There are a number of injuries, chronic conditions, and illnesses that may affect your foot or ankle. Sports injuries, plantar fasciitis, diabetic foot ulcers: there are a whole host of common and not-so-common foot and ankle issues. This post describes four benefits of podiatry and answers some of your most frequently asked questions.
Podiatrists are like any other medical specialty; they are experts in their particular field. No one knows more about the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the feet, ankles, and lower legs than a podiatrist. Also known as foot and ankle doctors, podiatrists are specially trained to diagnose, treat, and prevent conditions affecting the foot and ankle. That means they’re better equipped to get you back on your feet quickly.
Your feet support your entire body. It’s no wonder they sometimes feel the weight of all that responsibility (pun fully intended). Healthy feet make it easier for you to enjoy overall health. It’s hard to stay physically active when every step is painful. Feet also offer an early warning sign that something is wrong, something you wouldn’t normally associate with the feet. For example, due to their distance from the heart, your feet often show the first signs of problems with your circulatory system. If they are often numb or swollen, talk to your doctor right away.
No amount of foot pain is normal. Failure to treat the underlying cause of your pain means it not only continues, it can also lead to a worsening of the problem – and sometimes wholly new issues. For example, people with chronic foot pain often develop gait abnormalities in an effort to reduce their discomfort. This may lead to a secondary issue, such as knee pain in the leg that’s overcompensating for the damaged foot. A podiatrist gets to the bottom of what’s causing your pain, treating the problem at its source. That’s true whether the issue is a sprained ankle, plantar fasciitis, or athlete’s foot.
One of the fastest ways to damage your feet is wearing the wrong footwear. This could mean the shoes you wear for a particular activity, but it also encompasses general footwear. For example, if you have very narrow feet, you need a completely different type of shoe than someone who has wide feet. Your podiatrist can help you determine the best type of footwear for everyday as well as what to wear for particular activities, particularly sports.
Below are answers to common questions about podiatry and common conditions of the foot and ankle.
A podiatrist is doctor who specializes in treating conditions that affect the feet, ankles, and lower legs.
Also known as edema, swelling in the feet and ankles may have a number of causes. If you do not have an acute injury, such as a sprain or strain, the most common causes of swollen feet and ankles are:
Chronic or repeated swelling in the lower extremities may cause a variety of complications, including ulcers and infections. Talk to a podiatrist as soon as possible.
The most common cause of heel pain when you first wake is plantar fasciitis. You may feel similar pain when walking after sitting for a prolonged period.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia, a band of tissue connecting the heel bone to the rest of the foot, becomes inflamed. During rest, the band becomes tighter. Stretching before putting weight on your feet can help relieve symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
No one knows for sure what causes bunions, although we do know that the condition is hereditary. Meaning, if one of your parents has bunions, you’re more likely to develop them.
Bunions are bony growths that occur at the joint where the big toe meets the foot. They cause the toe to point toward the other toes rather than forward. Wearing high heels may exacerbate the condition or cause pain due to the shoe’s narrow toe box. However, there is no evidence that supports high heels causing bunions.
Gout is a type of arthritis that can affect any joint but most often occurs in the big toe. Gout attacks are sudden and severe, extremely painful, and marked by tenderness, redness, and swelling in the affected joint.
Also known as a bone spur, heel spurs are bony growths that occur between the arch of the foot and the heel bone. The condition may cause pain as the spur often rubs against surrounding soft tissues, particularly the plantar fascia.
An ingrown toenail is when the nail grows inward, curving toward the skin, rather than straight out. Ingrown toenails are typically painful, causing the skin around the nail to become red and swollen. If left untreated, the toe may become infected.
Please note that self-treatment for an ingrown toenail nearly always makes it worse. A podiatrist trims the nail properly to ensure it grows back correctly. They also provide instructions to help you avoid ingrown toenails in the future.