Patient Education

Below are some common problems we see in our offices. You’ll find a little bit of information about each issue. However, each patient is unique and the information provided is very general in nature and is not a substitute for professional care. We have offices in Centralia, Lacey, Olympia, Tacoma and Tumwater – please contact us if you have any questions or any lingering issues with your feet or ankles. We’re always here to help you put your best foot forward!

Ankle sprains are usually caused by unnatural twisting or force resulting in damage to one or more ligaments in the ankle. The severity of an ankle sprain can range from excessive stretching of the ligament to partial or even total tearing of the ligament. Symptoms of a sprained ankle can include pain, swelling, bruising and difficulty moving the ankle. Many times treatment of a sprained ankle is R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and possibly an over the counter pain reliever. However, you will still want to contact your doctor if you suffer from a sprained ankle. X-rays may need to be taken to rule out a break, and if a sprain is not treated properly it may develop into long-term problems. In rare cases surgery may be needed. 

“Arthritis” means inflammation of the joint and includes the cartilage and lining of the joint. Arthritis can affect any age group but especially those over 50. Since our feet have so many joints, and avoiding all weight bearing on our feet is so difficult, it is not uncommon for people to experience arthritic pain in their feet. Symptoms may include pain or tenderness, stiffness or limited motion, swelling, and redness or heat in a joint. Early diagnosis and proper medical care are essential to limiting the damage of arthritis. Physical therapy, exercise, anti-inflammatories or injections, orthotics and even laser therapy are all options that our doctors may use to help you. Call us for help with any arthritic pain you may be experiencing.

A bunion is a bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe. Bunions form when the big toe becomes misaligned and pushes against the next toe causing the joint of the big toe to grow and stick out. Inherited structural defects, stress on the foot, arthritis, and even tight or narrow shoes may contribute to the formation of a bunion. There may be a bump on the base of the big toe, swelling, redness and soreness if you have a bunion. It may also cause the skin to thicken at the base of the big toe,corns or calluses, limited range of motion, pain, and difficulty finding shoes that fit because of the bunion. Call your doctor if you suffer any of these symptoms. If a bunion is not severe, the doctor may suggest proper footwear or custom orthotics to prevent it from getting worse. If, however, the bunion is painful or severe, surgery may be the best option. Call our offices to find out more.

Corns and calluses are your body’s way of protecting itself from friction or pressure, causing the skin to thicken or form a hard bump. Corns can form on the sides, tips, or tops of the toes when they press or rub against your shoes. Corns are often associated with problems like hammer toes. Calluses form on the bottom of the feet and can indicate a misaligned bone or joint or other structural issue. In many cases a corn or callus may look bad, but will improve by eliminating the source of the friction or pressure. Certain conditions, such as diabetes, can lead to a higher risk of complications from corns and calluses. Attempting to remove a corn or callus at home can damage healthy skin or cause an infection. Contact our offices if you are having ongoing issues with corns or calluses, or if they are painful or inflamed. Many times the doctor can provide relief with padding or orthotics. Orthotics can support your feet properly and direct pressure away from problem areas. At times excess skin can be removed, or injections can help relieve pain. In some rare cases surgery can correct the bone or joint issues that lead to severe corns and calluses.

Cracks and fissures are breaks in your skin that most often appear in the heel or between toes. Feet that are too dry, usually from walking barefoot or in open shoes, can cause the skin to split. These cracks may widen and be unable to heal on their own, opening it up to infection. Feet that are too moist, usually caused by wearing shoes without socks or footwear that doesn’t properly ventilate, can lead to bacteria or fungus growing. This can weaken the skin and cause it to crack, normally between the toes. The doctor can treat the bacteria , fungus or dry skin with medications or lotions. Contact us if you are suffering from any cracks or fissures.

Flat feet are the result of not having a normal arch in the feet. Young children often have flat feet when standing until the tendons in their feet strengthen. As they grow, normal arches develop in the foot. Flat feet in adults can happen for a number of reasons. Some never develop normal arches. Wear and tear can weaken the tendon that supports the arch. Certain conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or obesity can also contribute to having flat feet. Many people with flat feet have no pain or other problems and require no treatment. If, however, your flat feet cause you pain, your feet tire easily, or you have swelling on the inside of your feet or ankles, it is time to visit the doctor. The doctor can ease the symptoms with medication and orthotics can help give proper support. In some cases surgery may be necessary to repair damaged tendons or correct the alignment of the bones. Contact us to find out more.

Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled lumps that form along the tendons or joints of the feet and ankles. They can very in size from that of a pea to an inch in diameter. Repeated irritation can cause the lining of a joint or tendon to weaken leading to ganglions. Ganglions can form with no symptoms, but if the ganglion puts pressure on nearby nerves they can be painful. They can also interfere with joint movement. It is not uncommon for a ganglion to change in size. Your doctor can drain the ganglion but there is a chance it could recur. There are other options to ease the symptoms of a ganglion, but if it is causing ongoing or severe pain, surgery may be recommended.

Gout is caused by having too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is normal in the blood, but if the levels get too high, the uric acid can form hard crystals that collect in joints. A gout attack most often comes on suddenly, at night, causing a hot, painful feeling usually in the joint of a big toe. Gout attacks can last any where from a few hours to a few weeks. It is important to see a doctor even if symptoms subside. Left untreated, gout attacks can return, and the lingering high levels of uric acid can harm your joints. Fortunately, gout is treatable. Medications and dietary changes can relieve pain and prevent future problems.

