09 Aug Nine Reasons to Visit a Podiatrist
Are you one of those people who wait until your foot and ankle problems become excruciating before you book in to see a podiatrist? You know what they say, prevention is better than cure. A podiatrist can assess your foot health, treat a range of foot and ankle problems, correct latent issues and imbalances before they cause pain elsewhere in the body and advise you on correct shoes and orthotics. So if you’re prone to any of the following foot conditions, make sure you see a podiatrist so that you can get back on your feet.
- You are in pain while doing daily activities
If you feel pain in your feet and ankle joints or if your feet are often swollen, red, stiff or tender, you need to see a podiatrist. It could be tendonitis, a broken bone, a fracture, a sprained ankle or a foot injury that hasn’t healed properly. If the numbness is accompanied by tingling or burning, it could be a sign of nerve damage – something that adversely affects people with diabetes. Did you know that if you suffer from lower back pain, it could be due to the structure of your feet which makes you walk in a particular way, resulting in stress on your back? Conversely, if you have pain in your feet, the culprit could very well be a problem in your back! Arthritis is another factor that causes joint pain and stiffness. When you visit a podiatrist, s/he will do a thorough assessment before suggestingtreatments to tackle these podiatry problems so that you can go about your daily life relatively pain-free.
- You have started running or exercising
If you are about to take up running, a new sport or a different exercise program, it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist before problems like shin splints and runners’ knee take their toll. Sports like basketball, netball and football put a lot of pressure on the feet and lower limbs due to their inherent speed at which they’re played and the sudden changes in movement and direction. A podiatrist can assess your body, do a gait analysis, flag potential problems, recommend shoes that are best suited for your body type and running style, and help reduce the risk of injury.
- You have diabetes
What’s the correlation between your glucose level in your blood and your feet? A person with diabetes may not feel foot conditions like blisters due to reduced blood flow to the extremities. This means that a blister on a diabetic’s foot will take a lot longer to heal, increasing the risk of infection. If you have diabetes, you should have a foot exam performed by a podiatrist at least once a year. Studies show that having regular examinationslower the risk of amputation due to diabetes by more than 50 per cent.
- You have flat feet
Flat feet or overpronation (fallen arches) places abnormal force on the body and causes pain in the feet, heels, knees, hips, back and even your neck. You might have been told you’ll outgrow flat feet, but did you know it often leads to bunions, plantar fasciitis and knee pain? People with flat feet are prone to bunions due to the abnormal pressure placed on the big toe area, causing the bone to move, the toe to swing in and a bunion to form. Orthotics can help to correct the foot to a neutral position and ease associated pain through the body. A podiatrist can design orthotics specifically suited to work with your body, with options ranging from intensive sports support to ones that fits into heels.
- You have nail problems
When a toenail grows into the skin, the ingrown nail can cause an infection (it’s usually the big toe that gets affected). Many people attempt to treat an ingrown toenail on their own, but it’s better to go to a podiatrist to make sure your toe is treated safely without damaging your toenail or surrounding tissue.
In some cases, the podiatrist will remove part of the nail and can prescribe medicine if the area is infected. Fungal nail infection is another common problem that has increased due to the proliferation of nail salons where sanitary standards are not maintained. Make sure your pedicurist’s tools are sterilised before you have a pedicure.
- You have corns or calluses
Corns and calluses are areas of built-up skin on your foot, which can become painful if they get too thick. While corns and calluses aren’t serious problems, their underlying cause might be. Problems with your gait or the structure of your foot could cause corns and calluses. If the pain is severe, your podiatrist may recommend cortisone injections to reduce the pain. Another option is to reduce the size of the corn/callus by using a surgical blade to cut off the dead skin.
- You have plantar warts/ verrucas
Plantar warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and cause a hard and often painful thickened lesion on the sole of the foot. At the first instance, your podiatrist may apply a mild acid (e.g. salicylic acid) topically to the wart. Cryotherapy is another treatment which involves freezing warts with a very cold solution. The latest treatment is Swift®microwave therapy which uses microwaves to kill the wart virus. It is quick, clean and convenient, requiring no bandages or anaesthetic.
- You have painful bunions
A bunion is a bump at the base of the big toe which occurs when the bone or joint of the big toe is out of place. The first thing you need to do is wear shoes that don’t crowd your toes (rounded toes rather than pointy toes) to alleviate the pain of bunions. A podiatrist can suggest treatments such as padding, taping or medication. Surgery is also an option in severe cases.
- You suffer from heel pain
If you have persistent heel pain, especially when you wake up every morning, see a podiatrist to check for plantar fasciitis. You may also have a heel spur, which is a bony growth on the heel. A proper diagnosis is the first step towards developing a treatment plan.