Podiatrists, or Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), are, in fact, real physicians.
Podiatrists specialize in treating foot and ankle problems. Podiatrists treat all problems related to the foot or ankle, and the variety of cases is endless. However, the most common problems I see are:
• Heel and/or arch pain
• Ingrown toe nails
• Bunions (bumps on the inside of the big toe)
• Hammertoes (bent toes)
• Flat feet
• Foot or ankle arthritis
• Fungal toenails
• Sores (ulcers)
• Sprains and fractures
• Ankle pain or weakness
• Nerve problems and neuropathy (numbness, burning, or tingling)
• Shin splints
• Athlete's foot
• Sports medicine and diabetics foot problems
• Children's foot problems
• Swelling or discoloration
• Plantar warts
• Arthritis of foot and ankle
• Heel spurs
• Corns and Callouses
• Moles, cysts, tumors or lesions
When to Call a Podiatrist:
1. You Have Foot or Ankle Pain
Some aches and pains in our feet or ankles may go away in a day in a two; others do not, and that is when you need to go to a podiatrist.
Many people who see me for a painful foot or ankle have had pain for several days or weeks, but some have been limping around for several months or even over a year!
Pain is the body's way of telling us something is wrong. Don't ignore it.
However, not all people with foot or ankle problems have pain. For example, diabetics who have neuropathy (a deterioration of the nerves of their feet) may fracture a bone or develop an infection or sore on their foot and not have any pain.
Recently, I had a patient with diabetes come to see me complaining of a small sore on the bottom of their foot; an x-ray revealed a needle inside the foot.
Because the patient had very little feeling in her feet she didn't know she had stepped on anything sharp.
In all patients, foot and ankle problems can quickly become serious, but diabetics are especially at risk.
Diabetics who don't seek podiatric care promptly often develop gangrene and need a toe or the whole foot amputated.
Prompt treatment is essential. All diabetics or anyone else with decreased feeling in their feet need to have any foot or ankle problems checked by a podiatrist immediately.
2. You Notice Changes in Your Feet
Some people may notice one foot swelling or flattening.
Diabetics and others with neuropathy may not have pain, however these are the people most at risk for a particularly serious problem called charcot arthropathy.
In charcot arthropathy, the bones of the foot weaken and slide out of position, and may actually break through the bottom of the foot, leading to infection and even amputation.
For other patients, a rapid flattening of one foot may mean the main tendon holding up their foot has torn.
It is a good guideline for anyone who notices swelling, redness, increased warmth, or a change in the shape of his or her foot or ankle to see a podiatrist promptly.
3. You Find Something Abnormal On Your Foot or Ankle
A podiatrist should check any lumps, bumps, cysts, tumors, or moles on your foot or ankles. These problems are usually harmless, but occasionally they can be cancer and life threatening.
Final Thoughts on Foot and Ankle Problems
If you have a foot or ankle problem or pain, the best advice I can give you is: Don't wait for it to go away—it may not.
If you experience persistent pain, notice changes in the shape or color of your feet, or find an abnormality, then see your podiatrist right away.