When to see a podiatrist

When to see a podiatrist

You don’t quite realize how important your feet are until they develop pain or dysfunction of some sort, and suddenly it’s difficult to walk. Many times, acute foot and ankle problems go away with time, rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, and shoe gear changes. But when they don’t, the care of a podiatrist can get you an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan, helping you avoid complications and get back to your life more quickly. Podiatrists are medically and surgically qualified to treat the foot and ankle. On a daily basis, podiatrists treat a wide range of conditions including arthritis pain, bunions, calluses and corns, diabetes complications, ingrown toenails, sports injuries, and more. They are also trained to diagnose infections of the foot and toenails. Additionally, they treat patients with foot and ankle complications related to obesity, diabetes, and peripheral arterial disease.

So how do you know when it’s time to make an appointment? Here are 10-foot conditions that require the attention of a podiatrist.

A Deformity That Progresses Suddenly

One example of such a deformity is Charcot. Charcot is a problem that can occur when you have diabetes. Signs and symptoms include pain, redness, and a hot, swollen foot. Charcot can lead to the bones breaking and slipping out of place. If left untreated, the bones may heal in a bad position causing a foot deformity. You should see a podiatrist right away.

A Flat Foot

If you notice that one foot seems flatter than the other, this could be a sign of tendon dysfunction or even rupture. A tendon that does not work properly can lead to the bones not being lined up and this can cause arthritis in the joints. If you treat the tendon problem early, this may prevent damage to your joints.

A Lump or Bump that Grows or Hurts

A lump or bump that is getting bigger and is painful should be looked at by a podiatrist. It may turn out to be a type of cyst, but there is also a chance it could be something more serious such as a tumor. Tumors in the foot are rare but do sometimes occur.

A Wound or Sore That Does Not Heal

If you have an open sore on your foot or ankle, head to your podiatrist’s office. This is especially important if you have diabetes because it usually takes you longer to heal. You have a better chance of healing if you are seen by your podiatrist right away and treatment is started. If you have had an open sore for a long time, your chance of getting a skin or bone infection (osteomyelitis) increases.

Foot Discolorations

For the most part, both of your feet should look alike. If one foot is a lot different color than the other, there may be a problem. Redness may be an indication of an infection or gout. A blue or purple color may indicate a vein problem. Whiteness or paleness (pallor) may be a sign of decreased blood flow. If you have these color changes, you need to see a podiatrist.

Foot Pain With Elevated Legs

If you have pain in your feet when you are lying in bed and the pain goes away when you dangle your feet off the side of the bed, this may be a sign of decreased blood flow or peripheral artery disease. This is a condition that needs to be addressed by a few different doctors. You may start with a podiatrist, but you may also need to see a vascular surgeon.

Numbness, Burning, and Tingling

These three things can be signs of neuropathy, which can cause decreased sensation in your feet.
Diabetes is one of the many things that can cause neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that needs to be followed by a podiatrist. Having neuropathy puts you at increased risk of developing foot ulcers.

Pain and Swelling in One Foot

If you have pain and swelling (edema) in one foot and not the other, this is not normal. There are many problems that could be causing the pain and swelling such as a broken bone, tendonitis, tendon rupture or infection. It is more common to have to swell in both feet and ankles and this could be due to lymphedema.​

Pain That Increases With Activity

If you have pain that gets worse with activity, this may be a sign of a stress fracture. You should not try to work through the pain; you should see a podiatrist. If you treat a stress fracture early, you can hopefully avoid more serious problems such as a  stress fracture that won’t heal or that turns into an actual broken bone.

Severe Pain for More Than 24 Hours

This is especially important if you have just had surgery. Do not be afraid to call your podiatrist. If there is a problem, it is better to deal with it sooner rather than later. Possible problems could be an infection, tight dressing, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or compartment syndrome. There are many treatment options for dealing with pain, but the first step is to figure out what is causing the pain.

The health of your feet is essential to your overall well-being. Podiatrists have four years of podiatric medical school as well as three years of residency training under their belts, making them uniquely qualified to care for your feet. When choosing a physician, look for the letters “DPM” after his or her name, which stands for “Doctor of Podiatric Medicine” and signifies years of rigorous medical school and hospital-based training.


​Article: By Terence Vanderheiden, DPM


FAQ About Today’s Podiatrists. The American Podiatric Medical Association
What is a Podiatrist? The American Podiatric Medical Association

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