Every step counts when it comes to your life. Your feet allow you to run marathons, walk to the local coffee shop, and dance at your wedding. Healthy feet can enhance your life, but feet that hurt can make life less enjoyable. Caring for your feet can feel like work, but your local podiatrist is here to help. Understanding what a podiatrist does and the threats your feet may face can help you take a step in the right direction when it comes to foot health.
What is a podiatrist?
Your feet carry you through each day. They support your legs, hips, abdomen, chest and head. Thus, problems with your feet can negatively affect the rest of your body. Luckily, your local podiatrist treats conditions in the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. While your regular doctor is knowledgeable about foot problems, a podiatrist is the most qualified when it comes to diagnosing and treating issues of the feet. A podiatrist can specialize in a variety of fields including diabetic care, wound care, surgery, sports medicine and pediatrics. Recognizing how the following health issues can affect your feet will keep you on your toes.
If you suffer from diabetes, your sugar levels are higher than normal. This condition is called hyperglycemia. In addition, your body does not use insulin properly. While your pancreas tries to make extra insulin, it eventually cannot keep up and your sugar levels become irregular. Diabetes can cause several different foot problems, including neuropathy and poor circulation that can sometimes lead to amputation.
Nerve damage in the foot is called neuropathy and can cause pain, uncomfortable tingling sensations and even loss of feeling. If the nerves in your feet are impaired, you may not feel or notice injuries until they become very infected.
While neuropathy increases your chances of foot infections, poor circulation decreases your foot’s ability to battle these infections and heal. Diabetes causes blood vessels in the legs and feet to narrow, allowing less blood to reach your feet. Exercise is the best remedy for poor circulation as long as you wear comfortable shoes.
Unfortunately, people who suffer from diabetes have a much higher risk of foot and leg amputations. A lack of sensation and blood flow can lead to ulcers and other infections that often require amputation.
Arthritis occurs when the cartilage and lining of the joints become swollen and inflamed. The disease can take a variety of forms and is painful and debilitating. Arthritis in your feet can ultimately lead to a loss of mobility. Therefore, it is imperative to visit a podiatrist if you experience the following symptoms:
- Swelling in the joints
- Painful or tender joints
- Redness on a joint
- Trouble with moving a joint
- Early morning stiffness
- Skin changes
According to the CDC, more than one-third of Americans are considered obese. Carrying around extra weight puts more pressure on your hips, knees and ankles. This added pressure can lead to diabetes and more wear and tear on your feet, such as heel pain and tendinitis.
Your feet and ankles provide your body with stability. Foot and ankle injuries, including sprains, strains and fractures, can make your feet less supportive. Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist if you experience pain or swelling in your feet or ankles or if you have trouble walking.
5. Muscle and Tendon Problems
Muscles, tendons and bones allow your feet to carry you from place to place. If a muscle or tendon in your foot or ankle is injured, the simple act of walking can become quite painful. Three common muscle and tendon problems include:
- Haglund's Deformity: When the heel bone becomes bony and inflamed.
- Heel Pain: Caused by too much stress on the heel bone and connecting tissues.
- Tendinitis: Inflammation of a tendon that can become a chronic problem.
6. Skin Ailments
The list of skin ailments is never ending but developing certain skin disorders on your feet can pose major health problems. See a podiatrist if the following skin issues develop:
- Athlete's Foot: A disease that typically affects the foot and is caused by a fungus. Symptoms include inflammation, itching and burning, and dry skin.
- Corns and Calluses: Thickened areas of skin that can lead to discomfort.
- Psoriasis: Reddened skin with white patches that occurs when new skin cells move to the surface of the skin too quickly, allowing dead skin cells to accumulate.
- Warts: A viral infection that affects the soft tissues of the foot.
7. Toe Joint and Nerve Problems
Pain or numbness in the joints of the toes can cause the following foot issues:
- Bunions: A bump on the joint of the base of the big toe that causes the toe to bend toward the others resulting in pain.
- Hammer Toe: A bend at the first joint of the toe causing pain, swelling, and redness.
- Neuroma: A pinched nerve in the toe that causes sensations of tingling, burning, and num
2. Toenail Conditions
Your toenails may be the least of your worries but they can cause major discomfort if the following conditions develop:
- Ingrown Toenail: Occurs when the corners of the nail dig into the surrounding skin causing redness, swelling, and irritation.
- Toenail Fungus: A fungal infection underneath the toenail that can cause pain and discoloration of the nail.
Protect your feet and continue moving forward by seeing a podiatrist if you experience pain, swelling, redness or numbness in your feet, ankles or legs. Your quality of life depends on it!
Schedule an appointment at the podiatry clinic in Sioux City if your feet need some extra attention. Two full-time podiatrists specialize in every aspect of foot care and can provide you with the most effective treatment. Get a free foot screening and shoe fitting at the Frazzled Feet: Living with Diabetes event to keep you stepping in a healthy direction.