Hammer toes refer to a buckling, or curling of any of the toe joints. Usually, they occur in the middle joint of the second, third, or fourth toes. They happen when there is a muscle imbalance or overly tight tendons. Hammer toes can be a result of genetics, arthritis, and improperly fitting footwear. The toes can become painful or rigid, and corns can develop from rubbing on the tops of your shoes. A hammer toe can be either flexible or rigid and treatments usually vary accordingly. Contact our offices to see how we can help relieve the pain and discomfort associated with hammer toes.

Neuromas are painful growths of nerve tissue that most commonly occurs between the third and fourth toe bones. Neuromas form when the nerve is rubbed or pressed against and becomes irritated. Pressure from tightly fitting shoes, abnormal foot structure, or repeated stress can bring about a neuroma. Neuromas can cause pain, burning, numbness or tingling, and a sensation of tightness. The doctor may help relieve the symptoms of a neuroma with orthotics, roomier shoes, or injections to reduce inflammation. In some cases neuromas can be surgically removed or injected with an alcohol solution to permanently numb the nerve.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition normally caused by atherosclerosis, or arteries that narrow and harden, leading to restricted blood flow in the legs and feet. Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and lower activity level can all lead to having PAD. Diabetics are especially at risk. Individuals with PAD may have intermittent pain, usually in the calves, brought on with exercise. They may also notice skin that is shiny on the legs and feet, loss of hair on the legs and feet, wounds that are slow to heal, legs that are cooler than arms, and a fainter pulse in the feet. Testing for PAD can be simple and painless and the treatment can vary depending on the severity of the PAD. Contact us to see if you might be at risk for PAD.

Peripheral Neuropathy results from damage to nerves that can prevent them from working properly. It is most common in diabetes, affecting the feet and legs, but can be caused by a number of other factors. Peripheral Neuropathy is associated with numbness, burning or pain, a tingling or feeling of “pins and needles”, or the feeling of wearing invisible socks. Symptoms will usually start in the toes and progress towards the ankles and even up the legs. Loss of feeling in the feet can increase the chance of injury without being aware of it. Diabetics are especially at risk as even small injuries can lead to serious infection. For those with Peripheral Neuropathy, regular foot inspections are a must. Having regular foot care performed can also help identify problems before they get out of hand. Treatment for neuropathy can range from nutritional supplements and exercise to physical therapyMLS laser can also help ease the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy.

The Plantar Fascia is a ligament that runs from your heel to the ball of your foot. Normally the connective tissue is stretched and helps maintain the arch of the foot. However, if they plantar fascia is overly stretched, it can start to become inflamed and begin to fray. Poor foot mechanics is often to blame. Rolling the foot inward while walking, having high arches or flat feet , or being on your feet for prolonged periods of time can all contribute to plantar fasciitis. Heel spurs or bursitis can also be associated with plantar fasciitis. With plantar fasciitis the bottom of the foot may hurt when standing, especially after long periods of rest, like mornings, or after prolonged movement, and may ease after a few steps. Custom orthotics can help correct the poor foot mechanics that lead to plantar fasciitis. Medications can also help alleviate symptoms. Sometimes surgery can help correct the issue by lengthening the plantar fascia. Contact our offices in Centralia, Lacey, Olympia, Tacoma or Tumwater if you have persistent heel pain.

Tendonitis is when tendons become inflamed. Tendons attach muscle to bone, and overusing muscles can strain a tendon. As the tendons are strained, they can become inflamed and the fibers of a tendon can begin pulling apart. Different areas of the foot may hurt depending on which tendon is inflamed. At first, tendonitis may cause pain only during or after exercise. As the tendon becomes more damaged, the pain may occur while walking or even just standing. Icing and resting may be enough for less serious issues. If tendonitis persists, medications and eventually physical therapy may be necessary. The doctor may need to inject near the site of pain. Proper footwear and avoiding overuse can help prevent tendonitis. If you are suffering from tendonitis, contact us for help.

Ulcers can appear on the feet due to pressure and friction. Those forces can cause a blister, which can become infected, or a corn or callus. If a corn or callus grows, it can begin pressing into the foot and kill healthy tissue. Cracks and sores can form, allowing for bacteria to enter the body and cause infection. Infection cause more healthy tissue to die and an infected ulcer can begin to drain and have a bad odor. Poor circulation can also lead to ulcers. Diabetics are at a higher risk due to difficulty in healing and fighting off infection. Diabetic neuropathy, or a loss of feeling, can make it difficult for a diabetic to notice pressure spots or small sores and cracks that can quickly become infected and turn into ulcers. Checking your feet daily can help prevent ulcers. Your doctor can help resolve smaller issues before they become ulcers. If you have an ulcer, the doctor may need to clean it by removing dead tissue. Orthotics or custom shoes can help divert pressure from sore spots allowing them to heal. Medication to fight infection may also need to be prescribed. Surgery may be necessary if the infection has become serious. Contact us for more information.

Warts are infections caused by a virus. They can often be confused with corns or calluses. Warts can grow on their own or in clusters. As a wart grows, it can become painful, like walking on a pebble. Left unchecked, they can grow to a inch in size and can spread to other parts of the body. Warts can persist for years and can recur in the same spot after going away. There are several forms of treatment for warts  depending on their size and location. Medications can be used as well as surgical removal. Contact our offices for help in removing warts.

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