Sunday, August 31, 2008

Paronychial Tales......पायाला लगलिये कळ, अणि अश्रू गळं.......

When we were children, late evenings, after playing, homework and dinner, often found us sprawled around our grandmother, avidly listening to stories from mythologies. We even had choices, and most of the time Lord Krishna won , hands down. Grandmothers then, had an infinite supply of these stories.

Grandmothers then even had a huge supply of home remedies , which were quite happily accepted by the children, most of whom would normally beat PT Usha at sprints, if confronted with a spoon of Castor Oil.

Today, not many children have the good fortune to have grandparents stay with them, and thanks to the age of IT, the Internet has replaced the GrandNet. Interestingly, the Internet has also partially replaced grand folks in the case of health remedies.

If you cannot reach your doctor, rush to Google, is the new mantra.

Very recently, someone started getting random and sudden electric shooting pains , with burning sensations in their big toe.

Some family members ,are actually secret medical types who have completely missed their vocation in life. So they rush to examine, press toes here and there, notice at what point someone gives a piercing wail. An ointment that was used to treat their own sprain (on trying to lift ten kgs of raw mango ), is actually suggested. No effect. Then they see a raised throbbing structure , probably a vein on the surface near the toe, when the pain occurs. Aha. Ice it. So ice wrapped in some cloth is applied. No success. Raise your feet on a bunch of pillows and sit. How much more ?

Time for the Internet.

Depending on how good you are at specifying search terms , you may get desperate, complicated, serious or correct answers. Turns out that this symptom of shooting pains in the big toe, with burning sensations etc, can be caused , among other things , by Metatarsalgia (pain in the ball-of-the-foot area), Morton's Neuroma (inflamed nerve near the Big Toe), Sesamoiditis (angry bones in the pushy tendons going to the big toe). Incidentally, Mr Morton sounds influential enough to have his named attached to something called Morton's Toe , which is nothing but the Big Toe being shorter than the next toe. Very smart.

But what was really exciting was to suddenly realize that Sachin Tendulkar himself had some kind of Sesamoiditis problem. The family member knew very little about the game, but was terribly up-to-date on Sachin's injuries.

The last fact immediately brought a sense of virtual relief to the patient, a cricket fanatic. (Talk of mind over body....)

By and by , the family doctor, who was by now highly used to being consulted about alarming and life threatening conditions , was reached, , and all these fancy names were mentioned.

And thereby hangs a Paronychial tale.

This is being mentioned here , so as to educate people on simple conditions which unfortunately trigger desperate Internet searches followed by visions of surgeries and amputations and so on.

The above condition is called paronychia. Many times, particularly where a lot of travel is done on foot, and more so in the wet season, one tends to ignore the nails of the toes. We don't realize it when we acquire fungal infections, and the nails start getting discolored. Many times, nail and toe pain is attributed to someone stepping on your toes in crowded public transport and so on. What happens is, that this ignored condition, makes it ripe for some bacterial infection to enter your skin through the nail area, something which has great potential , in the monsoon season, when we also sometimes wear closed rubber shoes. The situation is ripe for pus. Because the skin around your toes is thick, you don't see any whitish discoloration, but what really makes you aware of it, is the sudden electric, shooting and throbbing pain that randomly happens, and a super sensitive skin surface that just burns with pain.

So what is the solution?

First, get some glycerin. Dip a piece of cotton wool in it, and wrap it around the toe area , covering it lightly so as to keep it in place. Glycerin being hygroscopic , does its work.

Get a bottle of tincture iodine. With a small piece of cotton, or a dropper, saturate the area between your skin and nail with iodine. Do this several times a day, and leave the toe open to the air. Your toe should look a dull and dirty yellow ochre, like you played with Holi colours and forgot to wash your toe.

In the meanwhile, the bacterial infection needs to be killed. This is done either by antibiotic ointments or oral antibiotics. This is something that must be done in consultation with the doctor. Sometimes, it is necessary for the doctor to simply lance the pus out of its sac. A very traumatic thing for those who are blood-and-needle-disabled.

A mighty "mycin" dose of the stuff for a few days, and the Big Toe is back doing what it does best.

But, just in case, you are, say, allergic to glycerin and terrified of iodine, and in great tension till the doctor prescribes the mycin (for your sins), you might do what my grandmother would have advised.

Bathe your traumatized toe, in a basin of warm water, to which salt has been added, for say, twenty minutes. And do this as often as you can.

No google, no neuroma, no surgery , no Mr Morton, no sesamoid stuff, with or without Sachin Tendullkar.

Simply grandmother, doctor and paronychia.......


  1. wonderful and very well written.The i'net had turned our lives upside down.My daughter and son in law rush to the computer every time my g'kids cough or sneeze and start panicking over the no. of causes cited.

  2. i have an oposite problem.....Talk about paranoia... I married into one weird family. Father in law panics when he gets a tiny cut when handling a knif.Mom-in-law gets a head bath in cold water, to please the gods, to get rid off the cough-cold to pneumonia....So much for the advancement in science.....Then I give them some gyan and we visit the doctor...who prescribes similar medicines and to-dos ....the confidenceis building so swiftly that they call my number if they cannot get through their family doctor

    Another person I get to handle on medical front is the hubby. When it comes to medication any gali-ka-kutta can win over this guy. i suspect he failed all his biology tests in school. In the pre-marriage era, he consulted doctor for everything from yawning to headaches. Now he tells me and waits for some colorful tablets to appear. He complaints only if he is not happy with the size or number or color of the tablets otherwise he is fine. The result - I have treated his headaches with Iron tablets. Coughs and cold with calcium and stomach ache with multivitamins!!! :-D

  3. Thanks for the tips..I always keep travelling and hurt my toes very often

  4. HHG: Thank you for your kind comments. I sometimes think things were so much simpler and uncomplicated in our parents' time ....

    Anonymous : "...headaches with Iron tablets. Coughs and cold with calcium and stomach ache with multivitamins....".... Congratulations !

    lakshmi : Isnt it ironic, that you are getting these "tips" via the Internet :-)... Take care.

  5. This is anonymus aka Harshu again ....ya so much for having a Doc mom :-D

  6. Thanks for the grandnet-tales as well as the tips-on-toes. Interesting, as usual.

  7. I love the hear about my grandmother's remedies, not just for health but for gardening (things you just don't find at the stores or in books).

    You are so right that the Internet has created a world of paranoia. It's important to have good information at the fingertips. That said, we need to know that we cannot doctor ourselves based on Internet findings.

    I have to admit that when the doctor told Greg he has a growth on his adrenal gland - I rushed to the Internet - to find that it can range from 'nothing out of the normal' to something as severe as cancer. We pressure ourselves and wonder why we have hypertension and high blood pressure?

  8. sucharita : You know, the iodine and glycerine actually works . Actual family experience .....thanks for your comments.

    Aleta : Sometimes I wonder if there is something like "too much knowledge"..... Take care, with all the hurricanes and tornadoes and stuff.