9 Possible Reasons Why Your Feet or Ankles Are Swollen

Have you been experiencing swollen feet or ankles lately? Your hardworking feet may swell up and feel painful because of fluid retention, which can be caused by harmless everyday activities. Sometimes, however, swollen feet and ankles can be a sign of something potentially dangerous. Learn about the 9 reasons why your feet and ankles can become swollen and what you should do about it:

You’re on Your Feet All Day

If your job requires you to be standing or moving throughout most of the day, you may experience swollen feet on a frequent basis. Additionally, people who exercise vigorously or participate in sports may experience swelling in their feet. If this applies to you, here are some pro-tips: at the end of your busy day, soak your feet in cool water, rehydrate, and elevate your tired legs. A little bit of pampering will go a long way to keeping your feet healthy and happy!

You’re Overweight

Carrying extra weight on your frame adds pressure to all parts of your body, including your feet and ankles. Standing, walking, and exercising can all put additional strain on your feet when you’re overweight, which can lead to swelling. If you haven’t already, set some weight loss goals and work toward them in a healthy way. Even losing 5% of your body weight can make a huge difference!

You’re Pregnant

If you’re expecting soon and have noticed that your feet have been more swollen, don’t worry. Mildly swollen feet and ankles are usually a normal part of pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Just keep an eye out if the swelling becomes excessive or doesn’t go down after you prop up your feet. If this is the case or if you’re also experiencing stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or headaches, you’ll need to make an appointment with your doctor right away since you could be experiencing preeclampsia.

You Have a Foot or Ankle Injury

This is one of the most common reasons why our patients visit us for swollen feet. Even if you’re not experiencing any noticeable pain or discomfort, an injury, sprain, or any type of trauma to the foot or ankle can cause swelling. Sudden swelling can spring up for a variety of reasons, including sprains, strains, and fractured bones. Remember to “PRINCE” – protect your feet, rest, and use ice, NSAIDs, compression, and elevation to accelerate your healing. If the swelling doesn’t go down or is accompanied with severe pain or difficulty walking, call your podiatrist immediately.

You’re Consuming Too Much Salt

That’s right, even a diet high in salt can lead to edema – swelling caused by fluid retention – in your feet and ankles. Take a close look at your diet and see if you’ve been consuming too much salt. Cut back on sodium and do your best to eat a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein each day.

You’re Taking Certain Medications

Various medications, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, can cause swelling. If you’re taking certain antidepressants, steroids, hormone replacement therapies, or blood pressure medications, it’s possible that you may experience swollen feet or ankles as a side effect from any of these medications.

You Have Decreased Blood Circulation

When arteries and blood vessels become restricted, your extremities can see more fluid retention, particularly your feet and ankles. This is especially true if you smoke or regularly drink alcohol. If you do smoke, we advise you to talk to your doctor and take steps to quit as soon as possible. Your lungs, heart, and feet will thank you!

You Could Be Suffering From Organ Disease

Various diseases, including heart, kidney, liver, and lung disease, can all contribute to swollen feet and ankles. Keep an eye out for swollen feet at night, unexplained changes in your weight, a loss of appetite, and fatigue. If you notice any of these symptoms, please consult with your doctor as soon as possible.

You May Have a Blood Clot

A blood clot in the leg, also known as deep-vein thrombosis, should never be ignored. It’s a serious medical problem that can lead to dire consequences. Blood clots can stop blood from flowing through your legs and back to your heart, which may result in swollen ankles, feet, and legs. Should you notice that any swelling is accompanied by leg pain, fever, color changes in your leg, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness, go to the emergency room right away. This can be a life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical attention!

Rely on the Experts at The Foot & Ankle Center If your feet and ankles are swollen for more than a few days after resting, elevating, and icing, and you experience headaches, fever, and pain, don’t ignore your symptoms. Call the knowledgeable doctors at The Foot & Ankle Center! Our doctors will provide a thorough evaluation to help determine the cause and set up the right treatment plan for you. Don’t hesitate – reach out today by calling (314) 487-9300 or request an appointment with us online!

What Are COVID-Toes and What Should I Do if I Have Them?

You’re probably familiar with the main symptoms that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) manifests: cough, fever, and shortness of breath. However, as time progresses we are beginning to notice a host of strange symptoms that millions of people have experienced, including anosmia (the loss of smell and taste), brain fog, hallucinations, and many more. Now it’s time to add yet another symptom to the ever-growing list: COVID-toes. Learn all about COVID-toes, what they look like, and what you should do if you suspect you have them.

What Are COVID-Toes?

This uncommon symptom is a dermatologic rash that affects the feet and/or hands of someone who tests positive for COVID-19. This blue or purplish-red rash often occurs on 1-3 toes and can usually be found on the tips of the toes, the tops of the feet, and/or the sides of the feet.

