When To See a Podiatrist?
By Carolyn Morales, in collaboration with Dr. Mark Henson, DPM
It’s difficult not to take our feet for granted when they feel fine and take us from A to B. However, sometimes problems creep up, and we ignore them for a while because they don’t seem to interfere with daily life.
Until they do.
Now, there are all kinds of reasons not to wait until you can’t walk, or you’ve reached a 12 on the pain scale, or your toenails are growing through your shoes. And we genuinely WANT to get everyone in to see the doctor, especially if there is pain, or an extremity at stake. But there are extenuating circumstances; it may be the weekend and you can’t get an appointment; the Doctor may be out of the office, or in surgery. We don’t want you to suffer pain that could be avoided, or do irreparable damage.
So, we’ve compiled a list, in no particular order, of reasons to go see a podiatrist ASAP rather than suffering through what may seem like an momentary annoyance:
- You have diabetes: Dr. Henson recommends seeing a podiatrist every six months if you’re over age 50. Keeping an eye on your feet is always a good idea, and having a professional check the circulation and feeling in your feet is too. Even simple calluses on your feet can be problematic if you have diabetes. We can keep your nails and calluses trimmed and check for cuts or blisters that you may not see of feel.
- Thickened or painful toenails: It turns out that over 50% of the population over age 50 has thickened toenails. If your toenails are difficult to clip, you should know that Dr. Henson has yet to meet a toenail he can’t handle. If you, or someone you know, have poor eyesight, trouble reaching your feet, or unsteady hands, let your podiatrist handle it. And if you have diabetes, it’s even more important to have your feet in good hands (literally).
- Foot pain that limits your daily activities: You haven’t been exercising like you normally do. Or you come home from work and immediately have to prop your feet up. Maybe you feel like you’re missing out on activities that you used to enjoy. It may not have to be that way. Get it checked out!
- Thick calluses or corns that cause discomfort: This one is huge. Oftentimes calluses can mask other issues, or can lead to problems. Calluses are the leading cause of diabetic ulcers. And waiting too long can be costly. Most insurances will cover having a professional safely trim thick calluses.
- Painful bunions; they hurt when wearing shoes: Bunions can often be a cosmetic problem and not painful. Sometimes, though, they can begin to push the other toes around, leading to other issues or pain. There are conservative and surgical options. Simply put: if they bother you, make an appointment with a podiatrist.
- Severe cracking, scaling, or bleeding on heel, foot, or ankle: If over-the-counter products are not helping, it may be time to get a professional opinion. And sometimes the non-prescription treatments are not strong enough.
- Persistent pain in feet or joints: If you’re currently seeing a rheumatologist, that may be the route to continue. But if your joint is inflamed, red, and warm, call a podiatrist. Some of these ailments can go away on their own; while others can lead to more pain and joint damage if left untreated.
- A suspected broken bone: Sometimes hairline fractures are difficult to see. With 26 bones and 33 joints in each foot, a podiatrist is accustomed to searching out tiny cracks. Sooner is better than later on this one, as proper care may prevent the bone from snapping
- Non-healing wound below the knee: Other non-healing wounds may warrant a trip to the doctor, but not a podiatrist. If it’s below the knee, a podiatrist specializes in this part of the body, and Dr. Henson, like many podiatrists has a lot of experience dealing with open wounds. There is a rick for infection, which can be dangerous.
- There are signs of a bacterial infection, which are: warmth, redness, drainage, and/or red streaks extending from the affected area: Your primary care provider will be able to get you started on antibiotics and will probably refer you to a podiatrist to treat the wound. If your insurance doesn’t require a referral, you may want to skip a step and schedule directly with a podiatrist. Either way, seek treatment!