Archive for February, 2015

Take THAT, You Ingrown Toenail

Q: What do you recommend for ingrown toenails?

I used to use a product called Outgro® which did a fine job helping me prevent the pain of ingrown toenails. Then it went off the market, only to return as a wimpy “not worth your money” remedy that didn’t remedy ANYTHING. Afterward, I spent years searching for something that would do what Outgro® could: toughen the skin of my big toe, preventing my toenail from gouging into the tender skin underneath, and encouraging it to grow out straight instead of curling under and repeating the misery.

A couple of years ago I finally found a product that works for most early cases of ingrown toenails, and another product that helps with more advanced cases. But NEITHER of these are powerful enough to overcome an infected ingrown toenail. If your toe is infected, you MUST seek medical help. And if you are a diabetic please, DON’T WAIT! I have seen far, far too many folks with diabetes LOSE A TOE or even a leg because an infected toe spread into the toe bone, and the only way to keep it from spreading was to CUT IT OFF.

If your nail hasn’t actually cut into your skin yet, applying a thin layer of New Skin® liquid bandage will toughen and protect it. New Skin® has an additional advantage: it contains 8-hydroxyquinoline, the same anti-infective found in Bag Balm®.

Here’s how to use New Skin® for an early ingrown toenail:
Step 1: Soak your foot in warm salt water or Epson salts for at least 20-30 minutes. This softens the nail and helps you get any dirt out from around and under the nail.
Step 2: Dry your toe thoroughly, then paint a thin layer of liquid bandage on the skin on and around the offending toenail where it is getting sore. If you use too much, it will drip off and cause a mess.
Step 3: Take a clean toothpick and gently lift the nail just a tiny bit, letting the liquid bandage run underneath the nail onto the skin below. This coats the tender skin to make it “tougher” and more able to resist your nail from cutting into it.
Step 4: Let your toe dry before putting on socks. You now have a waterproof barrier that you can add to daily or several times a week until the nail stops pinching into your skin.

Using the liquid bandage encourages your nail to grow out without curling under.
However, if your nail is already embedded into the skin enough that the liquid bandage can’t get underneath it, you’re going to have to get the nail out of there first. I have found that Dr. Scholl’s Ingrown Toenail Pain Reliever works to soften your toenail and make it rubbery, allowing you to pry it out of your skin and trim it off yourself. It comes as a kit containing a small tube of 1% sodium sulfide gel, 12 foam pads shaped like tiny donuts and 12 protective bandages.

To use Dr. Scholl’s Ingrown Toenail Pain Reliever to soften up your toenail, you need some salt or Epsom salts and the kit, which is sold without a prescription. It’s not widely available in some areas, so I recommend calling around to save time and gas.
Step 1: Soak your foot first to soften the nail, in warm salt water or Epsom salts for 20-30 minutes.
Step 2: Apply the donut-shaped foam pad, centering the donut hole over the nail that you want to remove.
Step 3: Apply the stinky gel onto your nail inside the donut hole of the foam pad and cover it with the protective bandage supplied in the kit.
Step 4: Repeat twice a day for up to a week until you can lift the nail out and trim it off.

Because ingrown toenails often come back I suggest applying New Skin® liquid bandage to the exposed skin that’s around and underneath the newly trimmed-off nail to encourage it to grow back nice and straight.

Please remember, if your toe is infected, seek medical help; don’t mess around with this on your own!

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Is Your Medicine Really Helping You?

Q: How can you tell if a medicine or supplement is helping you?

Why does ibuprofen work to ease muscle aches in some people but when others try it, they don’t get any relief?  Why can amoxicillin cause a life-threatening allergic reaction in some people but in others can save their life?

We are amazingly unique individuals in how we react to medicines, food supplements and herbal products. Taking even one dose of a medication can cause any of several potential outcomes: relieving the symptoms you’re suffering from, cause dizziness, stomach upset, rash, or other unintended reaction, or no effect at all. It can even cause you annoying side effects while failing to relieve your original symptoms!

It SEEMS logical: if a medication is designed to treat or cure something and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for it, you’d expect it to be able to do that for everyone, right? It certainly would be much easier if doctors could determine how a particular medicine would work on you BEFORE you buy it and take it. If only your doctor could be SURE that a particular medicine designed to treat the condition you are suffering from would “do the trick” and cure you.

If this were so it would make a doctor’s job SO MUCH EASIER! They’d examine you, decide what’s wrong, give you a particular medicine designed to treat it, and BAM! You’re fixed. If only it was that simple.

Giving a medicine to treat a particular condition isn’t predictable because we are all unique individuals when it comes to how we react to medicines, supplements and herbal products.

Despite our doctor’s best efforts to match the medicine to our condition, no medicine works in everyone, and no medicine works the same in everyone. Even with the best medical science available today, doctors still can’t predict exactly HOW a medicine, food supplement or herbal product will act inside you when you take it.

Ibuprofen, which is found in Advil®, and naproxen, the active ingredient in Aleve®, are very closely related and act to relieve pain and swelling in the same way. Still, many people find that one works better for them or causes fewer side effects than the other. Still others find that neither one works for them. Why?

Think of a medicine like a key. Medicines work a lot like keys, each with its particular shape. Each of these shapes or “keys” is designed to fit into a certain place in your body, much like a key fits into a lock. This place is called a “receptor” because it “receives” the key. Some of us have receptors whose shape fits a particular key perfectly while others have receptors whose shape only fits part of the key. Other folks don’t have any receptors that fit the key, which explains why medicines will work just fine for some people but only partly or not at all for others. I call the ones who get a good result from a medicine a “responder”.

If your doctor gives you a medicine to lower your blood sugar, he or she will have a plan to check on how you are responding to it. That plan may include testing your blood sugar with a machine to show if and how well your new medicine is working for you. If your blood sugar levels don’t change, then you’re not responding to that medicine and another approach is needed.

Not everyone who takes a medicine, food supplement or herbal product responds to it. Even though an herbal product may have dozens of glowing testimonials, when taking it each of us will respond to it our own way.

If you decide to try taking a new medicine or supplement, first decide WHY you are taking it or what exactly it is that you want it to do. Then, just like your doctor, have a plan to check how it’s working for you. One way to do this is to rate your current symptoms and carefully record them both BEFORE and AFTER starting the particular agent. Any changes in your symptoms will help you answer the question, “Is this medicine or supplement really helping me?”

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