Your feet carry your overall body weight, and their amazing function also includes maintaining proper gait, posture, and balance while standing, walking, and running. However, the feet are often an afterthought because of their inferior location from the rest of the body, making them go unnoticed until itchiness, swelling, or pain arises due to infection or injury.
The best person to consult when you’re experiencing foot issues is a podiatrist. A podiatrist or podiatric physician is a medical professional who can diagnose and treat disorders of the foot and ankle or any parts of the lower extremities.
In this article, you’ll learn the different foot issues that should prompt you to see a podiatrist.
1) Stabbing Heel Pain
When you experience stabbing heel pain, you likely have plantar fasciitis. This foot problem is a common cause of debilitating heel pain, involving inflammation of the plantar fascia or a thick band of tissue running across the bottom of the foot and connecting the heel bone to the toes.
So how do you describe the pain? The pain in plantar fasciitis often causes a stabbing pain, occurring with the first steps upon waking in the morning. The pain decreases as the individual gets up and moves after long periods of standing. It might also occur when a person stands up after sitting.
Here are some important facts about plantar fasciitis:
- Plantar fasciitis is common in runners.
- Wearing shoes with inadequate support may lead to this foot problem.
- People who are obese or overweight have an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
- The heel pain becomes worse after exercise.
Don’t ignore plantar fasciitis because it may result in chronic heel pain, hindering your regular activities. It will change the way you walk to relieve pain, which may lead to knee, hip, back, or foot problems. Seek a podiatrist’s help immediately.
Learn more about the recommended treatment for plantar fasciitis at https://www.tetonfootandankle.com/surgical-option-plantar-fasciitis.
2) Structural Deformities Of The Feet
As early as possible, any structural deformities of the feet should warrant consulting a podiatrist immediately. A podiatrist is licensed to diagnose structural deformities and perform treatment, such as podiatric surgery, as needed.
Check the following structural deformities of the feet to see a podiatrist for:
Bunion: A bunion is also called a hallux valgus in medical terms, which is a gradual onset joint deformity that affects the joint of the big toe connecting to the foot. The big toe bends towards the other toes. The joint swells and become painful. The complications of a bunion include arthritis or bursitis.
Hammertoe: This is also known as contracted toe, which is a muscle and ligament deformity of the proximal interphalangeal joint. The second, third, or fourth toe might be involved, bent and resembling a hammer. While the early stage involves movable joints or a flexible hammertoe, a rigid hammertoe would mean impaired joint function because it becomes immovable, which would require surgery.
Flat Feet: It’s a postural deformity wherein the foot arch’s collapses, and the entire sole comes into near-complete or complete contact with the ground.
High Arch: It’s also called pes cavus wherein the sole becomes distinctly hollow (high arch) when bearing weight. A high arch is less common than a flat foot in which the foot is in a fixed plantar flexion (extended ankle with the foot pointing down away from the leg).
Bone Spurs: This structural deformity is also known as exostosis, in which new bone is formed on the bone surface. Exostoses usually cause chronic mild to severe debilitating pain, depending on the size, location, and shape of the lesion. Bone spurs are commonly found in the ribs, but larger growths grow on the ankles, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.
3) Fracture Or Trauma
Your feet and ankles have 26 bones, providing good structural support to carry your weight and withstand additional force when standing, walking, running, and jumping. However, too much force may result in trauma, such as a fracture or broken bone.
A fracture can be a result of repeated stress or sudden injury. The most common types of fracture that a podiatrist can treat include the following:
- Stress fracture (which includes Jones fracture)
- Heel or calcaneus fracture
- Ankle or talus fracture
- Toe fracture
A doctor must evaluate fracture injuries, and appropriate treatment must be given. Imaging studies, like X-ray or ultrasound, confirm the extent of the fracture. Immobilization of the fractured bone followed by gradual progressive exercises are performed to regain the strength and mobility of the affected area.
If you suspect a sustained bone fracture in your foot or ankle, see a podiatrist immediately for further assessment.
4) Skin And Nail Conditions
Podiatrists don’t only treat hangnails, broken ankles and neuroma, and perform foot surgery. They can also treat dermatology issues related to the feet.
