The Importance of Seeing a Foot Doctor for Foot Issues
Whether you’re shuffling to the coffee maker in the morning, or sprinting to catch the train, you rely on your feet to make the trip. With 26 bones and over a 100 ligaments and muscles , your feet, ankles, and legs provide the foundational support you need to stand upright and move throughout the day. When foot pain strikes, a general practitioner can offer an initial assessment, but it is better to consult with a specialist in podiatry, also known as a foot doctor, as they can offer a more in-depth analysis on a wide array of foot issues.
What Is a Foot Doctor & What Do They Do?
A podiatrist is a medical practitioner or physician that is devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of the foot, ankle, and related structures in the lower leg. While some foot doctors do take on more specialized fellowship training to work in certain fields such as pediatrics, wound care, or sports medicine, all podiatrists must complete 4 years of training at a podiatric medical school. With years of clinical experience and examinations, a foot doctor will become board certified and be able to perform the following duties.
l Diagnose common foot issues like bunions, flat feet, nail/foot infections, heel pain, sprains/fractures, muscle pain, calluses and more.
l Use corrective medical applications to treat foot issues. This can include using flexible casts & orthotics (foot braces and insoles) to treat and heal injuries.
l Some podiatrists will specialize in foot surgery, gaining and exercising extensive knowledge with foot prosthetics & biomechanics, amputations, and repairing fractures or broken bones. They can also prescribe antibiotics to treat wounds and carry out emergency surgery in the case of serious infections.
l Foot doctors can also address improper walking patterns and conditions like shin splints, arthritis, hammer toes, and pinched nerves (neuromas).
If you are experiencing any type of foot pain, ankle problems, or lower leg issues, it is important to visit a podiatrist. They have the expertise in lower limb and foot anatomy to provide a definitive diagnosis, prescribe medications, immobilize the problem structure, and create a viable treatment plan.
When Should You See a Foot Doctor? 8 Reasons to Book One
Seek the care of a podiatrist if you notice any of the following:
1. You’ve taken up high-impact exercise like running. Running is great for your health, but high impact exercise also tends to result in conditions like shin splints and other aches and pains. A foot doctor can recommend proper footwear, as well as any other apparatus to help manage, or even eliminate these issues.
2. You’ve noticed tender or swollen joints. Arthritis is a common cause of red, swollen, and tender joints. A foot doctor may be able to suggest treatments that can help preserve the joints in your feet.
3. You’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetics are more prone to foot issues due to changes in the skin and poor circulation. Dry, cracking skin can lead to infection and poor circulation can cause you to lose sensation in your feet, slow down the healing process, and cause foot pain.
4. You experience heel pain that limits activities. If you get a stabbing pain in your heel(s) after sitting for long periods of time, this is a symptom of plantar fasciitis. This is a common foot condition that results from inflammation in the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes. Other causes of heel pain are heel spurs, which is a bony growth on your heel. A podiatrist will perform a foot exam, take x-rays, and provide a diagnosis.
5. You have an ingrown toenail or fungal growth. While an ingrown toenail is often painful but a minor nuisance that resolves on its own, sometimes they can develop infections that need the attention of a podiatrist. Fungal infections that do not respond to over-the-counter antifungal cream and last more than a few weeks, should also be checked by a foot doctor to see if you need antibiotics.
6. You suspect a sprain, break, or fracture. Do not try to “walk off” or “wait out” a foot sprain, fracture, or break. Improper immobilization can cause more pressure and strain on your foot’s anatomy, making the damage more severe and recovery longer. If you suspect an injury of this sort and have swelling, redness, pain, and trouble walking, see a foot doctor immediately.
7. You have a painful bump known as a bunion. When a bone or joint is out of place, a bunion may form at the base of your toe. This is a painful bump that does not get better until it is treated. A foot doctor will give you taping and padding instructions as well as medication. Sometimes these need to be removed via surgery.
8. You have flat feet or arch issues. While flat feet is something you can be born with, it also occurs due to improper footwear or injuries to the foot. A podiatrist can help assess whether or not you will develop symptoms and what preventative measures you can take to keep your feet healthy.
Other reasons to seek out a podiatrist in your area is if you have painfully thick corns or calluses on the bottoms of your feet that need to be removed, or have already been recommended for foot surgery.