OPINION | DR. DANIEL KNIGHT: Keep on toes for health

Q: What can I do to keep my feet healthy?

A: Taking care of your feet is an important part of maintaining overall health. Many of us are on our feet for a good portion of each day, and too often, it can be easy to take that part of our body for granted, only noticing when there is a problem.

The foot is one of the most intricate structures in the body, consisting of 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 ligaments, muscles and tendons, in addition to a network of blood vessels and nerves. Your feet absorb all of your body weight and take the most punishment with normal daily activities.

Actions to ensure healthy feet include daily washing and drying, keeping toenails short and clean, wearing shoes that are well-fitting and appropriate for what you're doing and checking your feet every day for cuts, dryness or sores.

People with conditions such as diabetes should pay particular attention to their feet as blood flow to that area is often affected.

Your primary care provider can help with basic treatment to ensure your feet remain healthy. Diseases or injuries to the feet may require a referral to an orthopaedist or a podiatrist for more specific care.

Q: What does an occupational therapist do?

A: An occupational therapist is a health care professional trained to assist patients who need help with fine motor skills and performing daily activities. The patient may have suffered mental or physical trauma or have developmental challenges.

The occupational therapist can be an integral part of the care team in these instances.

An occupational therapist and a physical therapist may perform similar functions, but their basic tasks are different. A physical therapist normally assists with rehabilitation from injury to a specific part of the body, such as regaining mobility and strength.

The occupational therapist is involved in the patient's overall recovery.

Occupational therapists are not physicians and cannot prescribe medication or perform a medical diagnosis. Licensure and certification are required to be become an occupational therapist, along with an undergraduate and graduate degree in occupational therapy.

Candidates must also pass an exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy in addition to any other specific state or local requirements.

Occupational therapy provides a chance to work one-on-one with a patient, not only to accomplish everyday tasks but also to promote overall health and general well-being. The occupational therapist, primary care provider and a specialist may all be part of a patient's return to normal.

Q: How common is testicular cancer?

A: Testicular cancer forms in the tissue of one or both testicles, although the disease in both testicles is less common.

Testicular cancer occurs when germ cells come together and form a mass or tumor. It is unclear exactly how and why testicular cancer develops, and there is no way to prevent it.

Fortunately, testicular cancer is rare. According to the National Cancer Institute, testicular cancer accounted for only 0.5% of all cancer cases in 2023. Unlike many cancers, testicular cancer is more common in young men.

The American Cancer Society notes that the average age of diagnosis is 33.

Risk factors include having a family history and being a young adult. Issues that cause infertility can be linked with testicular cancer. The disease is also more common in non-Hispanic white men. Symptoms include a lump or swelling in either testicle, a dull ache in the groin or lower abdomen or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.

Testicular cancer is very treatable when detected early, and the five-year survival rate is high (95.2% per the National Cancer Institute). Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms that do not quickly resolve. You may be referred to a urologist for further treatment.

Q: How is infection control accomplished?

A: Infection control is a key aspect of health care, and in many instances is more important than the actual care patients receive.

Effective infection control prevents or stops the spread of infections. An ineffective infection control program can lead to an increased rate of infection, which can spread to not only the entire health care facility but also to the community at large.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two tiers of precautions for infection control. Standard precautions include actions such as careful handling of laundry and textiles, hand hygiene and using personal protective equipment.

Transmission-based precautions, used with patients who may be infected, include limiting patient transportation and ensuring appropriate patient placement.

An infection preventionist is a health care professional who ensures health care workers and patients are practicing infection control. People who perform infection prevention duties may be doctors, microbiologists, nurses or public health officials.

If you are a patient or family member, you can assist in infection control. Cleaning your hands frequently, asking to have your equipment or your room cleaned and inquiring about vaccinations are some ways this can be accomplished.

As always, speak with your health care providers if you have concerns or questions.

Dr. Daniel Knight is a professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Email your questions to [email protected].

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