The Most Common Foot and Ankle Problems a Podiatrist Treats
Beyond performing surgery, podiatrists, who are foot and ankle surgeons, take care of so much more than you may realize. Routine or general podiatric care is all about keeping a patient’s feet, ankles, and lower legs healthy. Today we are going to be discussing general and routine podiatry care.
General or Routine Podiatry Care
No matter your medical history, you should always stay on top of your foot health and have routine checkups with your podiatrist. Your primary care provider may be able to help, but they will not have the know-how or experience that a trained foot and ankle specialist will.
Podiatrists treat conditions such as:
- Biomechanical abnormalities
- General or reconstructive surgery
- Geriatric care
- Vascular/Circulatory foot conditions
- Inflammatory conditions
Here are the most common treatments that podiatrist sees and treats:
- Nail debridement: Nail debridement is the significant reduction in the length and thickness of the toenail, aiming to allow the patient to walk without pain. Debridement involves the trimming of a viable nail plate or a diseased toenail bed. This is often performed manually, with the use of a nail nipper and/or electric grinder. Debridement is the trimming of part of the nail, while avulsion is the removal of the entire nail.
- Treatment of fungal toenails: To diagnose fungal infections, the podiatrist may take a nail clipping or scrape debris from under the patient’s nail in order to send a sample to the lab. The sample will be used to identify the type of fungal infection the patient is dealing with. With this diagnosis, the doctor and patient will decide on a treatment, also depending on the severity of symptoms.
- Callus debridement: Callus debridement is the removal of a callus on the foot. Calluses often need to be removed because of the pain or discomfort they cause the patient. Oftentimes calluses cannot be removed with a simple pumice stone or file, then a trained podiatrist will be employed to relieve a patient’s discomfort while mitigating risk. Untreated calluses can lead to ulcerations, so it is important to have them regularly debrided.
- Ingrown toenail treatment: At times, ingrown toenails can be treated with at-home remedies or over-the-counter products like antibiotic cream, foot soaks, ingrown toenail soaks, and more. Ingrown toenail treatment may need to be taken care of by a podiatrist. The treatment can include your doctor lifting your ingrown toenail, partially removing it, or fully removing the toenail. Your doctor may also pair these treatments with topical or oral antibiotics.
- Treatment of plantar warts: To diagnose a plantar wart, your doctor may examine the area, pare the area, or send in a part of the area for laboratory results. While many plantar warts go away on their own, they can also spread or cause pain. Your doctor can recommend peeling medicine, freezing medicine, immunotherapy, minor surgery, or laser treatment.
- Orthotic casting: Orthotics are medical devices worn inside the patient’s shoes to help correct biomechanical foot issues and to help the way they stand, run or walk. Podiatrists create these devices by creating a plaster casting, taking foam molds, or using digital scanning technology to create an orthotic that fits the unique contours of the patient’s anatomy. They are also designed based on how the patient moves, allowing orthotics to help patients walk in a way that won’t create further injury and will correct any biomechanical issues a patient may be experiencing.
- Wound care: Wound care often includes the care of traumatic, chronic, diabetes-related, heel ulcers, lower extremity ulcers, and other wounds a patient may have. It is important for patients to seek care before further damage and infection are prevented. If left untreated, the patient could be at risk for infection or limb loss.
- Painful bunions: Bunions are bony bumps that can form on the joint at the base of your big toe. This happens when the bones in the front section of your foot move out of place. Bunions can often be caused by a choice of footwear: like high heels, shoes with a narrow toe box, or ill fitting footwear. Your doctor can help you manage and/or treat your painful bunions based on your diagnosis.
- Hammertoes: Hammertoes are curled toes that are caused by a bend in the joint of the toe. If you have a hammertoe, your doctor will help by starting with a physical examination and an x-ray. Evaluating the way you walk and your foot type can help determine the cause of your hammertoes. This can be treated with shoe inserts, pain relievers, insulated padding, and potentially surgery. This condition should not be left untreated.
- Neuromas: A Neuroma is a painful condition, often referred to as a “pinched nerve(s)” or a “benign nerve tumor”. It is an inflammation or thickening of the nerve tissue that feels like you are “walking on a pebble”. Treatment includes physical therapy, orthotics, and injections. Surgical treatments that your doctor might recommend for this condition are decompression surgery or removal of the nerve. Beyond a surgical approach, your doctor may be able to recommend anti-inflammatory medications, footwear changes, and other at-home remedies.
- Gout: Gout is a form of arthritis. Gout often causes sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness for patients. Treatment includes medication, especially for preventative measures. Gout can also be treated at home, but it is best to meet with your podiatric doctor so they can recommend the best treatment for your unique situation, anatomy and medical background, and personal history (especially when it comes to your consumption of specific foods and alcohol).
Integrated Orthopedics offers both comprehensive orthopedic and podiatric care. Dr. Nilin M. Rao, DPM, Ph.D, AACFAS, a Fellowship-Trained Foot & Ankle Surgeon, is our team’s podiatrist with experience treating general and complex foot and ankle conditions, both conservatively and surgically. If you’re experiencing foot or ankle challenges, we invite you to schedule an appointment for podiatric care in Scottsdale/Phoenix with Dr. Rao.