Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Flip Flops: The good, the bad and the fungi

The start of summer means that flip flops are back in business. Actually, for many young people, flip flops aren’t summer-only footwear. Gone are the days flip flops were seen only at the beach or pool. For many, they’ve become a fashion must. According to podiatrist Dr. Mehul Shah, these young people may want to re-think where and when they’re flipping and flopping.

“Flip flops have become a fashion statement for many people,” says Dr. Shah, a podiatrist on Sentara Potomac Hospital’s medical staff. “But wearing flip flops all of the time can damage your feet or toenails. Trauma can be caused by someone stepping on your toe, accidentally kicking your feet, or by tripping and stubbing your toe. This trauma can cause small breaks in the toenail and separate the toenail from the skin underneath allowing for dirt and wetness to get under the toenail. When this happens fungus can form under your nails, especially when the flip flops get wet.”

Toenail fungus symptoms include yellowing, thickening and/or crumbling of the nail, swelling, streaks or spots on the nail and even nail loss. Toenail fungus can also be picked up in damp areas such as public gyms, pools or showers. This can occur when you are barefoot.

“Treatment for toenail fungus varies and can be difficult, so the best treatment is prevention.” says Dr. Shah. “Keeping your feet clean and dry, trimming your toenails and preventing even small injuries to your toes are the best preventions. Some of the most common treatments include topical medications, oral medications and the latest laser treatment.”

Wearing flip flops to amusement parks, concerts, parks or other highly populated areas presents risk for foot trauma. According to Dr. Shah, many people don’t even notice they’ve received foot trauma during these outings because the injuries may be small. But those small injuries could open the door to big problems down the road.

Podiatrist Dr. Mehul Shah warns trauma to unprotected toenails can cause fungus, injury or other foot problems. Dr. Shah’s office is located in the Century Medical Building, 2280 Opitz Blvd., Suite 230, in Woodbridge. Telephone: 703-583-5959.