally occurring insulin in the body. The three types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes, are all signs the body is either not producing enough insulin or is not efficiently using the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant and have never, prior to pregnancy, exhibited symptoms of the disease.

There are two main issues that affect the feet that are commonly caused by diabetes. They include diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to damaged nerves and affect the feet through numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral vascular disease restricts the flow of blood to the foot and can, in extreme cases, lead to the necessity of amputating the foot. Peripheral issues that are caused by diabetes and can affect the foot include athlete’s foot, nail infections, corns, blisters, bunions, severe dry skin, plantar warts and ingrown toenails. These can all be attributed to the decrease of blood flow to the foot.

Neurological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can also have severe impact on the health of the feet. Neurological disorders can affect the nerves in the main structure of the foot and cause loss of sensation and possible decreased muscle response. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the bones and joint structures of the foot, making it impossible to walk normally without serious pain.

All systemic diseases that affect the foot can effectively be treated to minimize joint and muscle damage if they are diagnosed early and treated with medication and lifestyle therapy. Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their physician to keep their levels as close to normal as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should work with their physician to ensure the proper medications are being taken to reduce the amount of damage to the joints of the body.


Orthoses

Orthoses are devices used to correct physical impairment caused by scoliosis, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, or foot deformities. Orthopedic devices control, guide, limit or immobilize body segments. They assist in movement; reduce weight bearing forces and aid in rehabilitation from fractures. They also correct the shape and function of the body.

Orthoses include ankle foot orthosis, thoracolumbosacral orthosis, knee orthosis and wrist hand orthosis. When orthoses were first made, plaster of Paris molds were made of the patient and then materials like plastic, elastic, metal or a combination of those materials. Now braces for participants in contact sports are made from neoprene to allow movement but reduce the range of movement.

The Boston Brace is used to assist scoliosis sufferers. It is also called a low-profile or underarm brace. It fits under the breast to above the pelvic area in the front and below the shoulder blades to the tail bone in the back. By applying three point of pressure to the curve, the lumbar area is forced to flex, the abdomen is pushed in and the posterior is flattened.

The Charleston Bending Brace is only worn at night. A mold is made of the patient’s body bent towards the outward bulge of the curve. The design of the brace is built to correct the curve of the scoliosis. Repeatedly wearing this brace for eight hours should eventually correct the problem somewhat if not completely. The brace is good for patients with a curve of 20 to 36 degrees.

The Milwaukee Brace is used for mid-back curves. This brace consists of a plastic pelvic girdle and a neck ring. The pieces are connected in the front and back by metal bars. Pressure pads are place along the patient’s curve pattern along the metal bars. This brace is rarely used but patients with a curve very high in the spine can benefit from wearing it.

A knee orthosis is a brace worn to give the knee strength. Osteoarthritis can cause significant pain in the knee resulting in immobility. Knee braces allow a person to remain active. Often therapy and drugs are used in conjunction with a knee brace.

Orthoses have changed over the decades. The materials used for the actual orthotic devices have evolved to include hydraulics as it appears in some knee braces that the patient adjusts to compensate for stability. When this is adjusted, it helps the knee by giving the sense of space between the bones which stops the pain that radiates when the bones rub together. Orthoses products stop pain and give patients the ability to move pain free.


Ingrown Toenail Care

An ingrown toenail is caused when a toenail grows sideways into the bed of the nail, causing pain and swelling. Sometimes this can become infected causing drainage and may become serious.

There are many risk factors that can predispose a person to this common condition. Cutting your nails too short, participating in sports, diabetes, being overweight, or having a fungal infection of the toe can all cause ingrown toe nails. Many people are genetically prone to ingrown nails and it can often be related to genetics. Often the problem can come from wearing ill-fitting shoes, or even from shoes that keep the feet slightly damp.

There are some things that you can do to prevent and treat these painful problems. Letting your toe nails grow a little longer will help prevent this condition. If you do develop an ingrown nail, soaking the toe in hot water will help prevent infection and lessen pain. You may want to add antibiotic soap or Epsom salts to the water. This will help to prevent infection.

Some experts also recommend placing small pieces of cotton under the affected part. This will help the toenail to grow up instead into in your nail bed. Resting with your feet up can reduce swelling and redness.

If your pain is so severe that it keeps you from everyday activities, it is time to see your podiatrist. Also, if you see a red streak running up your leg, or if your infection is spreading, see a podiatrist immediately. There are many quick treatments that can lessen your pain and have you walking with comfort.

One method of treating an ingrown toenail involves using a Band-Aid. Wrapping the affected toe with a Band-Aid will prevent infection and also keep the nail from growing out at painful angles.

If your podiatrist feels it is necessary, he or she may make a small incision and remove part of your toe nail. Medication will be placed in the nail bed to prevent re-growth of the problem nail parts. This will be done under local anesthesia and should lessen your discomfort in no time. You will be advised to stay off your foot for a day or so, but can then carry on normal activities.

Take care of your feet; you have many steps to take in your life. Walking in comfort should be a priority for a lifetime of healthy living.


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