The myths we perpetuate about health care are often quite humorous, like jumping up and down on one foot to cure hiccups. But many foot treatment myths can be harmful and dangerous. Here are a few that we want to dispel:
- Cutting a small “V” in your nail will cure ingrown toenails. Toenails grow from the nail matrix that is located just beneath the skin at the base of the toenail. The idea that putting a small center “V” notch at the end of the nail will cause the nail edges to come away from the skin as the nail “grows together” at the “V” is just not medically possible. Ingrown nails can be prevented permanently with a minor surgical procedure in which the nail matrix (growth plate) on the affected side(s) of the nail is destroyed (typically by a chemical agent, but other methods may be utilized).
- Warts can be “suffocated” with duct tape or salve. While warts may be living viruses, they cannot be suffocated. Warts can appear anywhere on the skin, but technically only those on the sole of the foot are properly called plantar warts. Your podiatric physician can prescribe and supervise your use of a safe and appropriate wart-removal preparation. More likely, however, removal of warts by a simple surgical procedure, performed under local anesthesia, may be indicated. People with diabetes or circulatory, immunological, or neurological problems should be especially careful with the treatment of their warts and seek professional care at all times.
- Heel spurs are “calcium deposits.” A heel spur or heel spur syndrome is most often the result of stress on the muscles and fascia of the foot. This stress may form a spur on the bottom of the heel. While many spurs are painless, others may produce chronic pain. Based on the condition and the chronic nature of the disease, heel surgery can provide relief of pain and restore mobility in many cases. The type of procedure is based on examination and usually consists of plantar fascia release, with or without heel spur excision. There have been various modifications and surgical enhancements regarding surgery of the heel. Your podiatric physician will determine which method is best suited for you.
- Fungal toenails are contagious. Fungal infection of the nail, or onychomycosis, is often ignored because the infection can be present for years without causing any pain. Unlike the common cold or the flu, being around someone afflicted with this condition generally does not pose a risk of acquiring the infection. The disease is characterized by a progressive change in a toenail’s quality and color, which is often ugly and embarrassing, however, not usually contagious from casual contact. In reality, the condition is an infection underneath the surface of the nail caused by fungi. If ignored, the infection can spread and possibly impair one’s ability to work or even walk. Treatments can vary, depending on the nature and severity of the infection. A podiatric physician can detect a fungal infection early, culture the nail, determine the cause, and form a suitable treatment plan, which may include prescribing topical or oral medication, and debridement (removal of diseased nail matter and debris) of an infected nail.
- “It doesn’t hurt, so that ulcer can’t be too bad.” In patients with diabetes, an ulcer or open sore on the bottom of the foot can be a sign that should not be ignored, regardless of whether it hurts or not. Diabetes can cause nerve damage in the legs and feet, which can lead to the inability to feel pain. Due to poor blood flow, small sores and cuts that go unnoticed on the feet can lead to hard-to-heal wounds called diabetic ulcers. It is extremely important for patients with diabetes to schedule regular appointments with a podiatrist. Don’t let pain be the guide; make footcare a part of your routine of overall care.
Source: footprints – an informational newsletter for patients of APMA member podiatrists.