We often don’t think about our feet until they start causing us pain. Of course, your feet and ankles serve a crucial role in everyday functioning. After all, your feet help you get to where you need to go. They absorb the shock of your body’s movements. From walking up a flight of stairs to running a marathon, your feet make it all possible.
So what happens when you start experiencing foot pain? Sometimes taking it easy for a few days and elevating your feet may make the pain go away. Other times you need the help from an experienced doctor who specializes in foot and ankle conditions.
Many people turn to a podiatrist when they begin to experience problems with their feet. But what is a podiatrist? And, what kinds of foot conditions does a podiatrist treat? Use this guide to learn more about this valued health professional.
What is a Podiatrist?
Sometimes known as a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), these individuals use conservative treatments, as well as foot and ankle surgery, to treat those who struggle with foot problems. In fact, podiatrists undergo the same extensive medical training as other doctors. In addition to completing medical school, a podiatrist also performs four years at a podiatric medical school and three years in residency training.
Some podiatrists specialize in fields like sports medicine, diabetic foot care, or foot and ankle surgery. All of this training and practice means that you’ll have an experienced professional to prevent, diagnose, and treat many types of foot disorders.
What Conditions Does a Podiatrist Treat?
Your feet go through a lot of abuse every day. Think of all the steps that you take each day. Maybe you’re even one of those people who tracks your steps to stay fit. Of course, all of this movement affects your feet. Instead of confidently stepping forward, each new step may be a painful reminder of a foot or ankle condition. A podiatrist can help you get back to achieving your daily step count without constant discomfort.
Podiatrists can help with:
- Ankle Fractures or Sprains: Ankle fractures and sprains often occur when we step the wrong way during athletic activities or walking. A podiatrist can accurately diagnose these conditions and provide proper treatment.
- Ingrown toenails: This occurs when the corner of a toenail grows into the surrounding soft tissue. In severe cases involving inflammation, pain, and pus, a podiatrist can help by removing the ingrown portion of the nail.
- Plantar fasciitis: Occurs when your plantar fascia—a band of tissue at the bottom of your foot—becomes inflamed. Age, obesity, and certain exercises can be to blame. A podiatrist can diagnose this condition and treat it using injections, orthotics, or even surgery.
- Plantar warts: These are small growths on the heel or other parts of the foot caused by the HPV virus. This virus thrives in warm, damp environments like locker rooms and swimming pools. Plantar warts may go away on their own, but, in more serious conditions, a podiatrist can remove them. This includes treating the area with acids, laser treatment, or minor surgery.
- Hammertoe: An abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. It can be caused by your choice of shoes, inherited foot structure, or trauma to the area. A podiatrist can look at your foot and determine if you need orthotics or shoe pads to relieve pressure on the area. For some, surgery may be required to release the tendon causing the toe to bend.
- Bunions: This bony bump forms at the base of your big toe, often due to heredity causes or injuries. It forces the joint of the big toe to get bigger and stick out. Some believe that tight-fitting shoes may make the condition worse. If conservative treatments don’t deliver relief, surgical procedures can help remove swollen tissue and straighten out the big toe.
How A Podiatrist Can Help Those with Diabetes
If you have diabetes, it can be extra hard on your feet. Long-term high blood sugar in the body affects the feet as well as the eyes, kidneys, and heart. In fact, complications from diabetes may result in foot or leg amputations. A podiatrist can provide diabetic foot care including monitoring, preventing, and treating lower leg complications brought on by this disease. In fact, regular care from a podiatrist can prevent lower limb amputation by up to 85%.
Those who suffer from diabetes need to regularly monitor their feet and ankles for any changes. This includes swelling, numbness, pain, and dry cracks near the heel. A podiatrist can prescribe diabetic shoes or inserts that can prevent potential problems.
For example, a diabetic foot ulcer—an open sore usually at the bottom of the foot—can lead to more severe conditions. In fact, nearly of quarter of those who suffer from a diabetic foot ulcer may require an amputation. Regular care from a podiatrist can make this condition preventable and reduce the risk of any infections related to the ulcer.
Peripheral neuropathy is another condition often associated with diabetes. Symptoms include burning, stabbing, or tingling pain in the foot. Peripheral neuropathy can also have other causes like infections, trauma to the foot, or autoimmune diseases. A podiatrist can treat this condition by using medications, and even surgery to reduce pressure on the nerves.
How A Podiatrist Can Help Those with Osteoarthritis
Arthritis is a general term for those who suffer from inflammation and swelling in the cartilage that lines the joints. It is a common disease with many underlying factors. Heredity, injuries, infections, and autoimmune diseases often contribute to this condition. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and involves a gradual breakdown of cartilage in a joint. If left untreated, osteoarthritis can lead to disabling pain.
Arthritic feet can rob you of your mobility and independence. A podiatrist can help with early diagnosis and treatment, diminishing the effects of this degenerative joint disease. Treatments involve reducing inflammation, restoring function to the foot and ankle, and controlling how the foot functions with braces or orthotics.
In more severe cases, a minimally invasive ankle arthroscopy may help those with foot arthritis. The procedure can also help with ankle fractures or sprains, sports injuries, and those who have mechanical instability in the ankle. Some people with ankle arthritis find significant improvement in functioning within 12 weeks of an ankle arthroscopy.
Need to Find a Trusted Podiatrist?
As you can see, a podiatrist can play a major role in improving your mobility and comfort. From foot injuries that cause tendonitis to complications from major health conditions, a podiatrist is a trusted ally in securing your overall health.
So where can you find an experienced podiatrist ready to treat your foot and ankle conditions? NJ Spine and Orthopedic is ready to help. Our doctors have decades of experience in treating orthopedic conditions. And, we understand that healthy feet and ankles are an important foundation for the body’s overall functioning.
Why choose NJ Spine & Orthopedic for your podiatry needs? We believe most issues with the feet and ankles start with conservative treatments. We take the time to listen to your story, symptoms, and treatment goals. Together, we help you discover the best ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat often painful foot conditions.
If you do need surgery on your foot or ankle, we offer the latest minimally invasive techniques to help you regain mobility. What does this mean for you? Less scarring, damage to the area, and—most importantly—quicker recovery times. You don’t want to be sidelined from the things you love to do. Call us today at (855) 586-2615 to schedule a free MRI review.