Here are the common skin and nail issues that a podiatrist can help you with:
Dermatitis: It’s a very common skin condition due to inflammation of the skin, usually caused by an allergic reaction to lotions, nickel, adhesives, poison ivy, or medications. A podiatrist can help rule out the source of the allergy and prescribe topical steroids to reduce signs and symptoms.
Athlete’s Foot: The medical term for athlete’s foot is tinea pedis, which is a fungal infection between the toes and other foot areas. You have an increased risk of developing athlete’s foot if you used to be around pools and showers. The signs and symptoms include itching, burning, dry skin, swelling, blisters, and peeling skin. Your podiatrist can prescribe anti-fungal treatment. Also, you’ll be given expert advice, such as keeping your feet dry and wearing proper footwear when around public places like pools and showers.
Warts: It’s caused by a virus called the human papilloma virus or HPV. Warts are small rough growths on the skin, which are usually mistaken as calluses or corns. HPV enters the skin via abrasion or a small cut. It can be spread by touching or scratching. Wart clusters form if warts are left untreated. A podiatrist can prescribe strong salicylic acid or perform minor surgery, cryotherapy, or laser treatment.
Venous Stasis Dermatitis: It’s a condition of the lower extremity wherein the veins in the leg are no longer carrying unoxygenated blood back to the heart properly. It results in building up of blood in the legs, feet, and ankles. The pigmentation is the result of the red blood cells staining the skin from the inside. A reddish-brown skin discoloration develops, or red to violet-colored open sores, known as Venous Stasis Dermatitis or VSD. Other signs and symptoms of VSD include aching or heaviness when standing or walking for a prolonged period, swelling of the ankles in the afternoon, varicose veins, shiny skin, and dry, cracked skin. A podiatrist may prescribe corticosteroid creams, recommend the use of compression socks or mechanical compression to move fluid away from the affected leg, and perform vein surgery (placement of a stint) to repair damaged veins.
Nail Problems: If you have ingrown nails or nail fungal infections, a podiatrist can help you find solutions such as applying antibiotic cream. Your doctor may lift the ingrown nail to separate the nail from the overlying tissue and allow the nail to grow above the edge of the skin. For worse cases, chemical, laser, or surgery will be done to prevent the ingrown nail from coming back.
5) Skin Cancer
Podiatrists are experts in foot health, being able to detect early signs of skin cancer and other skin conditions, then providing a treatment plan for each case. Atypical moles are medically termed as dysplastic nevi, which are unusual-looking moles having irregular features when studied under the microscope.
While these moles are benign and can occur anywhere in the body, they should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist because people with atypical moles have increased risk for a dangerous skin cancer called melanoma.
Melanoma is a type of cancer of the skin cells that produce pigmentation, which can be present in the toenail bed or fingernail. A podiatrist can assess the signs of melanoma, such as its asymmetric shape, irregular border, mixed colors, and large diameter moles. A biopsy is a confirmatory test to determine if the area is cancerous, and the podiatrist will recommend the appropriate treatment.
Here are the good-to-know facts about skin cancer, particularly melanoma:
Risk Factors: Upon your first visit, the podiatrist will explain the risk factors of skin cancer during the patient education session while assessing your skin. The common risks of melanoma include atypical moles, freckles, fair skin, many moles, sunburns, photosensitivity, and family or personal history of non-melanoma or melanoma skin cancer.
Characteristics: Podiatrists look for asymmetrical moles that have multiple shades of brown and have irregular borders. If ever you develop a skin spot or mole that raises suspicion, it’s important to immediately schedule an appointment with an experienced dermatologist to assess your existing skin condition and overall skin health thoroughly.
Warning Signs: A podiatrist will assess the warning signs of melanoma, including itching, crusting, bleeding, swelling or oozing of a skin lesion, or skin lesion elevation, as well as changes in size, shape, color, and texture.
The different foot issues that should warrant you to see a podiatrist include structural deformities, foot infection, trauma, and skin and nail problems.
If you notice anything unusual in your lower extremity, such as heel pain, skin growths, abnormal skin discoloration, swelling, and sores, consult a podiatrist immediately to seek proper treatment.