Who Gets COVID-Toes?

While there isn’t any solid scientific data on this yet, some emerging evidence shows that typically children and young adults who test positive for the coronavirus experience COVID-toes. This symptom is often one that develops early on, and patients may experience them if they have mild or no other symptoms of COVID-19.

What Are the Symptoms of COVID-Toes?

Keep a close eye on your feet and toes for the following symptoms. You may experience one, many, or all of these symptoms:

  • Red, purple, or blue lesions
  • Raised, painful bumps on the toes
  • Hot, itchy, or burning sensations
  • Pain and soreness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Scabs or blisters as the infection progress

COVID-toes often look similar to pernio (a.k.a. chilblains), a dermatological condition that occurs when your skin is exposed to cold temperatures for too long.

How Long Do COVID-Toes Last?

Here’s the great news: COVID-toes have been shown to clear up typically within a week or 10 days by itself. There have been instances, however, in which this condition has lasted for longer, even for months, but this is less common.

How Are COVID-Toes Treated?

Generally, no treatment is required for COVID-toes since they heal on their own. The discoloration should improve as your body clears the infection. If you do experience pain or itching, topical treatments such as a hydrocortisone cream may help ease your symptoms.

What Should I Do if I Think I Have COVID-Toes?

If you notice discolored toes or feet, don’t panic! Make an appointment with the doctors at The Foot & Ankle Center for an evaluation, especially if your symptoms persist or worsen. There are many other reasons why you may develop a rash on your toes or feet, including fungal infections, Raynaud’s disease, dermatitis, or reactions to medications you may be taking.

Count on the Experts at The Foot & Ankle Center If you notice anything unusual whatsoever, don’t hesitate. Call the friendly and knowledgeable doctors at The Foot & Ankle Center! We can evaluate your symptoms and provide you with a treatment plan to help get you back on your feet. Call us today at (314) 487-9300 or request an appointment online with us!

Hammertoes Vs. Claw Toes: What’s the Difference?

Toes are amazing. These tiny digits provide us with the ability to maintain good posture and balance. They support our body weight, help us move forward, and allow us to do the things we love most. Sometimes, however, our toes get a bit bent out of shape. This is especially true if you find it difficult to stretch or straighten out one or more of your toes! If this sounds like you, you might be suffering from hammertoes or claw toes. What are hammertoes and claw toes? What is the difference between the two, and how are they treated? Find out all about these podiatric conditions below!

What Are Hammertoes?

Hammertoes occur when the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP), a.k.a. the middle joint of the toe, becomes curved or bent downward due to an imbalance in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments responsible for holding the toe straight. This contracture causes the PIP joint to be raised. Hammertoes generally occur in the second toe, especially if it happens to be longer than the big toe, but other toes can be affected as well. It isn’t uncommon for hammertoes to happen along with bunions either!

What Are Claw Toes?

Unlike hammertoes, claw toes typically affect several toes at once. Claw toes are contracted at both the PIP and the DIP (distal interphalangeal) joint – that is, both the middle and end joints. They cause the toes to curl up at the base, down in the middle, and down near the tip, resembling claws. This can occur in any toe aside from the big toe.

What Causes Hammertoes and Claw Toes?

Generally, both of these deformities can be attributed to an imbalance somewhere in the connecting muscle or tendon, which results in a progressive structural or mechanical change in the toes. People of any age can develop hammertoes or claw toes, although the risk does increase as you age. There are a few key differences in the causes behind each deformity:

  • Hammertoes: These tend to occur because of a mechanical or structural deficiency, a traumatic injury to the toe, pressure from a troublesome bunion, or even having high arches. Wearing ill-fitting shoes or developing arthritis can also lead to hammertoes.

  • Claw toes: Unlike hammertoes, claw toes are generally the result of a type of nerve damage caused by diseases like diabetes or alcohol abuse. This damage can weaken the tiny muscles in your toes, leading to claw toes.

Both of these podiatric deformities are progressive and will worsen or even become permanent if left untreated!

What Symptoms Might I Experience if I Have Hammertoes or Claw Toes?

Both hammertoes and claw toes can be painful conditions that can cause trouble with walking and lower your quality of life. Here are the general symptoms that these conditions can cause:

  • Burning sensation when bearing weight
  • Calluses and corns on the toe, between the toes, or on the ball of the foot
  • Distinct physical deformity of the toe
  • Joint stiffness
  • Pain, discomfort, and irritation, especially when wearing shoes or walking barefoot on hard surfaces
  • Painful and difficult toe movement
  • Swelling, redness, or inflammation
  • Wounds or ulcerations on the affected toe

How Are Hammertoes and Claw Toes Treated?

