foot care

Feet First: Strategies for Women’s Foot Care

The human foot is truly remarkable by design. With 26 bones, 33 joints and a complex network of muscles and tendons, feet are among the most intricate and relied-upon parts of the body. Not only do they keep you mobile, they support your body and act as shock absorbers.

Foot care isn’t a topic that’s typically top of mind unless you’re struggling with a foot injury or condition. Yet, foot problems are surprisingly common, affecting many women at some point in their lives. From bunions and heel pain to arthritis and diabetic neuropathy, there are many sources of painful foot problems that can prevent you from living a full, active life.

Everyday Foot Care

Like with the rest of your body, it’s necessary to regularly care for your feet. Step into this routine for healthy feet:

  • Dry them off before putting on socks or shoes, and use a moisturizing cream to prevent dry skin and cracked heels
  • Foot creams containing an emollient or a humectant, like lactic acid, can be beneficial
  • Cut toenails straight across to prevent the development of hangnails and ingrown toenails
  • Don’t forget to wear sunscreen on the tops of your feet when you’re going barefoot or wearing sandals

Shoes, Fashion and Comfort

For women, shoes aren’t just about function, they’re also about fashion. Unfortunately, the latest in shoe design doesn’t always correspond with good fit or comfort. In a study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, injuries recorded by US emergency departments related to high-heeled shoes doubled between 2002 and 2012. Not only do high-heeled shoes account for acute injuries, they also frequently contribute to foot conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, toenail deformities and even nerve damage.

While wearing flat shoes is the best option, you don’t have to give up high heels altogether. The best options are those with low, padded heels that provide a wider fit at the front, rather than narrow and pointy. If you stand for long periods of time, consider wearing insoles which can make shoes more comfortable.

When to See a Doctor

Acute foot problems like sprains often heal on their own with time, rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. If they don’t, a doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan to help you speed healing and avoid complications. If pain is chronic and not caused by an injury, it’s also important to seek professional foot care. Some symptoms to watch for include:

  • A flat foot that could be a sign of a tendon dysfunction or rupture
  • A bump or cyst that appears to be growing or hurts
  • A wound or sore that doesn’t heal
  • Foot discolorations where one foot is a different color than the other, which may be an indication of an infection, gout or decreased blood flow
  • Pain that increases with activity which may be a sign of a stress fracture

“While there are surgical options for many foot problems, not everyone needs surgery,” says Adam Bitterman, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Foot and Ankle Specialist, at Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute. “Conservative measures are often very effective at treating common conditions. If you have persistent pain that hasn’t improved for more than a week, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a foot specialist. A two-way dialog between you and your doctor can help determine the best treatment option for you.”

Find out more about women’s foot care. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

osteoporosis

What Every Woman Needs to Know about Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a silent disease that can lead to serious fractures, as well as back pain, loss of height and stooped posture. In fact, the disease is often not diagnosed until after a fracture has occurred.

While impacting both men and women, osteoporosis occurs more frequently in women because they tend to have smaller, thinner bones. As well, estrogen, that helps make and rebuild bone in women, drops significantly after menopause which can lead to bone loss. This is why osteoporosis and bone fractures are more common in older women.

Although osteoporosis can cause fractures in nearly any bone, they commonly happen in the wrist, spine and hip. In fact, 75 percent of all hip fractures occur in women (source: International Osteoporosis Foundation), largely due to osteoporosis. And, the consequences of osteoporosis-related fractures can be substantial, ranging from diminished quality of life and dependence on pain medication to increased depression and even permanent incapacitation.

Proactive Screening for Osteoporosis

Because osteoporosis typically has no symptoms until there is a fracture, it’s important for women to get proactively screened for the disease. Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, commonly referred to as a DEXA scan, is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends DEXA scans for women who are:

  • Age 65 or older
  • Over 50 and have broken a bone
  • Menopausal or postmenopausal with certain risk factors

The results of bone density testing can enable a woman’s doctor to make recommendations on how to reduce the chance of breaking a bone. Osteoporosis treatment often involves medication along with lifestyle changes. Bisphosphonates are the most common medications prescribed for osteoporosis.

The Osteoporosis Treatment Gap

Long-term bisphosphonate therapy has been linked to a very rare side effect, in which the upper thighbone cracks and may break. This problem was widely publicized and led many, who were prescribed these medications, to stop taking them. Out of patient fear, use of the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis drugs fell by 50 percent from 2008 to 2012 (source: Journal of Bone and Mineral Research), and the trend is continuing.

“Fears about these medications has resulted in patients not being able to take advantage of the many benefits they offer,” says Stuart Weinerman, MD, Assistant Professor at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and Associate Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine at Northwell Health. “Diet, exercise and supplements are not enough to protect someone with low bone density.”

Medication, along with healthy lifestyle practices, remain the best bet in reducing the chance of a fracture in those identified as having low bone density. These practices include:

Exercise – Weight-bearing physical activity can strengthen bones and lower the chance of a fracture.

Balanced nutrition – A healthy diet with enough calcium and vitamin D can help maintain bone.

Quit smoking – Cigarettes can increase bone loss.

Limit alcohol – Drink in moderation. This means no more than one drink per day for women.

Find out more about osteoporosis prevention and treatment. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

ovarian cancer

Facts about Ovarian Cancer Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Every 23 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and one in 75 will develop the disease in their lifetime (source: National Cancer Institute). While most women are aware of their breast cancer risk, fewer are aware of their risk of ovarian cancer or the subtle early symptoms of the disease which often can be overlooked. The result is that women don’t seek help until the disease has begun to spread, making treatment more complex.

The most common ovarian cancer symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary urgency
  • Nausea or indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight gain

Testing and Screening for Ovarian Cancer

Unlike Pap tests for cervical cancer and mammograms for breast cancer, there is no routine screening test for ovarian cancer. Researchers have discovered new information about how BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations can increase ovarian cancer risk. These are the same genes that are tested to determine the chance of developing breast cancer. Approximately 20 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a hereditary tendency to develop the disease. Most of the time, these patients have a genetic mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

All women with ovarian cancer are recommended to undergo genetic testing to identify these gene mutations. The information can help determine a woman’s risk of developing other cancers, as well as provide insight into whether other family members can benefit from testing, too. In some cases, siblings and others within the family that also have tested positive for the gene mutation can undergo preventive treatment or additional screenings and surveillance.

Innovations in Ovarian Cancer Treatment

For women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, identified gene mutations may also play a part in determining the best treatment therapies. New research is providing guidance on how genes affect the biology of cancer growth, and targeted therapies are being developed to inhibit specific enzymes that contribute to cancers caused by mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2.

“Use of these inhibitors can slow progression of the disease and result in tremendous improvements in survival,” says Dr. Jill Suzanne Whyte, MD, Gynecologic Oncology, Obstetrics and Gynecology at North Shore University Hospital.

Another new approach to ovarian cancer treatment that is showing promise is the development of tumor vaccines that help the immune system recognize cancer cells and attack them as they grow. The man-made antibodies used in the vaccines are similar to those that fight infection.

The Importance of Ongoing Ovarian Cancer Research

“Because ovarian cancer remains the leading cause of gynecological cancer deaths in the United States, the need for ongoing research to discover better ways to identify, treat and prevent the disease is essential,” notes Dr. Whyte. Due to decreased public funding of ovarian cancer research, there has been a substantial reduction in clinical trials over the last several years. Support for research funding is necessary for advancements to continue to be made. For women who are diagnosed, it’s also important to ask about specific clinical trials.

Find out more about ovarian cancer prevention and treatment. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.