Foot and ankle injuries are common among athletes and those who exercise frequently. Most of these injuries are non-life-threatening and can heal in weeks with proper treatment and care. Serious injuries, however, require urgent medical treatment.
Common minor injuries include ankle sprains, ankle strains, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and turf toe. An ankle sprain is when the ligaments in the ankle have either become stretched or torn. When the muscle or tendon is stretched or torn, it is an ankle strain. When the big toe is sprained, it is known as turf toe. Achilles tendonitis is the overuse and inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia and generally occurs from overuse in athletics. Stress fractures are also caused from overuse and are small cracks in the bone.
Achilles tendon ruptures are common, but more serious. This injury occurs when the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body, ruptures. In most cases, this causes severe pain and difficulty walking; some who have experienced this injury have reported, however, no signs or symptoms. A laceration is a deep cut that can occur anywhere on the body. Lacerations on the foot are rarer, but can occur from things like metal cleats landing on the foot.
Treatment options cover a wide range of methods based upon the injury and its severity. Conditions like plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, turf toe and ankle sprains/ strains can heal on their own without immediate medical care, but seeing a podiatrist to monitor the injury is always recommended. Following the RICE (Rest, Icing, Compression, and Elevation) protocol is generally enough to treat minor injuries. This means resting the foot by either keeping pressure off the foot or not walking at all. Icing the injury will help reduce swelling and pain. Compressing the wound with a wrap will immobilize and help promote healing. Finally, keeping the wound elevated will also reduce swelling and also help the healing process.
It is important to note that even minor injuries can vary in severity, with grade one being a minor injury and grade three requiring urgent care by a podiatrist. Achilles tendon ruptures and lacerations on the foot generally require urgent medical care and treatment options that need a podiatrist. These could include imaging tests, stitches for cuts, rehabilitation, and casts or braces. Every case is different, however, so it is always recommended to see a podiatrist when pain in the foot does not disappear.
Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, which is required for glucose to feed your body’s cells. It is typically caused by the immune system mistaking healthy cells for foreign invaders and destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. On the other hand, people with Type 2 diabetes cannot respond to insulin properly, and eventually cannot produce enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, with 1 in 4 having no idea they have it. Surprisingly, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. The symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, fatigue, hunger, and even blurry vision.
Diabetes can also affect the feet as well. Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage to your feet, which could then lead to symptoms such as tingling, pain and numbness in the feet. Neuropathy can be very dangerous to a person with diabetes, since it prevents them from feeling injuries such as cuts or blisters in the feet, and if not detected early enough, may lead to infection. Neuropathy can also lead changes in the shape of your feet and toes. The best way for people with diabetes to prevent or delay neuropathy is keeping their blood glucose levels in their target range. This consists of eating right, having the correct amount of exercise, and taking medications.
Diabetes can also create calluses and foot ulcers as well. Calluses build up faster and occur more frequently with those affected by diabetes. If there are too many calluses, therapeutic shoes and inserts may be required. It is important to have calluses trimmed by a health professional, as doing it yourself may lead to infections. If these calluses continue to develop and thicken, they can lead to foot ulcers. Foot ulcers are open sores, that appear on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe. These ulcers can lead to future infections if not treated and may possibly result in losing a limb. It is important to report any ulcers to your podiatrist right away. Your doctor may take x-rays to examine the foot and clean out any dead and infected tissue.
Lastly, diabetes can also lead to poor circulation and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). The poor circulation in the feet and leg area is a result of diabetes narrowing and hardening, eventually slowing down the blood flow in that area. The best way to prevent this is to keep away from smoking and follow your doctor’s advice for maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol. PAD is similar to this complication. PAD is when blood vessels narrow or are blocked by fatty deposits. PAD also increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes and is a common condition to those affected by diabetes. The combination of both PAD and neuropathy may lead to infections and can result in amputation of certain limbs. PAD can be prevented with wearing the proper foot wear and regularly taking care of your feet.
If you want to take care of your feet, you should wash and dry them carefully and perform daily inspections to check for cuts, blisters, or swelling. Any physical activity you partake in should be approved by your health care provider. You should also be sure to wear special shoes if advised to do so by your doctor.
Bunions are large bony bumps at the base of the big toe. Medically known as hallux valgus, a bunion is a misalignment of the metatarsophalangeal joint, or big toe joint. The misalignment will generally worsen with time if left untreated.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, with genetics seen as a potential cause. High heels and poorly-fitted footwear, rheumatoid arthritis, and heredity all seem to be potential factors behind the exacerbation of bunions. Women have been found to be more likely to develop bunions in comparison to men.
Bunions do not always produce symptoms. The best way to tell is if the big toe is pushing up against the next toe and there is a large protrusion at the base of the big toe. You may or may not feel pain. Redness, swelling, and restricted movement of the big toe may be present as well.
Podiatrists use a variety of methods to diagnose bunions. If there are symptoms present, podiatrists will first consider that it is a bunion. If not, a physical examination will be conducted to check function of the big toe. Finally, an X-ray may be taken to view the extent of the bunion and confirm it is a bunion.
Typically, nonsurgical methods are used to treat bunions, unless the bunion has become too misaligned. Orthotics, icing and resting the foot, roomier and better fitted shoes, taping the foot, and pain medication are usually utilized first. If the bunion doesn’t go away or causes extreme pain, surgery may be required. Surgeons will either remove part of the swollen tissue or bone to straighten the toe out.
If you have a bunion, it is recommended to see a podiatrist. The longer it is left untreated, the worse it may get. Podiatrists can properly diagnose and treat a bunion before it gets worse.
The feet, being the foundation of the body, carry all of the body’s weight and are therefore prone to experiencing pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing foot pain, it is important to determine where in the foot you are experiencing this pain to help discover the cause of it. While pain can be experienced virtually anywhere in the foot, the most common sites of foot pain are in the heel and ankle.
Heel pain can be due to a multitude of conditions including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and heel spurs. Pain experienced in the ankle can be a sign of an ankle sprain, arthritis, gout, ankle instability, ankle fracture, or nerve compression. In more serious cases, pain in the foot can be a sign of improper alignment or an infection.
Foot pain can be accompanied by symptoms including redness, swelling, stiffness and warmth in the affected area. Whether the pain can be described as sharp or dull depends on the foot condition behind it. It is important to visit your local podiatrist if your foot pain and its accompanying symptoms persist and do not improve over time.
Depending on the location and condition of your foot pain, your podiatrist may prescribe certain treatments. These treatments can include but are not limited to prescription or over-the-counter drugs and medications, certain therapies, cortisone injections, or surgery.
If you are experiencing persistent foot pain, it is important to consult with your foot and ankle doctor to determine the cause and location. He or she will then prescribe the best treatment for you. While milder cases of foot pain may respond well to rest and at-home treatments, more serious cases may take some time to fully recover.