The branch of medicine that is focused on the treatment, diagnosis, and study of disorders of the lower leg, ankle and foot is referred to as podiatry. Because people often spend a great deal of their time on their feet, many problems in this area can occur. A person seeks help from the field of podiatry when they need treatment for heel spurs, bunions, arch problems, deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, foot and ankle problems, infections, and problems with the foot that are related to diabetes and additional diseases.
To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery, or set fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.
When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.
Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise. Referrals will then be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.
Some podiatrists have their own independent, private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel. Many podiatrists work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals, or visit patients in nursing homes. Podiatrists typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.
Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that results from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.
An ingrown toenail is a nail that has curved downward and grown into the skin. This typically occurs at either the nail borders or the sides of the nail. As a result, pain, redness, swelling, and warmth may occur in the toe. If a break in the skin forms due to the ingrown nail, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area; this is typically characterized by a foul odor and drainage.
Ingrown toenails have multiple reasons for developing. In many instances, the condition is a result of genetics and is inherited. The most common cause, however, is improper trimming; cutting the toenails too short forces the skin beside the nail to fold over. An ingrown toenail can also develop due to trauma, such as stubbing the toe, having an object fall on the toe, or participating in activities that involve repeated kicking or running. Wearing shoes that are too tight or too short can also cause ingrown toenails.
Treatment for an ingrown toenail varies between patients and the severity of the condition. In most cases, it is best to see your podiatrist for thorough and proper treatment. After examining your toe, your podiatrist may prescribe oral antibiotics to clear the infection if one is present. Surgical removal of either a portion of the nail or the entire nail may also be considered. In some cases, complete removal or destruction of the nail root may be required. Most patients who undergo nail surgery experience minimal pain afterward and can return to normal activity the following day.
Ingrown toenails can be prevented with proper nail trimming and by avoiding improper-fitting shoes. When cutting the toenails, be sure that you are cutting in a straight line and avoid cutting them too short. Shoes should not be too short or tight in the toe box.
Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity. Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.
Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.
Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.
For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.
If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.
Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.
Many pregnant women complain about foot pain while they are expecting. Foot pain can primarily be caused by weight gain and hormonal changes taking place in the body. By understanding how pregnancy impacts the health of a woman's feet, a pregnant woman can take action to keep her feet as healthy and comfortable as possible.
Because a woman's weight changes during pregnancy, more pressure is brought to bear on both the legs and the feet. This weight shift can cause two major foot problems: over-pronation, also known as flat feet, as well as edema, which is swelling of the feet. Over-pronation occurs when the arch of the foot flattens, causing the foot to roll inwards when the individual is walking, and can aggravate the plantar fascia tissues located along the bottom of the feet. If these tissues become inflamed, a pregnant woman can experience pain in the heel of the foot as well as severe foot pain while walking or standing. Swelling of the feet, or edema, often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy. It is caused by slow circulation and water retention, and may turn the feet a light purple color.
To keep feet in good health and prevent over-pronation, pregnant women should avoid walking barefoot and be sure they are wearing shoes that offer good arch support. A device known as an orthotic can be added to regular footwear in order to provide additional support for the feet during pregnancy. Any expectant mother whose feet hurt should first check to see if the shoes she is wearing are old, worn out and not offering the proper support necessary for distributing the weight of her body during pregnancy.
To treat edema of the feet, a good start is to wear quality footwear which offers support and good circulation. Keep feet elevated whenever possible by using a foot stool while seated. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water to prevent water retention in the feet. Any swelling that occurs in only one foot should be examined as soon as possible by a doctor.
Good foot health during pregnancy can help expectant mothers avoid foot pain that leads to other health problems. Massaging the feet and doing regular gentle exercise like walking aids foot health by contributing to good circulation. Supportive shoes are also a good investment that will support foot health during pregnancy.
It is never normal for a child to experience pain in his or her feet. Foot pain that lasts more than a few days and limits a child’s ability to walk should be examined by a podiatrist. Many adult foot ailments originate in childhood and may be present at birth. Common foot issues that are experienced by children are pediatric flat foot, Sever’s disease, ingrown toenails, and plantar warts.
