What Is A Podiatrist?
A Podiatrist, also called a doctor of Podiatric Medicine, is a specialist who provides medical diagnosis and treatment of Foot and Ankle problems, such as bunions, heel pain, spurs, hammertoes, neuromas, ingrown toenails, warts, corns and calluses. A Podiatrist also renders care of sprains, fractures, infections, and injuries of the foot, ankle and heel. In addition to undergraduate medical school training, Podiatrists also attend graduate school for a doctorate degree in Podiatry. Podiatrists are required to take state and national exams, as well as be licensed by the state in which they practice.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, there are an estimated 15,000 practicing Podiatrists in the United States. Podiatrists are in demand more than ever today because of an increased rise of Diabetics, increased patient health awareness, and a population that is living a longer and healthier lifestyle. In addition, according to the Association, foot disorders are among the most widespread and neglected health problems affecting people in this country.
When Should I Call a Podiatrist?
People call a Doctor of Podiatry for help diagnosing and treating a wide array of Foot and Ankle problems. Please contact our office if you experience one of the following:
- Persistent pain in your feet or ankles.
- Changes in the nails or skin on your foot.
- Severe cracking, scaling, or peeling on the heel or foot.
- Blisters on your feet.
- There are signs of bacterial infection, including:
- Increased pain, swelling, redness, tenderness, or heat.
- Red streaks extending from the affected area.
- Discharge or pus from an area on the foot.
- Foot or ankle symptoms that do not improve after two weeks of treatment with a nonprescription product.
- Spreading of an infection from one area of the foot to another, such as under the nail bed, skin under the nail, the nail itself, or the surrounding skin.
- Thickening toenails that cause discomfort.
- Heel pain accompanied by a fever, redness (sometimes warmth), or numbness.
- Tingling in the heel; persistent heel pain without putting any weight or pressure on your heel
- Pain that is not alleviated by ice or over-the-counter painkillers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
- Diabetics with poor circulation who develop Athlete's Foot.
How Should I Care For My Feet?
- Don't ignore foot pain. It's not normal. If the pain persists, contact our office.
- Inspect your feet regularly. Pay attention to changes in color and temperature. Look for thick or discolored nails (a sign of developing fungus), and check for cracks or cuts in the skin. Peeling or scaling on the soles of feet could indicate Athlete's Foot. Any growth on the foot is not considered normal.
- Wash your feet regularly, especially between the toes, and be sure to dry them completely.
- Trim toenails straight across, but not too short. Be careful not to cut nails in corners or on the sides; it can lead to ingrown toenails. Persons with diabetes, poor circulation, peripheral neuropathy or heart problems should not treat their own feet because they are more prone to infection.
- Make sure that your shoes fit properly. Purchase new shoes later in the day when feet tend to be at their largest, and replace worn out shoes as soon as possible.
- Select and wear the right shoe for the activity that you are engaged in (e.g. running shoes for running).
- Alternate shoes -- don't wear the same pair of shoes every day.
- Avoid walking barefooted. Your feet will be more prone to injury and infection. At the beach or when wearing sandals always use sunblock on your feet as on the rest of your body.
- Be cautious when using home remedies for foot ailments. Self-treatment can often turn a minor problem into a major one.
- If you are a diabetic, contact our office and schedule a check-up immediately.
How Should I Care For My Children's Feet?
Children with strong, healthy feet avoid many kinds of lower extremity problems later in life. That's why it is important to inspect your children's feet periodically.
The size and shape of your baby's feet change quickly during their first year. Because a baby's feet are flexible, too much pressure or strain can affect the shape of their feet. It's important to allow the baby to kick and stretch their feet freely. Also, make sure shoes and socks do not squeeze the toes.
Do not to force a toddler to walk before they are ready. Once walking begins, watch the toddler's gait. Many toddlers have a pigeon-toed gait, which is normal. Some initially learn to walk landing on their toes instead of their heels. Most children outgrow both these problems. Most conditions detected early can be treated more easily.
When Foot Care Is Needed
To help with flatfeet, special shoes or orthotics may be prescribed. To correct mild in-toeing or out-toeing, your toddler may need to sit in a different position while playing or watching TV. If your child's feet turn in or out a lot, corrective shoes, splints, or night braces may be prescribed.
The bony structure of the feet is well-formed by the time your child reaches age 7 or 8, but if a growth plate (the area where bone growth begins) is injured, the damaged plate may cause the bone to grow oddly. With a doctor's care, however, the risk of future bone problems is reduced.
Remember to check your child's shoe size often. Make sure there is space between the toes and the end of the shoe and that the shoes are roomy enough to allow the toes to move freely. Don't let your child wear hand-me-down shoes.
What Are My Best Resources?
National Institutes of Health
National Institute on Aging
P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20898-8057
(800) 222-4225 (TTY)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Room 9A04 Center Drive, MSC 2560
Bethesda, MD 20892-2560
Mayo Clinic Online
A resource of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the
National Institutes of Heatlh
American Diabetes Association
American Podiatric Medical Association
9312 Old Georgetown Road
Bethesda, MD 20814-1621