Summer Guide for Healthy Feet & Ankles

Warm weather, (I guess 108 degrees would be hot for this Canuck!!) and open toed shoes allows us to have routine pedicures and look at our feet more often. One of the most important things we can do for our feet and ankles is to look at them. There are places on the body that people don’t consider when they think of cancer and skin cancer in the feet is one of them. Since our feet are at the bottom of our bodies and usually tucked away in shoes, we typically forget that they are just as susceptible to cancer as the rest of us.

All three types of skin cancers can arise on and under our feet, with squamous cell carcinoma being the most common form and basal cell carcinoma being less common. Malignant melanoma is even less common, but it is by far the deadliest. Melanomas on the feet can occur in men and women, and while they usually develop in people over the age of 50, they can be found at any age. Lighter-skinned people are more likely to develop melanomas on sun-exposed areas of the body, but only one-third of African-American patients who have melanoma develop it on sun-exposed areas.

Early detection is extremely important since malignant melanoma can spread (metastasize) rapidly. Since melanomas on the foot and ankle often go unnoticed during their earliest stage, routine foot examinations can increase the likelihood of diagnosing and treating melanomas. Melanomas on the feet usually occur between toes, around the nails and on the soles of the feet. During routine examinations your podiatric foot and ankle physician will look for “moles” and use a common dermatological rule (the “ABCDE” rule) to characterize these “moles”:

* Asymmetrical lesions

* Border irregularity

* Color variation

* Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser

* Evolving changes in appearance over the past weeks/months

Skin cancer is rarely painful, so routine podiatric medical visits are important for anyone with disconcerting lesions on the feet and legs. Also remember to apply sunscreen all over your feet, especially the tops and fronts of ankles; and reapply sunscreen after you’ve been in the water. Pick broad spectrum sunscreens such as Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense SPF 50 since they provide protection against UV (ultraviolet) A & B rays.

The “Ouch” Factor – What to do About Splinters

The warm, sunny weather of summer is an invitation for us to shed our shoes and socks and run barefoot. But doing so can be risky since running or walking (both inside and outside) can lead to problems for your feet.

Needles, broken glass, small tacks, hairs, or splinters of wood can be hidden in the carpets of your home, and those are only the problems inside your house. Outside, the obstacles can be even more varied and dangerous. While small splinters can be removed at home, any large or deep splinters in the foot should be removed by your foot and ankle physician. Anyone with diabetes should be especially vigilant, since a small splinter can grow quickly into a serious infection.

To remove small splinters, clean tweezers with an alcohol wipe and wash your hands and the affected area thoroughly. Grasp the visible end of the splinter with the tweezers and pull gently. Most splinters will come out easily. If you have any trouble removing the splinter, contact your podiatric physician immediately. You can soak your foot prior to your appointment to soften the skin, but do not attempt to open the skin. Wipe the area with antiseptic and cover with a Bandaid®, then head to a foot and ankle physician’s office.

Also, contact your doctor immediately if the area becomes red, swollen, or hot to the touch, either after you remove a splinter or if you cannot see any foreign body under the skin. These are all signs that you may have missed part of the splinter or have an infection, and your foot and ankle physician will need to do further treatment of the area. Whatever is imbedded in your foot will determine how the podiatrist will treat you, but deeply imbedded foreign bodies may even require a surgical procedure. One good way to avoid splinters is to wear shoes both in the house and outside. There are many great options for summer besides bare feet, so keep feet healthy and happy by making good choices and avoiding splinters.