A child’s foot grows rapidly during the first year, allowing it to reach almost half of their adult foot size. Consequently, foot specialists consider the first year to be the most crucial point in the foot development process. There are ways you can help ensure that your child’s foot develops properly. One way is to carefully look at your baby’s feet. If you notice any deformities, you should immediately seek professional care. You should also loosely cover your child’s foot, since tight coverings may prevent movement and inhibit normal development. Another tip is to change the baby’s positioning throughout the day. If your baby lies down in one spot for too long, it may put an excess amount of strain on the feet and legs.
It is best that you try not to force a child to start walking. Children will begin to walk when they are both physically and emotionally capable to do so. You should also avoid comparing your child’s walking progress with other children because the age range for independent walking may range. When your child’s feet begin to develop, you may need to change both their shoe and sock size every few months to allow room for their feet to grow.
Kids are sometimes prone to splinters, cuts, and severe injuries because they tend to walk around barefoot. This also makes them more susceptible to developing plantar warts which is a condition caused by a virus that invades the sole of the foot through breaks in the skin. These ailments can be avoided by making sure your child wears shoes in unsanitary environments. You should also wash any minor cuts or scrapes on your child’s feet. It is a myth that exposure to fresh air will heal injuries; fresh air will only expose your child’s cuts to germs.
As a parent, you should ensure that your child’s feet are developing properly and are being properly maintained. Consequently, it is important that you perform routine inspections on his or her feet to detect any injuries or deformities in their early stages. Early detection and treatment will help to ensure that your child does not develop any serious foot conditions.
The forefoot is composed of five metatarsal bones and fourteen phalanges. Each toe has three phalanges except for the big toe which only has two. Our toes play an essential role to the walking process, which is why a broken toe could seriously disrupt one’s ability to move around. Toe fractures are common and can be very painful. Fortunately, these injuries rarely require surgery and usually heal with rest and a change in activity.
Broken toes typically result from a traumatic event such as falling, stubbing the toe, or dropping something on the toe. Traumatic toe fractures may be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. At times, one may hear a “pop” or “crack” sound when the bone breaks. Common symptoms of a traumatic toe fracture include pain, throbbing, bruising, swelling, and redness.
Another type of toe fractures is a stress fracture. These injuries usually appear in the form of small hairline breaks on the bone. Stress fractures develop after repetitive activity instead of a single injury. Stress fractures occur when the muscles in the bone become too weak to absorb impact. Consequently, the toe bone becomes vulnerable to any pressure and impact it endures. Symptoms for a stress fracture in the toe include swelling without bruising, tenderness to the touch, pain that goes away with rest, and pain after walking or running.
If you suspect that you have a broken toe, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist. He or she will likely diagnose you by performing a physical exam and an X-ray. Treatment for a broken toe may include the R.I.C.E. method, buddy taping, surgery, or antibiotics. The R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is a common treatment method for many injuries because it decreases pain. Buddy tapping involves wrapping the injured toe next to an adjacent toe to keep it supported and protected. These two methods have proven to be effective in the healing process for toe fractures. The estimated healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. If the injury becomes infected or requires surgery, the estimated healing time may take eight weeks or more.
Blisters are a common ailment of people who wear shoes that are either too tight or rub against the feet in an uncomfortable way. Knowing the basics of blisters is important for understanding how they are formed and what treatments should be used for them.
A blister on the foot, or any other part of the body, is a small pocket that is filled with fluid. It usually forms on the upper layer of the skin because these layers are loose enough to allow a blister to form. The most common fluid in a blister is just a clear, watery-like fluid that usually isn’t cause for concern. However, blisters can fill up with blood if they are deep enough and pus if they have become infected with bacteria.
Blisters almost always form on the feet due to shoes rubbing up against the foot, where the friction causes blisters. These can occur after you have walked for a long period of time or when your shoes do not fit you properly. Your feet are also more prone to blisters if they are moist, so keeping them dry and clean is one preventative step you can take.
