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.
A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue and can develop throughout the body. In the foot, the most common neuroma is a Morton’s neuroma; this typically forms between the third and fourth toes. The thickening of the nerve is typically caused by compression and irritation of the nerve; this thickening can in turn cause enlargement and, in some cases, nerve damage.
Neuromas can be caused by anything that causes compression or irritation of the nerve. A common cause is wearing shoes with tapered toe boxes or high heels that force the toes into the toe boxes. Physical activities that involve repeated pressure to the foot, such as running or basketball, can also create neuromas. Those with foot deformities, such as bunions, hammertoes, or flatfeet, are more likely to develop the condition.
Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include tingling, burning, numbness, pain, and the feeling that either something is inside the ball of the foot or that something in one’s shoe or sock is bunched up. Symptoms typically begin gradually and can even go away temporarily by removing one’s shoes or massaging the foot. An increase in the intensity of symptoms correlates with the increasing growth of the neuroma.
Treatment for Morton’s neuroma can vary between patients and the severity of the condition. For mild to moderate cases, padding, icing, orthotics, activity modifications, shoe modifications, medications, and injection therapy may be suggested or prescribed. Patients who have not responded successfully to less invasive treatments may require surgery to properly treat their condition. The severity of your condition will determine the procedure performed and the length of recovery afterwards.
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.
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.
There are several systemic diseases, or diseases that affect the whole body, that either display symptoms in the feet or affect the health of the feet. Common systemic diseases that affect the overall health of the feet, and the patient’s ability to walk comfortably, include gout, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders, and arthritis, among others.
In gout, which is caused by an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body, the most common symptoms of pain, inflammation, and redness occur at the metatarsal/phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. Any excess levels of uric acid crystallize and are deposited in tendons, joints, and surrounding bone and muscle tissue. Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation and other drugs to lower uric acid levels in the body. Gout most commonly affects those who are overweight, have low protein diets and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
Diabetes mellitus is an increase in the level of blood sugar in which the body cannot counteract with naturally occurring insulin in the body. The three types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes, are all signs the body is either not producing enough insulin or is not efficiently using the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant and have never, prior to pregnancy, exhibited symptoms of the disease.
There are two main issues that affect the feet that are commonly caused by diabetes. They include diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to damaged nerves and affect the feet through numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral vascular disease restricts the flow of blood to the foot and can, in extreme cases, lead to the necessity of amputating the foot. Peripheral issues that are caused by diabetes and can affect the foot include athlete’s foot, nail infections, corns, blisters, bunions, severe dry skin, plantar warts and ingrown toenails. These can all be attributed to the decrease of blood flow to the foot.
Neurological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can also have severe impact on the health of the feet. Neurological disorders can affect the nerves in the main structure of the foot and cause loss of sensation and possible decreased muscle response. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the bones and joint structures of the foot, making it impossible to walk normally without serious pain.
All systemic diseases that affect the foot can effectively be treated to minimize joint and muscle damage if they are diagnosed early and treated with medication and lifestyle therapy. Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their physician to keep their levels as close to normal as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should work with their physician to ensure the proper medications are being taken to reduce the amount of damage to the joints of the body.