June 21, 2005
Dr. Gott: Peeling Feet Could Be Sign of Fungus
Dear Dr. Gott: For the past five years, from time-to-time, my feet peel. The situation isn't uncomfortable, but it's annoying. What causes such enormous amounts of skin to peel from my feet?
Dear Reader: Peeling feet often reflect the presence of a fungus infection, resembling athlete's foot, in the skin. The yeast disrupts the integrity of the skin, causing portions of dead skin (callus) to peel away.This condition can easily be diagnosed by your family doctor, using skin scrapings that are specially treated and examined in the laboratory.
If a fungus is identified, treatment with antifungal creams, such as Nizoral, should cure the condition.
If no fungus is present in the skin sample, you should be referred to a dermatologist, because skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis, can also cause peeling feet and should be treated with other prescription medications.
Dear Dr. Gott: I use cornstarch as a dusting powder and have been very pleased with the results. Now I am concerned about whether inhalation of pure cornstarch can cause an accumulation in the lungs like coal dust or asbestos particles. Since it is corn-based, can it be absorbed by the body and disposed of as waste?
Dear Reader: Cornstarch is a digestible substance, unlike asbestos, silica and talc. Therefore, it will not cause lung damage or respiratory disorders when used appropriately as a dusting powder.
Obviously, as with any inhaled vapor or dust, you should minimize your exposure (by not breathing in excessive quantities of cornstarch). However, when used prudently, this product is safe and, as you've discovered, quite effective.
Dear Dr. Gott: I have a problem with my fingernails splitting and peeling. I've been told that folic acid might help. Since I'm in my 70s and there's no chance of my getting pregnant, I wonder if this is a possible remedy.
Dear Reader: Splitting of the nails commonly accompanies old age. The condition is annoying and difficult to treat. Traditionally, protein supplements (such as gelatin) have been used to strengthen the nails.
I am not aware that folic acid, a necessary nutrient for normal cell metabolism, helps cure split nails. Generally speaking, folic acid deficiency causes anemia and malnutrition during pregnancy. The Recommended Daily Allowance is 400 milligrams per day for adults.
The substance is completely safe and is routinely prescribed for expectant mothers; toxicity from folic acid has not been reported to occur when taken according to the recommended dose.
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