One might think that running into Christmas or winter-related clinical conditions in sunny Singapore is unlikely, but that is not our experience at our podiatry foot clinic. Many Singaporeans travel during the end of year holidays and bring back unwanted gifts from an unforgiving winter, while others develop injuries due to the celebrations over the festive period.
Keeping your Tropical feet safe in Winter Weather
People living in tropical climates are usually aware of the importance of keeping warm when visiting colder climates, however, they sometimes forget or underestimate the weather, leading to cold weather injuries. Cold weather can also dry out your skin and nails and making them more susceptible to damage or reduce circulation, which can lead to nerve pain. Here is a quick overview of four winter-related conditions we see in-clinic.
While known as such, skier’s toe is not limited to skiers. Clinically known as a subungual hematoma, it appears as a dark or black toenail. This dark spot is blood pooling behind the nail and is usually caused by a single incident of trauma such as something heavy dropping on your toe or repetitive trauma caused by the recurring bumping of your toes against the firm sides of a ski boot that fits poorly. Should you sustain such an injury, get professional help immediately as toenails can remain injured for a long period of time.
Due to the dryness of the winter air, our feet dry out, making it more likely to develop cracks. If these cracks deepen, they can allow bacteria and viruses to enter the body, causing illness and infections. Avoid taking hot baths for too long and moisturise your feet to help reduce cracking and drying of skin. If your cracked heels are causing you pain, do not ignore it as they make you more vulnerable to infection as well as a sign of greater injury.
This condition is caused by our body adapting to rapid changes in temperature. Our blood vessels constrict due to the winter cold, and are unable to expand fast enough when we are exposed to warm air. This causes blood to leak into the tissue, causing red swollen spots to develop. The spots may itch and become irritated, causing cracks in your skin or ulcers and other infections. If you have bunions or calluses, you are more likely to develop chilblains.
Do not soak your hands or feet or expose them to a warmer to heat them up. This can cause chilblains to develop or worsen due to the sudden and drastic change in temperature.
Unlike the earlier conditions, Morton’s Neuroma does not have any visible signs. Instead, you may experience a sensation of having a pebble in your shoe, an intense radiating pain in the ball of your foot or numbness and tingling. This condition is caused by damage to a nerve in your foot, and may be due to the overly tight footwear used in sports like skiing. If your pain does not improve despite a change of footwear or experience tingling and numbness, consult a foot specialist as leaving it untreated can lead to permanent nerve damage.
Care tips for surviving the Merry Holidays
December is one of the busiest months on the social calendar. From holiday gatherings among friends and family to company-wide celebrations, many of us have multiple events lined up this month. Some may spend hours on their feet preparing large season’s feasts, while others spend the weekend on their feet seeking the perfect gift for their loved ones. Large celebrations or parties can mean spending hours on our feet in shoes that are often more aesthetically pleasing than functionally comfortable.
So to help you avoid injury, here are some quick tips for surviving the hectic holiday season.
- Use shoes with a variety of heel heights. If you are going to be on your heels more often, switch between heels of different heights to avoid placing repetitive stress on specific joints and muscles.
- If you find your feet swelling at the end of the day, elevating them can help reduce swelling and discomfort.
- Stretch at the end of each day to help relief tight muscles.
- Freezing a bottle of water in the freezer and rolling it under your foot can help massage tired feet and reduce soreness.
- Wash your feet daily and make sure to dry thoroughly, especially between the toes. This also gives you an opportunity to examine your feet for any signs of corns, calluses or infections.
- Moisturise frequently to keep the skin soft and supple, reducing the possibility of corns or calluses from developing.
- If you find patches of rough skin developing on your feet, try using a pumice stone to gently exfoliate your skin, keeping it soft and smooth.
Although appearing similar, hard patches of skin on your sole can be caused by a multitude of reasons. Among these, calluses, corns and warts are the most common.
Corns and calluses usually present as yellow and crusty skin and are usually caused by footwear, dry skin and excessive walking, running or standing. It is usually not recommended for you to remove the skin using nail clippers or other sharp tools as this can causing further scarring and complicate the condition. Calluses and corns can be a cause of biomechanical abnormalities that cause irregular pressure loading.
Warts appear as rough cauliflower-like patches of skin that are painful and can bleed easily. Caused by a viral infection, warts are typically transmitted through sharing communal areas such as gyms, pool showers and changing rooms. Being contagious, it is best to be handled by clinical professionals.
If you are experiencing any lesions or abnormalities on your skin, you should have it checked by a professional and avoid neglecting it. Avoid applying over the counter medications and patches unless you have been specifically instructed to do so. Many of these over-the-counter applications are heavy loaded with corrosive compounds such as such as salicylic acid that may burn your skin indiscriminately, possibly worsening the condition or damaging your skin.
Podiatrists are qualified healthcare professionals who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of lower extremity conditions such as those mentioned in this article. Feel free to make an appointment at any one of our podiatry clinics for a specialist consultation with our friendly podiatrists.
Sani is a licensed and registered Podiatrist with the U.K. Healthcare Professions Council, and a member of Faculty of Podiatric Medicine, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Glasgow). Formerly practicing in the UK for a decade, Sani is highly experienced with lower limb conditions caused by cold-weather conditions. He practices in Singapore at East Coast Podiatry's Orchard and Novena clinics today.