When should you see a Podiatrist / Foot Doctor ?
By Isaac Tabari
When your foot and ankle problems do not go away with time and rest, you should seek a qualified medical professional who is an expert in foot ailments:
Any kind of pain in the heel needs to be seen by a podiatrist.
This is an area where it is very important to be sure what kind of pain is
occurring and when. A podiatrist will probably take an X-ray to rule out the
possibility of bone spurs, gout crystals, and other injuries.
Pain and swelling in one foot
If you have pain or swelling (edema) in one foot and not the other, you should see a podiatrist as it is not a normal condition. There are many problems that could be causing the pain and swelling such as a broken bone, tendonitis, infection or tendon rupture. Also note that it is more common to have swelling in both feet and ankles and this could be caused by lymphedema.
If you experience this, see a podiatrist.
Wound or sore that does not heal
If you have an open sore or wound on your foot or ankle, you need to see a podiatrist. For diabetic people, it is especially crucial to be seen by a podiatrist because diabetes causes these wounds/sores to heal longer. Your foot doctor will treat you and help your wound heal faster. Not treating your open sore for a prolonged period of time increases your chances of getting a skin, or bone infection (osteomyelitis)
and this could lead to amputation. Your foot doctor can swab the sore to find
out the type of bacteria, and also prescribe some antibiotics. Letting a sore or
lesion go untreated can be dangerous to your overall health, and infection can
travel fast in an area like the foot where people often lose sensation.
Discolored or yellow toenails
Usually this is a type of fungus of the nail which can be treated with
either topical ointments or oral medications which are monitored by the
podiatrist. Even if you don't think your toenails are bad enough, it is still
worth it to come in to see a podiatrist and alleviate the yellowing. Any toenail
polish applied to a fungal toenail may increase the fungus growth, and
your podiatrist may ask you to remove and discourage it until the fungus
This is a condition in which the nail, either by curvature or skin growth,
grows into the skin and creates a very painful border to a toenail. It can occur
on any toenail of the foot and to persons of any age, even babies, and can get
very infected very fast so its very important to see a doctor if you feel like
the ingrown toenail is getting worse. The toenail will probably be scrubbed with
cleaning solution, and depending on the severity and pain around the nail, the
podiatrist can numb your toe to remove the part which is ingrown or the whole
nail. There are many different solutions that are less invasive, but it is
extremely important to see a doctor if you suspect you have an ingrown toenail,
as infection could lead to other complications.
Soreness in toes
Any soreness in the toes could account for any number of injuries or
conditions that the podiatrist would need to evaluate. Pads, arch supports, and
insoles can be fitted to your shoes to alleviate any type of pain.
One foot looks different from the other
Both of your feet should have the same color and look. If one foot has a
different color than the other, there may be an underlying condition causing
this. Redness may be an indication of an infection or gout. A blue or purple
color may indicate a vein problem. Pale color (pallor) may be a sign of
decreased blood flow. If you have these color changes, you need to see a
Numbness, tingling and burning
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 on a regular basis. Having neuropathy puts you at increased risk for
developing foot ulcers.
Pain that increases with walking and other 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 turning the fracture into a broken bone.
Severe pain lasting more than 1 day
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. 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 which is a sign of a peripheral
artery disease. This is a condition that needs to be addressed by a few
different doctors. You may start with a podiatrist who may then refer you to see
a vascular surgeon.
A deformity that progresses suddenly
One example of such a deformity is charcot arthropathy. 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.
Arch of one foot flattens
If you notice that one foot seems flatter than the other, this could be a
sign of tendon dysfunction or rupture. This condition can lead to the
misalignment of bones which can then cause arthritis in the joints. You are
advised to treat the tendon problem early.
A mole that changes
A mole (nevus) that has a funny shape (or changes shape), gets bigger,
bleeds or changes color needs to be examined more closely. These changes could
be due to melanoma. You should see a foot doctor right away.
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.
This is a condition in which the second toe or other toes is buckled up at
the second joint often causing pressure sores on the pad of the hammer toe, and
pain for the patient. It can be treated by the podiatrist with various custom
pads and insoles, and in severe cases can be operated on to ease the pain in the
Bunions are a very serious foot condition in which there is a structural deformity of the bones in the foot and the joint that is between the foot and big toe which can sometimes be swollen and irritated at the base of the big toe. Sometimes it is painful and can cause the gait of the patient to be crooked, and always needs to be treated and cared for by a podiatrist.
Gout flare up
These flare ups are usually very painful, and cause lots of irritation and stiffness in the joints of the patient. Usually a list the doctor can provide will need to be followed to avoid a flare up in the future, and tests can be performed to measure the uric acid of the patient to determine how bad the gout has gotten. An injection can often alleviate the immediate conditions, but further instructions like lifting the feet for the crystals to flow out of the bottom most part of the body need to be followed upon consultation of the doctor.
Call to make an appointment with a podiatrist (212) 288-3137
Some other times when you should see a podiatrist asap:
- You have noticeable change to your nails or skin.
- Your feet are severely cracking, scaling, or peeling.
- There are 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 of pus.
- Fever of 100°F(37.78°C) or higher with no other cause.
- Symptoms that do not improve after two weeks of treatment with a non-prescription product.
- Spreading of the infection to other areas, such as the nail bed, or skin under the nail, the nail itself, or the surrounding skin.
- Your toenail is getting thicker and causing you discomfort.
- You have heel pain accompanied by a fever, redness (sometimes warmth) or numbness or tingling in your heel, or persistent pain without putting any
weight or pressure on your heel, or the pain is not alleviated by ice, aspirin, (or ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
- You have diabetes or certain diseases associated with poor circulation and you develop athlete`s foot. People with diabetes are at increased risk for
a severe bacterial infection of the foot and leg if they have athlete's foot.
***This material is only provided as helpful information and not as medical advice and you should consult with your foot doctor or another medical doctor for a professional diagnosis. ***
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