Wednesday, June 5

Health Care and Foot Odor

When you take your shoes off, is there a pungent odor? Is the smell just so-so, or is it strong enough to clear the Serengeti from all wildlife? Do people faint who may be passing by, or just run in the opposite direction as fast as possible. When your socks come off after your shoes are removed, is the local Hazmat team called out? If so, then you may be a victim of foot odor.

According to the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management (AAPPM), the feet and hands contain more sweat glands than any other part of the body, with roughly 3,000 glands per square inch. Smelly feet are not only embarrassing, but can be physically uncomfortable as well.

Feet smell for two reasons: 1) shoe wear, and 2) sweating of the feet. The interaction between the perspiration and the bacteria that thrive in shoes and socks generates the odor. Therefore, any attempt to reduce foot odor has to address both sweating and footwear.

Smelly feet or excessive sweating can also be caused by an inherited condition, called hyperhidrosis, which primarily affects men. Stress, some medications, fluid intake, and hormonal changes also can increase the amount of perspiration our bodies produce. In general, smelly feet can be controlled with a few preventive measures:

• Always wear socks with closed shoes.
• Avoid wearing nylon socks or plastic shoes. Instead, wear shoes made of leather, canvas, mesh, or other materials that let your feet breathe.
• Bathe feet daily in lukewarm water, using a mild soap. Dry thoroughly.
• Change socks and shoes at least once a day.
• Check for fungal infections between toes and on the bottoms of your feet. If any redness or dry, patchy skin is observed, get treatment right away.
• Don't wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. If you frequently wear athletic shoes, alternate pairs so that the shoes can dry out. Give your shoes at least 24 hours to air out between wearings; if the odor doesn't go away, discard the shoes.
• Dust your feet frequently with a non-medicated baby powder or foot powder. Applying antibacterial ointment also may help.
• Practice good foot hygiene to keep bacteria levels at a minimum.
• Wear thick, soft socks to help draw moisture away from the feet. Cotton and other absorbent materials are best.

Persistent foot odor can indicate a low-grade infection or a severe case of hereditary sweating. In these cases, a prescription ointment may be required to treat the problem. More info can be found at this website: http://www.aappm.org/library/1932/SmellyFeetandFootOdor.html .

Your kitchen is full of natural home remedies that can help banish foot odor, according to Discovery Fit & Health. If removing your footwear at the end of the day calls to mind the scent of a postgame locker room, give these natural home remedies a try.

Home Remedies from the Cupboard:

Baking Soda. Don't just let those shoes sit there without odor support! Bring on the baking soda! Deodorize shoes by sprinkling 1 or 2 teaspoons baking soda inside to absorb moisture and hide odors. For added fragrance, combine 3 tablespoons baking soda with 3 tablespoons ground, dried sage leaves. Combine the sage and baking soda and place into an airtight glass jar. After removing your shoes for the day, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each shoe. Shake and leave overnight. The following day, keep the sage-soda in the shoes. In the evening remove excess sage-soda mix, and replace it with a fresh supply. Repeat nightly. Another way to use baking soda is in a foot bath. Add 2 tablespoons baking soda to a bowl of warm water. Soak feet every night for a month.

--Cornstarch: A less fancy solution to keeping shoes deodorized and dry is to sprinkle the inside with 1 to 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
--Salt: Add table salt or Epsom salts to water for a foot soak. Pour a few teaspoons of salt into a tub of warm water. Soak for ten minutes.
--Vinegar: Soak your feet several times a week in an apple cider or plain vinegar bath. Mix 1/3 cup vinegar into a bowl of warm water. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

Home Remedies from the Refrigerator:

--Ginger: Mash a 1- or 2-inch piece of ginger into a pulp, put it into a handkerchief or piece of gauze, and soak it in some hot water for a few minutes. Rub the ginger liquid onto each foot nightly after taking a shower. Try for two weeks.

--Radish: You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, but you can squeeze an anti-stink solution from a radish. Juice about two dozen radishes, add 1/4 teaspoon glycerine, and pour in a squirt or spray-top bottle. Spritz on toes to reduce foot odor.

