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What you need to know about physiotherapy and podiatry.

How Does Cancer Treatment Affect The Feet?

Physio&SoleClinic Fungal Nail Infection, Podiatry December 4 2017

Cancer treatment can cause side effects that may affect the feet. In our podiatry clinic, we have noticed a growing number of chemotherapy patients seeking treatment for their skin and nail conditions. Here are the most common side effects:

  1. Hand-Foot Syndrome

Hand-foot syndrome is a skin reaction that occurs when cancer drugs leak out of the small blood vessels into the surrounding healthy cells. This affects the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Signs and symptoms of hand-foot syndrome include:

  • Redness (like sunburn)
  • Dry, peeling skin
  • Numbness, tingling or burning sensations
  • Tenderness
  • Difficulty walking or using hands

What can I do for my feet?

These signs and symptoms can worsen with exposure to heat and friction. Here are some steps to reduce the severity of the condition:

  • Avoid soaking feet in hot water
  • Reduce pressure on the soles by reducing time spent weight bearing
  • Wear soft cushioned slippers to prevent friction
  • Place cold packs at the bottom of your feet to reduce heat and tenderness
  • Apply moisturisers frequently to prevent cracks due to dry skin
  1. Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN)

Peripheral neuropathy is a set of symptoms caused by damage to the peripheral nerves (nerves that carry sensations to the brain and control the movement of our arms and legs).

Signs and symptoms of CIPN affecting the feet include:

  • Pain (burning, shooting, stabbing, electric shock)
  • Pins and needles, tingling
  • Numbness
  • Poor balance
  • Muscle weakness and shrinkage

What can I do for my feet with CIPN?

As you are unable to feel your feet well, it is important to take extra care:

  • Wear covered footwear to protect feet from injuries
  • Check your feet regularly for any cuts or wounds
  • Always check that the water is not too hot before showers or soaking, to prevent burns
  1. Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is the build-up of fluid in soft tissues, where the lymph system is damaged or blocked by cancer or cancer treatment (eg. removal of lymph nodes, radiation). This build-up of fluid causes swelling, usually in the arms or legs.

How do I prevent my lymphoedema from worsening?

People with lympheodema are more prone to infections. Therefore, it is important to take care of the skin and nails well, to prevent infections.

  • Keep your feet clean, and dry them properly after shower
  • Use a moisturiser to prevent skin from getting dry and cracking
  • Do not cut toenails too short. Cut your nails straight across, to prevent ingrown toenails
  1. Nail changes

Some changes that occur include:

  • brittleness and dryness
  • slow nail growth
  • development of ridges on the nail surface
  • white or dark lines across  the nails
  • loosening of nails

How do I care for my toenails?

  • Use a nail lotion to prevent dryness and splitting of nails
  • Avoid pedicures, as instruments may not be properly sanitised
  • See a podiatrist if you have an ingrown toenail

If you or your loved ones experience any of these conditions, inform your doctor right away for immediate management to prevent the conditions from getting worse. Come to us if you have ingrown toenails or need advice on how to care for your skin!

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