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UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care - Sunnybrook

5885 Sunnybrook Drive
Sioux City, IA 51106

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I've Got Foot Pain. When Should I See a Foot and Ankle Specialist?

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Foot pain can be a real nuisance—data from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) suggests that nearly 80 percent of Americans deal with ailments of the feet, which can range from pinched nerves and tendinitis to bunions and ingrown toenails. 

While foot pain is certainly not uncommon, it can be easy to put off going to the doctor—after all, a lot of less serious foot problems tend to resolve themselves over time. That said, it’s important to look into treating foot pain that persists or is particularly severe, and that’s where foot and ankle specialists come in.

“As specialists, we treat all sorts of issues having to do with the feet, ankles, and the lower parts of the leg,” says Valerie Tallerico, DPM, FACFAS, UnityPoint Clinic Foot and Ankle. “Our mission is to help alleviate our patients’ foot pain and treat any injuries that they might be suffering from.”

A lot of minor foot pain stems from overuse or not wearing the proper footwear. In these cases, it is generally safe to try out home remedies—try applying an ice pack for around 15 minutes a day and avoid any strenuous activity. If the pain or swelling doesn’t subside after a couple weeks, Dr. Tallerico recommends scheduling an appointment to get to the root of the problem.

Dr. Tallerico also suggests seeking out immediate medical attention for foot pain if you’re experiencing any of the following:

Particularly severe pain or swelling
Difficulty walking
Signs of infection such as a fever, redness, or tenderness to the touch
Open wounds or sores that don’t seem to be healing (especially if you suffer from diabetes)

“These symptoms would indicate that there’s something a bit more serious at play than simple overuse of the foot,” says Kosta Antonopoulos, DPM, FACFAS, UnityPoint Clinic Foot and Ankle. “The foot is a really complex part of the body, with all sorts of ligaments, tendons, bones, and muscles that are all interconnected, so there are a lot of different underlying causes to these symptoms.”

While many causes of foot pain might not seem immediately serious, Dr. Antonopoulos says it’s good to get them checked out if the discomfort from them persists for around three weeks, which can help alleviate the pain and speed up the healing process.

More serious foot problems like sprains, arthritis, or skin infections require thorough medical attention, and seeing a foot and ankle specialist is the first step to getting these issues taken care of.

Certain underlying conditions and factors can also increase the likelihood that you’ll suffer from foot problems. Dr. Antonopoulos notes that people with diabetes can be especially prone to foot problems such as ulcers Conditions such as bunions, flat feet, and high arch feet not only can cause pain, but they can lead to other conditions as well. Frequent ankle sprains and instability on uneven surfaces can often be secondary to other foot types.

“A lot of times it’s hard to know when we need to seek out medical care for foot pain because for some reason or another, it doesn’t feel important enough or sometimes we’re embarrassed about it,” says Dr. Antonopoulos. “We need our feet to move around and be active, which can make untreated foot conditions especially debilitating—it’s really important that we be proactive about getting that care when we need it. We often do not realize how important our feet are until we sustain an injury or develop pain.”

To establish care with a UnityPoint Clinic Foot and Ankle provider, call (712) 266-2780.