Preventing infection should be the number one concern when treating blisters, as well as relieving the pain they can cause. Using a bandage to cover up the blister will help it heal and prevent bacteria from entering it. New skin will form under the blister and eventually cause it to pop. You can also take a sterilized pin and try to pop it yourself.
If the blister is filled with pus or blood, seeking treatment from a doctor is ideal. Antibiotics may need to be taken in order to completely eliminate the bacteria inside the blister. See a doctor to have an antibiotic prescribed.
The best way to treat blisters is to prevent them all together. Keeping your feet dry and making sure that your shoes fit properly are just two of the steps you can take to prevent blisters. Shoes that are too tight or shoes that are too loose and allow your feet to slide in them will cause blisters. Applying a bandage to an area where you think a blister is about to form is another way you can prevent them.
The natural weight that pregnant women gain causes their center of gravity to be completely altered. This causes them to have a new weight-bearing stance which adds pressure to the knees and feet. As a result, pregnant women often experience severe foot pain. The two most common foot issues experienced by women in their pregnancies are edema and over-pronation. It is important for all pregnant women to learn more about how to take care of their feet so they are more comfortable during their pregnancy.
Over-pronation, which is commonly referred to as flat feet, is caused when a person’s arch flattens out upon weight bearing. This causes the person’s feet to roll inward while walking. Pregnant women often experience this due to the sudden weight they gain.
Edema, also referred as swelling in the feet, typically occurs in the later part of the pregnancy. It is the result of the extra blood accumulated in the pregnant woman’s body. The enlarged uterus puts more pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvis which causes leg circulation to slow down. This causes blood to pool in the lower extremities.
Fortunately, there are ways to treat both edema and over-pronation. Edema can be treated by elevating the foot as often as possible. Wearing proper fitting footwear will also be helpful for those with edema. A treatment method for over-pronation could be orthotics. Orthotic inserts should be designed with appropriate arch support and medial rear foot for your foot.
It is best for pregnant women to buy new shoes during the day, because this is the time where swelling is at its peak. Pregnant women also shouldn’t rush when buying shoes. It is always advised that you make sure your shoes fit properly but this is especially important during pregnancy.
If you are a pregnant woman, you should consult with a podiatrist in order to make sure your feet are healthy throughout the entirety of your pregnancy.
While not a serious issue, toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition to experience. Toenail fungus is often caused from public areas that harbor fungi and improper cleaning/drying of the foot. Once infected, the fungus grows deeper into the nail and can be very hard to get rid of.
There are different types of fungus that cause toenail fungus. Dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds are the most frequent forms of fungus to infect the toenail. Dermatophytes are the most common among the three. Symptoms associated with fungal nails include the discoloration of the toenail, brittleness, and in some circumstances, a smell. Pain is rarely a symptom caused by toenail fungus.
Diagnosis of fungal nails is generally a rather quick process. However podiatrists will make sure that the cause is not another condition such as lichen planus, psoriasis, onychogryphosis, or nail damage. Podiatrists will make use of fungal cultures and microscopy to verify that it is fungus.
While over-the-counter ointments are readily available, most are ineffective. This is due to the fact that the nail is very protective and that the fungus slips in between the nail plate and bed. Podiatrists can offer oral medication which currently provides the best results.
Ultimately, prevention is the best line of defense against toenail fungus. Avoid unsanitary public showers. If you do use a public shower, use shower shoes to provide your foot with protection. Once you are finished showering, make sure to thoroughly dry your feet. Fungi thrive in warm, dark, and moist places like sweaty, warm feet that are left dark in shoes all day.
Ingrown toenails (onychocryptosis) are a common foot ailment and it is very unpleasant to experience. The condition is caused by an increase in pressure from the ingrowth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. Ingrown toenails commonly cause pain in those who experience them. In some cases, the skin surrounding the ingrown toenail may break which may lead bacteria to enter through and cause an infection. Common symptoms of this ailment include pain, redness, swelling, and warmth around the toe.