If you catch hammertoes or claw toes early enough, conservative correctional methods might be all you need to fix the problem! When your podiatrist checks out your feet, they will determine the best treatment for you and help slow down the deformity’s progress.

A few of the typical conservative methods podiatrists tend to use for hammertoes and claw toes include:

  • Custom orthotics to offload imbalances in the muscles and tendons
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for acute flare-ups
  • Padding
  • Recommending comfortable, supportive shoes to wear
  • Recommending particular exercises to strengthen and stretch your toe muscles
  • Removing any corns or calluses present in a pain-free manner
  • Splinting or strapping the toes
  • Taping the toes or feet

In more severe cases, however, surgery may be required. This is why it’s so important to act quickly and visit your podiatrist if you suspect a problem with your feet, ankles, or toes!

Can Hammertoes and Claw Toes Be Prevented?

Sometimes. Hammertoes in particular can often be a hereditary issue (especially if you or your family has a history of bunions), but the condition’s progression can be slowed! To keep your toes healthy and strong for as long as possible, remember to wear comfortable, supportive shoes with a wide enough toe box, avoid wearing high heels, and stretch your toes and feet regularly to maintain tip-top flexibility.

Count on The Foot & Ankle Center for Help! Think you might have a hammertoe, claw toe, or any other podiatric problem? Call on the friendly and knowledgeable doctors at The Foot & Ankle Center for help! You can reach us at (314) 487-9300 or request an appointment online!

8 At-Home Exercises to Strengthen Your Foot and Ankle

Home gyms are now more popular than ever, but most people tend to focus on working out their arms, shoulders, cores, and legs. Have you ever thought, however, to incorporate a few foot and ankle exercises on leg day? If you want to avoid heel pain, sports injuries, or potential surgical procedures thanks to other injuries, it’s important to strengthen your foot and ankle. Here are 8 at-home exercises that you can add to any weekly routine:

Stretching the Toes

The jury is still out on if you should stretch before or after a workout, but the practice of stretching is key to better overall flexibility. This is especially true for toes! Stiff joints are far more likely to experience aches, pains, and even strains when bent in an awkward manner. The following stretches will loosen them up in no time:

  • Tight or pointy shoes put stress on the big toe. Start in a seated position with both feet on the floor. Place one foot on the thigh opposite to it. Grasp the big toe and bend it upward, downward, to the left, and to the right, for 5 to 10 seconds each.
  • Tight shoes can also lead to hammer toe. Start in a seated position with both feet on the floor. Place one foot on the thigh opposite to it. Gently pull each toe for 5 to 10 seconds.

Working the Soles

The soles (or bottom) of the feet are prone to injury and inflammation due to the fact that they are constantly under stress from walking, running, and all other types of physical activities. Try these two exercises to ease any pain you may be suffering from:

  • Want a relaxing at-home foot massage? Find a tennis/golf ball and a chair to sit on. Place the ball underneath your foot and apply pressure downward. Slowly roll the ball back and forth to start. Next, roll the ball side to side. If your foot is already inflamed, a frozen water bottle is a soothing alternative option.
  • Walk around in the sand barefoot by making a sandbox in your own backyard. As you walk, your feet will sink down and you will notice that it takes more effort than normal to lift them back up. Since sand is a difficult surface to navigate, your muscles will start to feel the burn after just a few steps!

Strengthening the Heels

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. By strengthening the plantar fascia between your toes and heel bone early, you’ll be far less likely to experience this type of inflammation. Also connected to the heel is the Achilles tendon, which can become quite inflamed after strenuous activities as well. Here are a few exercises to improve each, along with the heel:

  • While standing on a slightly raised surface, like a step, carefully shuffle your feet backwards until your heels hang off the back. Using the balls of your feet, thrust your heels up and then lower them back down slowly.
  • Stand up straight and place your palms flat on the wall. Step back with one leg, making sure to keep it straight. Bend your knee in the opposite leg and keep both heels in contact with the ground. Lean forward from your lower body until you feel a good stretch in your Achilles tendon.

Stabilizing the Ankles

Ankles allow the feet to move in a few different directions – up, down, and side to side. If you find yourself sitting more often than not, however, you may be dealing with stiff joints and ligaments that can lead to sprains and strains.

  • Flexion and dorsiflexion are simple actions you can make to help stretch out your ankles. All you have to do is use them to point your toes to the floor (flexion) and back up towards your body (dorsiflexion). The best position to be in for these stretches is seated on the floor with your legs in front of you.
  • While there are plenty of bands available at the gym, you will have to get creative at home to add some resistance. Find a towel, sit on a chair, and raise your foot and ankle. Grab the towel with both hands, leaving a space in the middle. Place your foot and ankle in that space, with the towel underneath your sole, and pull the towel back. Point your toes to the floor for a few seconds and return it to center. If you tie one end of the towel to the leg of a sturdy table and the other end to your foot, you can also try pointing your toes back up towards your body with resistance.

