Even though the majority of people use their feet every day, many put off seeing a foot doctor — also known as a podiatrist — if they have foot pain. Reasons people put off visiting the doctor vary but generally fall into these categories:
- They believe their foot pain will go away on its own
- They think the foot issue is not severe enough to warrant seeing a podiatrist
- They do not recognize common foot problems or know that they can be treated
- They are worried that they’ll need surgery
If you’re experiencing any of the foot problems below, it might be time to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist.
- Thick calluses or corns. While these areas of built-up skin aren’t always painful, if they become too large, they can cause pain. Additionally, there might be an underlying condition that’s causing them, like bunions (bony growths under the skin). A podiatrist can properly diagnose you, then offer treatment such as a cortisone injection to reduce pain. He or she can also painlessly remove the dead skin cells.
- Heel issues that aren’t going away. If your heels are dry and the skin splits and bleeds, you are at higher risk for infection. Heel pain may also indicate a heel spur, which is another type of abnormal bony growth. Tendonitis can cause heel pain, too. A podiatrist can determine what’s causing the problem and suggest helpful treatments.
- An ingrown toenail that’s getting worse. If a toenail is trimmed too short, it can grow into the skin causing pain and possibly infection. People who attempt to care for ingrown toenails themselves often make the problem worse, damaging the nail and the surrounding tissues. A podiatrist can prescribe medication or safely remove part of the nail if needed.
- A persistent fungal infection. Athlete’s foot is an itchy and unpleasant condition that can make the skin between toes look scaly. If you’ve tried antifungal treatment at home for more than a couple of weeks, and it’s still not working, see a podiatrist. He or she can check for a bacterial infection and if present, prescribe antibiotics as treatment.
- Bunions that are causing discomfort. If you have a bunion, you should see a podiatrist sooner rather than later. Bunions often get worse unless they’re treated. Surgery may be needed, but other options such as a medication or taping may also work.
- Chronic joint pain. If your foot or ankle joints are swollen, red, stiff or tender, or it simply hurts when you stand or walk, you could have arthritis or another condition. A podiatrist can properly diagnose you, then offer treatments to reduce joint pain, from medications to minimally invasive procedures to joint surgery or replacement.
- Numbness and tingling. People with diabetes are more susceptible to foot problems. These can range from dry skin to infections to a nerve condition (neuropathy). If you’re experiencing foot numbness along with tingling or burning, it could be a sign of neuropathy. If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, you should make an appointment with a podiatrist at least once a year.
Some foot problems go away on their own, but others get worse. For this reason, it makes good sense to see a podiatrist early on if you are experiencing foot issues. Because of their focused expertise in issues of the foot and ankle, podiatrists can expertly diagnose conditions, then offer treatments that can help you experience less pain and more enjoyment in your life.