An imbalance between the size of the nail and the enlargement of the nail skin edge causes ingrown toenails. This condition is often caused by improperly trimming the toenails. If you are trying you cut your nails, you should always try to trim straight across instead of in a rounded shape. Ingrown toenails can also be an inherited condition and they may also be caused by improper shoe fitting.
Another common cause of the condition is wearing shoes that are either too small or too large. Other causes include poor foot hygiene, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, edema, and fungal infections. There are many risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop an ingrown toenail. Athletes who play “stop and start” sports such as tennis, soccer, and basketball are most likely to have ingrown toenails.
People who have diabetes, a compromised immune system, or poor circulation should immediately seek care from a podiatrist if they have an ingrown toenail. It is also recommended to seek professional assistance if at-home remedies are not successful within a week or if there is persistent pain.
Gout, typically found in diabetic patients, is an unusually painful form of arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. The condition typically strikes the big joint on the big toe. It has also been known to strike the knees, elbows, fingers, ankles and wrists—generally anywhere that has a functioning, moving joint.
The high level of uric acid in a person’s bloodstream creates the condition known as hyperuricema—the main cause of gout. Genetic predisposition occurs in nine out of ten sufferers. The children of parents who suffer gout will have a two in ten chance of developing the condition as well.
This form of arthritis, being particularly painful, is the leftover uric acid crystallizing in the blood stream. The crystallized uric acid then travels to the space between joints where they rub, causing friction when the patient moves. Symptoms include: pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. Additional side effects may include fatigue and fever, although reports of these effects are very rare. Some patients have reported that pain may intensify when the temperature drops, such as when you sleep.
Most cases of gout are easily diagnosed by a podiatrist’s assessment of the various symptoms. Defined tests can also be performed. A blood test to detect elevated levels of uric acid is often used as well as an x-ray to diagnose visible and chronic gout.
Treatment for gout simply means eliminating symptoms. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (Colchicine and other corticosteroid drugs, etc.) will quell the redness, the swelling, and the inflammation. However, managing your diet, lifestyle changes, and using preventative drugs are all helpful toward fully combating the most severe cases.
Those that lead an inactive lifestyle are at a higher risk for gout. Any amount of exercise decreases the probability of repeat encounters with the condition. Reducing your consumption of red meat, sea food, and fructose-sweetened drinks also reduces the likelihood of chronic gout as well.
Ingesting Vitamin C, coffee, and particular dairy products can help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are new drugs out on the market that inhibit the body’s production of uric acid-producing enzymes. However, reducing or eliminating your overall levels of uric acid is the best remedy to ensuring you lead a gout-free life.
An ingrown toenail is a toenail that grows sideways into the nail bed, causing pain and swelling. Ingrown toenails can worsen and cause drainage, turning into a serious infection.
Several factors affect whether a person is at risk from an ingrown toenail. The many causes include being overweight, diabetes, participating in sports, having a fungal infection of the toe, and cutting your nails too short. Ingrown toenails also have a genetic predisposition, causing some people to be more prone to receive the condition than others. Other causes include improperly fitting shoes and shoes that keep the feet damp.
Ingrown toenails can be preventable with certain measures. For starters, allowing your toe nails to grow slightly longer in length will help prevent them from becoming ingrown. If you have already developed an ingrown toenail, soak the affected toe in warm water. This will alleviate the pain and help prevent an infection from forming. Antibiotic soap or Epsom salts may be added to further help the relieving process and avoid infection. Placing cotton beneath the affected area is also suggested, as this may help the toenail grow upwards and not into the nail bed. Swelling and redness can be reduced by resting with your feet elevated.
A podiatrist should be seen if the pain becomes so serious that it prevents you from doing your everyday activities. If a red streak running up your leg appears or if you suspect your infection has spread, contact a podiatrist immediately. Fast treatments can be undertaken to lessen your pain and have you walking comfortably.
