As with other branches of medicine, podiatry utilizes clinical trials to further the specialty. If you have foot or ankle problems, consider joining a clinical trial not only to improve your condition but also to help advance the treatment of different conditions.
Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Complications from diabetes is a major concern in podiatry. People with diabetes may develop neuropathy or damage to the blood vessels in their feet. Once this damage occurs, there can be a cascade of future foot problems. A well-known complication associated with diabetes is the development of foot ulcers. Even small injuries to the feet, such as an ingrown toenail, can lead to a gangrene infection that is difficult to control and requires amputation. Some clinical trials seek to find therapies for diabetics to help reduce their risk of foot-related complications from diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease.
Another area of investigation is finding better ways to improve outcomes from diabetic foot ulcerations. These studies may be further subdivided into ones focused on the initial treatment of diabetic foot ulcers and treatment for non-healing ulcers. Depending on the study, researchers may be testing a new product to see if it contributes to faster healing when compared with other therapies available. They may also test current treatments against each other to determine if there is a significant difference between treatment approaches. Comparing current treatment options can help the doctor determine if there are certain characteristics of patients or their wounds that dictates which option is a better first-line treatment.
A bunionectomy is the procedure used to remove bunions and straighten the great toe. With surgery, especially those involving the bone, there can be considerable post-operative pain. One type of study in podiatry is finding safer ways to control post-operative pain after a bunionectomy. The goal is to find alternatives to opioid pain medications or at least reduce their use after surgery. In some studies, the alternative approach may be the use of an investigational medication, whereas others may study nerve blocks. More surgeons are using nerve blocks and injecting local anesthetic directly into the surgical site before closing to help reduce post-operative pain.
Other related studies include investigations into surgical techniques during a bunionectomy. Comparing different surgical techniques can help doctors decide which techniques are appropriate for certain patients. Additionally, refining surgical techniques can improve healing time and reduce post-operative pain, especially if some patients may benefit from a less invasive surgery and have similar outcomes.
Historically, the major problem with toenail fungus has been that it is easy to acquire and hard to eliminate. Some of the most effective treatments for toenail fungus were oral medications that also posed a significant risk of liver damage and needed to be taken for many months. Even the best treatments currently available do not always eliminate toenail fungus and the fungus often returns since it is easily spread. There has been a shift to finding better topical treatments for toenail fungus to avoid liver damage, and that may speed up treatment time.
One type of study may test an experimental ointment against current treatments to see if the experimental medication is similarly effective. Another emerging trend in treating toenail fungus is the use of lasers. Clinical trials are being performed to test procedures such as low-level laser therapy. When laser treatments are effective in combating toenail fungus and can be used at a low level, there is less risk of damage to the surrounding tissues. It is believed some types of lasers may help the body destroy the fungus by encouraging an immune response, so the immune system helps to destroy the fungus.
If you have any podiatric conditions, consider participating in podiatry clinical trials to help doctors improve treatment options for people in your situation. The results from these trials can change the first-line treatment for different conditions well into the future.