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Common Winter Foot Conditions to Watch Out For

You may have noticed the mornings and evenings are getting cooler and the leaves have started to drop off the trees. All of this can mean only one thing: Winter Is Coming. Although, you could certainly be forgiven for thinking its late summer with the beautiful autumn weather we’ve been having.

Today my blog will be about common winter foot conditions and give you a brief overview of what to watch out for. Sometimes, despite your diligence and regular trips to your Podiatrist an unfortunate foot health issue can still find a way to sneak in.

This risk is heightened as more people participate in winter sports and activities ranging from skiing and snowboarding to winter jogging or swimming. This blog will help you avoid spending the rest of winter off your feet by educating on a few select conditions and how to prevent and treat them.

Chilblains

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This is a topic we continually discuss every winter. This condition is common in people with poor circulation and occurs when the skin is exposed to the cold and then quickly introduced to a warm environment. The cold air constricts the small blood vessels in the skin; if the skin gets hot too quickly, the blood vessels fail to react properly in time and spasm which causes blood to leak into the tissue. This results in itchy, red and, at times swollen, spots on the skin. If aggravated, they can become ulcers or cause infections, as the skin dries out and cracks.

Chilblains are often found on the toes and, more specifically, on bunions and callouses, where there is more pressure on the foot. You can lessen your risk of chilblains by keeping your feet warm at all times and by avoiding the use of direct heat. Let your feet warm up slowly and gradually so the circulation can respond to the change in temperature in a healthy way.

If you suffer from diabetes or have circulatory issues and you think you have chilblains, you should see your podiatrist to minimize risks.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

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Named after a French doctor, this disorder occurs when very cold temperatures cause small blood vessels to constrict and limit circulation towards the extremities. It is very similar to chilblains.

Raynaud’s presents when this lack of blood supply and oxygen to the feet causes pain, blistering and discoloration. Chilblains may also appear. It affects between 3-5% of the population, and is more common in young women.

The condition is aggravated by cold and sudden changes in temperature. If you will be spending an extended period of time outdoors keep extremities covered and be aware of the look and feel of your skin. If your skin is turning white, get indoors and warm the area slowly until it returns to normal colour. It is also best to avoid smoking and caffeine, which both increase blood vessel constriction and can amplify the condition significantly.

Skier’s Toe

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If you look down at your feet and see a black toenail looking back up at you, you might have skier’s toe. The dark colour you see is caused by bleeding under the nail (known medically as a “subungual hematoma”), and the painful pulsing you feel is due to the pressure of the blood against your nail.

One-time trauma or repetitive use of too-tight shoes (especially ski boots, hence the name) can cause this condition. So it is important that your winter sports footwear allows you proper roominess in the toe box. Make sure your socks fit tightly all around your foot. Make sure your shoes fit your foot, ankle and, if you’re selecting boots, calves. The size might be right, but if the fit around the calves is too roomy or too tight, it’s best to look for another pair. You should also try to avoid a pointed toe if possible. Remember that each brand fits differently!

If you have a black nail, you should speak to a podiatrist immediately. The sooner you get it looked at, the easier it will be to treat by relieving the pressure behind the nail.

Blisters

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Well-fitting and quality-made winter shoes are the key to preventing blisters. Even with the best fitting and best quality shoes, friction reigns from time to time, and repeated rubbing can cause skin irritation and blisters to develop. If your shoes are causing you blisters, it’s a sign that you shouldn’t be wearing them. Take them off and see if they can be stretched professionally at the boot-maker. You can also try extra padding between your skin and the problem area. There are a wide variety of products available from your podiatrist or pharmacy for just such issues.

If you do have a blister, try to resist the urge to pop the blister yourself. Clean it with disinfectant and cover it with a good quality bandage for protection and let it heal on its own. If it opens, put a topical antiseptic to avoid infection and pay your Podiatrist a visit.
 

Thanks for reading,

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Scott

We have HICAPS available in our clinic, which means that our patients can claim from their private health fund straight away

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Shop 2/17-19 East Parade
Sutherland, NSW 2232

Tel: 02 9542 3491
Email: info@sutherlandpodiatry.com.au