An ingrown toenail can be easily treated with a Band-Aid. Simply wrap the affected toe with a Band-Aid to prevent infection and keep the nail from growing out at a painful angle.
In more serious cases, your podiatrist may decide to make a small incision to remove a portion of your toenail. To prevent the nail from growing back, medication will be placed directly into the nail bed. This procedure would be performed under local anesthesia and is a faster method to alleviate discomfort from an ingrown toenail. Post-procedure directions will have you stay off the affected foot for a day. Afterwards, normal activities can be resumed.
Your feet endure a great amount of stress each day from constantly allowing us to move around. It is important to stretch your feet to help prevent them from becoming injured. Your toes may easily deform into unhealthful positions if they are not stretched.
One of the most common reasons for toe deformities are the shoes you may be wearing. Shoes that are too tight may fold and shift the toes out of place. Heeled shoes may also push your toes upward. Forcing your toes into an unnatural position which may cause the muscles to tighten and prevent them from reverting to normal length. Another common reason is improper use of foot muscles. Many people fail to use the muscles in their feet or toes when they walk. Lastly, the positioning of your feet while walking may also cause toe deformities. If you walk with your feet facing outward, your “push-off” phase is on the side of your big toe instead of the bottom of your foot. This may cause the big toe to eventually tighten into a new shifted position.
There are many reasons why stretching your toes may be helpful. One reason is that healthy spacing may aid in avoiding calluses and other injuries that are caused by rubbing. Stretching will also prevent you from developing toes that curl, hammertoes, or bunions.
A great way to stretch your toes is to place them in your hands and bend them all downward; this will help you stretch the top of your foot. Next, you should repeat this process but instead bend them upward enough to feel a nice stretch in the bottom of your foot. You should then try to pull each toe apart from the next and pull any toes that are bent upward until they are back downward.
If you are looking to practice stretching your entire foot, you can try a towel stretch. This is done by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you. Take a towel and wrap it around your toes. Afterward, pull the towel toward you with your toes and hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing. Practice this stretch for three sets. Another stretch your feet are towel lifts. This is done by sitting in a chair and trying to pick a towel up from the ground with your toes. Try lifting the towel with your little toes for five sets before switching feet.
If you are an athlete, or exercise often, it is especially important for you to practice stretching your feet. Those who suffer from foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours of standing at work may also benefit from foot exercises.
Ankle sprains occur when ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. These types of injuries are very common and can occur in people of all ages. Sprains may range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage is done to the ligaments. If a sprain goes untreated, a more severe sprain may occur which can further damage the ankle. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to chronic ankle pain.
There are some risk factors that can increase your risk of suffering a sprained ankle. Those who participate in sports, walk on uneven surfaces, have a prior ankle injury, are in poor physical condition, or wear improper shoes are more likely to get a sprained ankle.
There are a few symptoms to look out for if you suspect you are suffering from a sprained ankle. Some common symptoms are swelling, bruising, tenderness, and instability of the ankle. In cases where the tearing of the ligaments is severe, there may be a “popping” sound when the strain occurs.
The RICE method is proven to be effective in treating ankle sprains. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest is important for treatment especially within the first 24 to 48 hours. You should also ice your sprained ankle for the first 48 hours for 20 minutes at a time. A small piece of cloth should be placed between the ice and the affected area. For the compression step, you should wear a brace that is snug, but not too tight that it cuts off circulation. When choosing a brace, be sure to choose one that is suitable for the type of ankle sprain you have. Lastly, you should elevate your foot above the heart as often as possible.
After you treat a sprain, you should go through rehabilitation to prevent the injury from occurring again. There are three phases to the rehab process. The first phase involves resting, protecting and reducing the swelling of the injury. The second phase consists of restoring the ankles flexibility, range of motion, and strength. The third phase consists of slowly returning to activity and maintenance exercises.
If you suspect you have an ankle sprain, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult with your podiatrist. Your podiatrist will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and a suitable treatment option for your condition.