Home Remedies from the Sink:

--Black tea: Soak tootsies in black tea. Tannic acid, a component of tea, is thought to have astringent properties that prevent feet from perspiring. To make a foot-tea soak, brew 5 bags black tea in 1 quart boiling water. Let cool, add ice cubes (during summertime), and soak in this "iced tea for the toes" bath for 20 to 30 minutes.

--Water: A remedy for sweaty feet involves alternating footbaths of hot and cold water to help reduce blood flow to your feet and reduce perspiration. After luxuriating in a hot foot bath, shock those toes by dipping them into a second foot bath containing cool water, ice cubes, and 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice (if available). Rub your feet with alcohol following the bath. Try this dual treatment once a day, especially in warmer months.

With some diligence on your part and a few natural home remedies, you can banish foot odor for good. More info about this subject can be found at this site: http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-foot-odor.htm .

And finally, a few more tips to help reduce foot odor, from this website, complete with photos: http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Rid-of-Foot-Odor .

• Stress can stimulate sweating. That's why you might notice that your life and your feet stink at the same time.
• Try a natural deodorant that is crystal based. These sprays work by making the skin inhospitable for bacteria
• If you're in a pinch, you can scrub your feet with an anti-bacterial wipe or a paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol.
• Make sure you are getting the USDA recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc. A zinc deficiency can lead to foot odor, as well as general body odor AND bad breath. Make sure zinc is included in your multi- vitamin or get a separate zinc supplement.
• Powder your shoes outside, where there is good ventilation, e.g., on the porch
• Use foot powders that are mostly made of cornstarch or other non-talc ingredients.
• Do not walk with only your socks on. They pick up lots of bacteria this way. Then, when you put your shoes back on, the bacteria population explodes in the moist, warm environment.
• Clipping and brushing your toe nails will probably help as well.

Foot odor is embarrassing, but it is not life threatening. When you want to get serious about taking care of this socially unacceptable health care issue, follow the tips in this blog that can help you overcome smelly feet. After all, you really don’t want people choking, fainting, or ignoring you all the time if they detect your foot odor, or if they smell you coming toward them before they see you enter the room.

Until next time.

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Monday, June 3

Health Care and Glaucoma

Your vision is one of the most valuable assets you have. Being able to see clearly and without impediment is a huge advantage. Just ask someone who is blind or extremely vision impaired. Plus, there are several diseases of the eye that can be identified with a simple exam done by your optometrist or ophthalmologist. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye's optic nerve. It is a leading cause of blindness in the United States.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the most common type of glaucoma — called primary open-angle glaucoma — affects an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States, and that number is expected to increase to 3.3 million by 2020 as the U.S. population ages.

Glaucoma usually happens when the fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises, damaging the optic nerve. Often there are no symptoms at first, according to the NIH. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral, or side vision. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead vision may decrease until no vision remains. A comprehensive eye exam can tell if you have glaucoma. People at risk should get eye exams at least every two years. They include people in these demographics:

• African Americans over age 40
• People over age 60, especially Mexican Americans
• People with a family history of glaucoma

There are several types of glaucoma. The two main types are open-angle and angle-closure, according to www.glaucoma.org . Open-angle Glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma, accounting for at least 90% of all glaucoma cases:

• Is caused by the slow clogging of the drainage canals, resulting in increased eye pressure
• Has a wide and open angle between the iris and cornea
• Develops slowly and is a lifelong condition
• Has symptoms and damage that are not noticed.

“Open-angle” means that the angle where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be. Open-angle glaucoma is also called primary or chronic glaucoma. It is the most common type of glaucoma, affecting about three million Americans.

Angle-closure Glaucoma, is a less common form of glaucoma:

• Is caused by blocked drainage canals, resulting in a sudden rise in intraocular pressure
• Has a closed or narrow angle between the iris and cornea
• Develops very quickly
• Has symptoms and damage that are usually very noticeable
• Demands immediate medical attention.