Injured? Consult a Podiatrist!

All of these exercises are great for strengthening your foot and ankle, but injuries are never 100% preventable. If you’re experiencing pain due to an injury, consult with one of our knowledgeable doctors at The Foot & Ankle Center. We have the ability to pinpoint the source of your pain and recommend treatment during an appointment, which you can request online today!

Toenail Fungus Got You Down? Here’s How to Treat It

Warmer weather is on the horizon, which means it’s time to ditch the boots and break out the sandals and open-toed shoes! Maybe you’re dreading the impending change in footwear because you’ve been suffering from toenail fungus. Guess what? You don’t have to be embarrassed about your feet or live with toenail fungus – there are plenty of ways to treat it! Read all about toenail fungus, what to look for, and how you can get yours treated:

What Is Toenail Fungus?

Also known as onychomycosis, toenail fungus causes thick, unsightly, discolored nails. The affected nails can often be irritating and painful, and they are also a big source of discomfort and embarrassment for patients. It isn’t unusual for many people with toenail fungus to hide their feet or paint over their toenails with nail polish. Unfortunately, without treatment the problem can get much worse – the fungus can spread to other toenails or even your fingernails and can wind up causing greater pain and discomfort, which may lead to difficulties with walking.

What Causes Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus’s favorite environment is someplace dark, damp, and warm – much like the inside of your shoes or socks. If you maintain this environment for a prolonged period of time or if you walk around barefoot in damp public locations like locker rooms, showers, or swimming pools, you could risk getting toenail fungus. Toenail fungus can also arise after your toenails experience some type of trauma (like stubbing your toe on furniture). The nail bed is lifted, which gives the fungus the green light to step inside and invade your nail. You may also be at a greater risk for developing toenail fungus if you suffer from pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, immune-deficiency, and circulatory issues.

What Are the Symptoms of Toenail Fungus?

Toenail fungus can be a little tricky to spot, especially in the beginning. You’ll want to be on the lookout for the following signs:

  • Discolored or yellowing nail
  • Disfigured nails
  • Foul-smelling debris under the nail
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Streaks or spots down the side of the nail
  • Swelling around the nail
  • Thickening or crumbling of the nail
  • Total loss of the nail

If you happen to notice one or more of these symptoms, especially if your nail’s shape, color, or texture has changed, make an appointment with us right away!

How Can You Prevent Toenail Fungus?

Getting rid of toenail fungus can be challenging, so it’s wise to play defense and work on preventing it from happening in the first place! Here are our favorite pro-tips for helping you prevent toenail fungus:

  • Always wear shoes in public areas like locker rooms, pools, and showers.
  • Avoid wearing nail polish for long periods of time, which prevents the nail from breathing and can provide that dark environment fungus loves.
  • Change your gym shoes once you’ve finished working out. If possible, alternate pairs to let your footwear dry out completely.
  • Clip your toenails straight across. You can always round them with a file afterward!
  • Try not to cut your nails too short – this can cause trauma to the nail, which can lead to infection.
  • Wash your feet every day with soap and water. Dry them completely, especially before wearing socks and shoes.
  • Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes with a roomy toe box.
  • Wear clean, moisture-wicking socks every day. Change out of them as soon as possible if your feet are wet or sweaty.
  • Use clean toenail clippers whenever you trim your nails.

How Is Toenail Fungus Treated?

Toenail fungus may be stubborn to treat, especially if it’s been around for a long time. Fortunately, there are several ways it can be treated! If you have a mild case of nail fungus, you might be able to take care of it with a few home remedies like keeping your feet clean and disinfecting your shoes on a regular basis, but it’s always best to see a podiatrist to help you get rid of the problem. Your foot doctor may remove some of the infected nail by trimming or filing it, and you may be given a prescription for oral or topical antifungal medications to treat the infection. Severe cases may involve surgical removal of the nail.

Laser treatments such as the PinPointe Laser are also available to eradicate toenail fungus! This amazing procedure tackles toenail fungus quickly and effectively without any need for medication or anesthesia. The laser is designed to focus solely on the infection and vaporize the fungus embedded deeply within your nail bed, all without affecting the healthy tissue nearby! The process is safe, virtually pain-free, requires little to no downtime, and you can get the procedure done on your lunch break – it’s that quick!

Schedule Your Appointment with The Foot & Ankle Center! Don’t let toenail fungus get you down – get it taken care of by entrusting the knowledgeable and friendly doctors at The Foot & Ankle Center! We have the expertise and the state-of-the-art equipment to help get your toenails looking and feeling back to normal. Call us today at (314) 487-9300 to schedule your appointment or request an appointment with us online!