Wednesday, August 28, 2013

3 More Health Concern's You Can't Ignore (Part 2)

  • BLISTER

    A blister caused by skin-on-sock friction may be a sign that you need to spring for new shoes, but it's hardly a health threat. However, blisters that pop up between your toes as a result of athlete's foot are, in fact, a medical emergency in the making.

    "When the blistering causes a crack between the toes, bacteria can invade the area," says Richard Braver, D.P.M., a New Jersey sports podiatrist and a fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. "Every year, I have male patients who end up in the hospital for 5 to 7 days with IV antibiotics because of foot infections that could have been prevented."

    That means intercepting the fungal infection before it reaches the blistering point. At the first sign of athlete's foot, do the obvious: Start using an over-the-counter cream such as Lamisil twice a day. But before your evening application, soak your feet in a solution of warm water and Epsom salts for 20 minutes; the salt will help suck moisture, a.k.a. fungus fuel, from the affected area.

    Follow this regimen for 2 weeks, and if you don't see improvement, ask your doctor about ciclopirox gel, a prescription medication that's been shown in studies to kick both fungal and bacterial butt.

    Already beset with blisters? Call your doctor; you may need antibiotics, stat.
  • PIMPLE

    Acne is the Trojan horse of health. A bump that at first glance looks like a run-of-the-mill pimple may actually be basal-cell carcinoma, a slow-growing form of skin cancer. "Men as a group tend to ignore these lesions," says Edward McClay, M.D., director of the San Diego Melanoma Research Center.

    So what's the difference between a zit and a tiny tumor? "The typical basal-cell carcinoma has a pearly appearance when light shines on it, and tiny blood vessels can be seen entering the nodule at the base," says Dr. McClay.

    If you spot a pimple that won't go away, have a dermatologist check it out (and don't try to pop it—it could spread); basal-cell carcinoma is 95 percent treatable when caught early. The usual treatments—attacking it with a scalpel or using a combination of scraping and burning—can leave scarring, so consider getting zapped with a continuous-wave Nd:Yag laser. When researchers in Egypt treated 37 patients with this device, 36 were completely cured and had next to no scarring.

    The fact that one person in the study grew a new tumor isn't unexpected—the average recurrence rate of basal-cell carcinoma is nearly 25 percent—but it was avoidable. Everyone, especially cancer survivors, should not only slather on sunscreen (at least SPF 30) but also don sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV protection; a Finnish study found that recent incidence of basal-cell carcinoma on eyelids has doubled.
  • LEG PAIN

    It's easy to write off leg pain as a cramp, soreness, or the dog attached to your ankle. But it can also mean something's awry up top, in your heart. Here's why: The first sign of a gunked-up circulatory system is often leg pain, not chest pain, because the legs' longer blood vessels become blocked by plaque earlier, resulting in a shortage of oxygen to the muscles.

    And while that ache can occur anywhere below the waist—thighs, calves, feet—the "when" is often more specific. "Leg pain with arterial blockages usually gets worse as you exercise," says Dr. Oz, explaining that the greater the exercise intensity, the greater the oxygen demand.

    The medical name for clogged leg vessels is peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and one of the best tests for it is Doppler ultrasonography. If the ultrasound detects narrowed arteries and they don't pose an imminent threat, your doctor will probably prescribe exercise (taking breaks when the pain intensifies), a statin to lower LDL cholesterol, and a drug such as cilostazol to improve bloodflow.

    And the prescription for preventing PAD in the first place? Quit smoking, cut out all trans fats, drink more OJ to raise levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that men who swallowed supplemental folic acid every day had a 32 percent lower risk of PAD than those who didn't fortify themselves.

    Credit: Men's Health