It is estimated that 77 percent of Americans will experience a foot problem during their lifetime, but only a fraction actually visit the foot doctor for treatment. It is advisable to visit a podiatrist as soon as symptoms become noticeable to prevent them from turning into emergencies. Proper foot care can protect against persistent pain,…
Podiatry: Common Foot and Ankle Conditions and Treatments
The field of podiatry is devoted to diagnosing and treating conditions of the foot and ankle. Supporting the weight of the body on a daily basis can put an enormous amount of pressure on the feet, which are sometimes not up to the continuous strain. Damage to the feet and ankles is fairly common and usually treatable.
Common conditions encountered in podiatry
Podiatrists see a number of common conditions affecting the foot and ankle on a regular basis.
Conditions that affect the foot
An ingrown toenail can occur because of shoes that are too tight or nails that are cut too short. Swelling, pain and redness can result from the edges of the toenail pressing into the flesh alongside it. Left untreated, an infection may develop.
Fungal infections can affect either the skin of the foot or the toenails. Exposure to a number of different species of fungi can lead to infection, which can cause cracking, itching, scaling and redness, among other symptoms.
Genetics, improper footwear and other medical conditions can lead to the formation of bony deformities of the foot. Among the most common of these are bunions and hammertoes.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of one of the main ligaments in the foot. It causes heel pain that typically gets worse with rest and better with activity. Symptoms are often most pronounced in the morning after getting out of bed.
Conditions that affect the ankle
Being a significant weightbearing joint, the ankle is prone to accidental twisting during physical activity. Twisting can result in a stretching or tearing of the ligaments called a sprain, as well as ankle fractures.
Arthritis affects the joints of the foot and ankle and develops over time. A specific type of arthritis that affects the ankle and causes stiffness is called osteochondritis dissecans.
The Achilles tendon that connects the ankle to the foot is prone to tearing due to trauma or inflammation due to overuse. Achilles tendon injuries are strongly associated with sports, but even non-athletes can experience one.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tarsal tunnel in the ankle swells and irritates the leg nerve as it travels down to the foot. Prolonged standing, walking or exercise may be aggravating factors.
Treatments for foot and ankle conditions
A number of treatments may be used in the field of podiatry to address foot and ankle complaints. The type of treatment employed depends on the condition, but options may include the following:
- Conservative measures (compression, icing, elevation, etc.)
Medications may be effective at resolving infections such as foot fungus. Injections of medications such as corticosteroids are frequently used to calm inflammation of soft tissues in the foot and ankle.
Whenever possible, a podiatrist typically prefers to treat injuries like fractures, sprains or foot deformities with conservative treatment measures. However, surgery may be indicated when conservative measures prove ineffective.
Though meant to sustain a lot of pressure during weightbearing activities, the foot and ankle can be vulnerable to injury. A podiatrist is trained to diagnose and treat these conditions.
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