We often forget about the importance of keeping our feet healthy, and given that on average we will walk around 128,000 km in our lifetime, foot problems have the ability to greatly impact our quality of life. So what should you do when you have an issue with your foot or ankle? See a podiatrist! Podiatrists are medically qualified to treat conditions of the lower limb and on a daily basis, will treat a wide range of conditions including arthritis pain, bunions, calluses and corns, diabetes complications, ingrown toenails, sports injuries, and more. They are trained to diagnose infections of the foot and toenails and can treat patients of all ages with foot and ankle complications related to other medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and peripheral arterial disease. Let’s take a look at some of the common conditions that podiatrists treat and how they do it.
One of the more painful conditions, a bunion is a foot deformity characterised by an abnormal, swollen bony bump that appears on the joint at the base of the big toe. Often caused by genetics, biomechanical factors such as low arches or flat feet, or by wearing shoes that are too tight, bunions are generally a problem associated with women however men can also be affected.
A podiatrist plays an invaluable role in managing patients with bunions, as they can offer a number of options to the patient that can help relieve pain and reduce the severity of the deformity. Padding and taping is often the first step in a treatment plan, padding the bunion minimizes pain and allows the patient to continue a normal, active life. Taping helps keep the foot in a normal position, reducing stress and pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections may also be prescribed to ease the acute pain and inflammation caused by joint deformities. Customised prescription orthotic devices that help reduce the stress on a bunion and prevent worsening of the deformity are a valuable intervention when there is a biomechanical involvement like hypermobile joints or pronated feet. Finally, if other treatment avenues have been exhausted, podiatric surgery may be necessary to relive pressure and repair the toe joint. Outcomes of bunion surgery can vary depending on the amount of damage to the joint and the procedure used to correct it.
An ingrown toenail occurs when the side of the nail curls down and grows into the skin around the nail. Typically occurring in the big toenail, the nail grows into and penetrates the skin on either or both sides of the nail. This results in pain, swelling, in some cases bleeding and on some occasions it can also get infected.
So how can a podiatrist help? Depending on the extent of the ingrown nail, a podiatrist may be able to remove a small wedge of nail to resolve the problem. The area may also be packed with foam or cotton wool to provide a barrier between the nail and the skin. In the case of infection, antibiotics will be required. Surgery may also be needed if a large portion of nail is growing into the skin, this involves removing a section of the toenail under local anaesthetic. Following the procedure, the toe usually heals within a couple of weeks with minimal pain and minimal impact of quality of life.
Corns and calluses
Hard, painful areas of skin that often develop on the feet in response to pressure or friction, corns and calluses are common among people who wear ill-fitting shoes, have sweaty feet, and those who stand for long periods each day. Whilst not dangerous, they can cause a great level of discomfort.
If in home treatments such as files and pumice stones have not worked, a podiatrist might cut away some of the thick skin with a scalpel to relieve pressure on the tissues that lie beneath. People should not cut the corn or callus themselves as it could make the area more painful and increase the risk of infection. Removal by a podiatrist is usually a pain free treatment and relief is usually provided within a few minutes. A podiatrist can also address the underlying cause of corns and callused lesions to reduce their likelihood of re-occurrence.
From tinea and arthritis to sports injuries and toenail problems, podiatrists are experts in foot, ankle and lower limb health. At The Walking Clinic, we are Canberra’s leading professionals in foot care and can help treat any foot or ankle conditions you may have. Give us a call today to book an appointment.