Foot Care for Summer (cont.)

If you're a diabetic or have systemic medical conditions, you should definitely avoid sharp instruments, such as a callous shaver, whereas a pumice stone is much safer to use.

You'll find you get the best results when the skin is soft and supple, for instance after taking a shower or a bath, or after soaking your feet in a foot spa. There are other things you can do to help reduce cracked heels, such as utilizing moisturizers and creams on your heels and avoiding backless shoes. For severe cracked heels, there are prescription creams with acids in them which will help eat away at the dead skin. And of course, a podiatrist can debride the heel as well.

A nice trick is to take a heavy cream such as Vaseline, and I've even heard of people using Vick's VapoRub, on their heels. The way you would use this is to apply a thick coat of the cream on the heels and wear a pair of socks over the cream while you sleep. After a few days, you should see a great improvement in the heel calluses.

MODERATOR:
You said to avoid backless shoes. One of the joys of summer is going barefoot -- is that something we should avoid?

ZONG:
It's generally good advice to avoid going barefoot especially if you're diabetic or have any neuropathy in your feet. You want to avoid the risk of stepping on things such as broken glass or rusty nails, etc., but you also open yourself up to being exposed to things such as viruses which cause warts and can occur frequently on the soles of the feet. If you want to let your feet breathe, it's more advisable to try a sandal or even a pair of flip-flops.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Will your suggestions for heels work for other foot calluses as well?

ZONG:
Yes.

MEMBER QUESTION:
How do I avoid the yellow, thick toe nails that my mother had? Is this caused by fungus? Also, I've been told that nail polish on the toe nails isn't beneficial.

ZONG:
Generally thick yellow nails are caused by fungus, but they can be caused by other things. The only way to know for sure is to visit a doctor who can have the nail examined under a microscope to confirm they are, indeed, fungal.

If they are fungal, there are nail lacquer preparations and also oral preparations which can address the fungus. If you are a person whose feet sweat a lot you may be more prone to getting a fungal infection. You will want to try to apply antiperspirant to your feet to keep them dry, and try to change shoes on a daily basis. That is, don't wear the same pair of shoes day after day. Fungus thrives in a warm, moist, humid climate, which describes your foot inside of your shoe. So if you can avoid keeping your feet from sweating a lot and airing out your shoes, you will be at less risk for fungal nails.

"Soaking your feet is probably one of the most soothing things you can do. It's something a lot of women will do when they get a pedicure and probably something most men do not do enough of."

Generally there isn't a big problem with using nail polish. Nail polish will, however, discolor the nail when you remove it. You're more apt to getting nail damage when you use something like the fake nails or nail tips, but that's more fingers than toes. Generally nail polish is OK.

MEMBER QUESTION:
How do you avoid getting ingrown toe nails? My big toe nails seem to curl under on the sides and I am constantly digging them out to stop the
pain. Sometimes I get an infection before I can get them out. I soak my feet in Epson Salts. What else can I do? Any suggestions?

ZONG:
To answer your question specifically, it sounds like you have a chronic ingrown toenail problem, especially if your nails recurled. If this happens on a regular basis, you may want to consider having a permanent nail procedure performed so that the edge of the nail never grows back, thus eliminating the ingrown nail problem. This can be performed at any podiatry office in the country.

But in general, for most people, you should try to clip your toenails straight across and not try to dig into the corners as that can cause an ingrown toenail. Also, excessively pointy shoes should be avoided as the excess pressure can cause an ingrown toenail, as well.

Soaking your feet is probably one of the most soothing things you can do. It's something a lot of women will do when they get a pedicure and probably something most men do not do enough of. You can get a bucket or a foot bath and use Epson salts or if you'd like, you can go to the local department store and purchase an inexpensive foot spa. They run about 20, $30 at the local Target, and they do a great job, as well.

MEMBER QUESTION:
The bottom of one of my feet is really scaly and itchy -- so itchy that I scratch it every night to the point of bleeding. I have tried EVERY athlete's foot remedy/ointment around, and nothing works. What else could it be?

ZONG:
This is most likely an aggressive form of athlete's foot. If the over-the-counter preparations have not worked, you should visit a medical professional who can take a sample of your skin and send it to a laboratory for a diagnosis. Most of the time it is just athlete's foot and if it is not and it is something else, it can then be treated accordingly.



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