It is also called acute glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma. Unlike open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma is a result of the angle between the iris and cornea closing, according to Glaucoma.org. Additionally, other types of this eye disease have also been diagnosed:

Normal-Tension Glaucoma (NTG): Also called low-tension or normal-pressure glaucoma. In normal-tension glaucoma the optic nerve is damaged even though the eye pressure is not very high. We still don't know why some people’s optic nerves are damaged even though they have almost normal pressure levels.

Congenital Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs in babies when there is incorrect or incomplete development of the eye's drainage canals during the prenatal period. This is a rare condition that may be inherited. When uncomplicated, microsurgery can often correct the structural defects. Other cases are treated with medication and surgery.

Other Types of Glaucoma: Variants of open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma include:

• Secondary Glaucoma
• Pigmentary Glaucoma
• Pseudoexfoliative Glaucoma
• Traumatic Glaucoma
• Neovascular Glaucoma
• Irido Corneal Endothelial Syndrome (ICE)

During routine eye exams, a tonometer is used to measure your intraocular pressure, or IOP, according to www.allaboutvision.com . Your eye typically is numbed with eye drops, and a small probe gently rests against your eye's surface. Other tonometers send a puff of air onto your eye's surface. An abnormally high IOP reading indicates a problem with the amount of fluid (aqueous humor) in the eye. Either the eye is producing too much fluid, or it's not draining properly.

Normally, IOP should be below 21 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) — a unit of measurement based on how much force is exerted within a certain defined area. If your IOP is higher than 30 mmHg, your risk of vision loss from glaucoma is 40 times greater than someone with intraocular pressure of 15 mmHg or lower. This is why glaucoma treatments such as eye drops are designed to keep IOP low.

Other methods of monitoring glaucoma involve the use of sophisticated imaging technology — such as scanning laser polarimetry (SLP), optical coherence tomography (OCT) and confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy — to create baseline images and measurements of the eye's optic nerve and internal structures. Then, at specified intervals, additional images and measurements are taken to make sure no changes have occurred over time that might indicate progressive glaucoma damage.

Visual field testing is a way for your eye doctor to determine if you are experiencing vision loss from glaucoma. Visual field testing involves staring straight ahead into a machine and clicking a button when you notice a blinking light in your peripheral vision. The visual field test may be repeated at regular intervals to make sure you are not developing blind spots from damage to the optic nerve or to determine the extent or progression of vision loss from glaucoma.

Gonioscopy also may be performed to make sure the aqueous humor (or "aqueous") can drain freely from the eye. In gonioscopy, special lenses are used with a biomicroscope to enable your eye doctor to see the structure inside the eye (called the drainage angle) that controls the outflow of aqueous and thereby affects intraocular pressure. Ultrasound biomicroscopy is another technique that may be used to evaluate the drainage angle. More info can be found at this website: http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/glaucoma.htm .

Glaucoma cannot currently be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early it can usually be controlled. Medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. However, vision already lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. That is why the American Optometric Association recommends an annual dilated eye examination for people at risk for glaucoma as a preventive eye care measure. Depending on your specific condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent examinations.

Patients with glaucoma need to continue treatment for the rest of their lives. Because the disease can progress or change silently, compliance with eye medications and eye examinations are essential, as treatment may need to be adjusted periodically. By keeping eye pressure under control, continued damage to the optic nerve and continued loss of your visual field may slow or stop. The optometrist may focus on lowering the intraocular pressure to a level that is least likely to cause further optic nerve damage. This level is often referred to as the target pressure and will probably be a range rather than a single number.

Target pressure differs for each person, depending on the extent of the damage and other factors. Target pressure may change over the course of a lifetime. Newer medications are always being developed to help in the fight against glaucoma. Early detection, prompt treatment and regular monitoring can help to control glaucoma and therefore reduce the chances of progression vision loss. Much more information can be found at this website: http://www.aoa.org/Glaucoma.xml .

Regular eye exams are critical for your vision health, especially if you fall into the high risk categories of those individuals more susceptible to this disease. Don’t put off getting your vision checked. Just pretending it won’t happen to you doesn’t mean you may not develop glaucoma. Prevention, regular check ups, and proper care of your vision can help. If you suspect you may be experiencing any problems with your eyes, get an exam with your doctor.

Until next time.

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