Heel pain is a common foot problem that podiatrists often treat. Knowing the cause of your pain is important in determining the most effective treatment method. Even if the pain seems minor, it’s amazing how much it can affect your whole body, making it difficult to get out of bed let alone go on your regular run. If you are struggling with heel pain you might be dealing with a condition known as plantar fasciitis.
What is plantar fasciitis?
The source of your pain may originate in the plantar fascia, a tough band of connective tissue that connects your toes to your feet. If the fascia becomes inflamed, you may feel pain in your heel. Of course, everything from wearing high heels to long runs can actually irritate and cause inflammation within the plantar fascia. When this happens this is known as plantar fasciitis. This condition is usually the result of overuse and repeated stress rather than an injury.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis causes heel pain that originates at the bottom of the heel below the heel bone. The pain may spread to the arches of the feet and may also be accompanied by stiffness. These symptoms are often exacerbated first thing in the morning or after long bouts of sitting or standing. Sometimes, light activity and exercise can momentarily lessen the pain.
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
If you know that you have plantar fasciitis (perhaps you’ve had it before) then you know it’s important to rest, avoid physical activity, and take over-the-counter pain relievers. Of course, if you’ve never experienced heel pain before it’s important to see a podiatrist to find out whether it’s plantar fasciitis or another condition such as heel spurs or Achilles tendonitis. A thorough evaluation from a medical professional is often necessary, especially if this is the first time dealing with heel pain.
Your podiatrist can also show you stretching and strengthening exercises that you can perform to help stretch the plantar fascia to reduce pain and discomfort. Some patients also choose to wear a night splint to reduce morning stiffness and arch pain.
If your symptoms aren’t being alleviated through conservative treatment methods or if you are experiencing chronic heel pain your podiatrist may recommend surgery.
If you are dealing with stubborn and painful heels turn to a podiatrist for a consultation.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that often affects blood flow to the legs due to narrowing of the arteries. PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, a serious condition in which fat deposits known as plaques build up in the arteries and eventually restrict or block blood flow.
If you have PAD you will most likely experience painful cramping, weakness or numbness in the legs, particularly during movement. You may also notice that the leg or foot is colder than the rest of your body. Sometimes persistent sores can develop that won’t heal. Your legs may also change color or the skin may appear shiny. While the pain will often go away at rest, if PAD is left untreated you may notice these symptoms even at rest. Sometimes symptoms can even be bad enough to affect your sleep.
While these symptoms can also be indicative of other conditions you should not ignore your symptoms, as undiagnosed PAD can lead to heart attack or stroke. This is why it’s important to see your podiatrist if you notice leg or foot numbness, weakness, tingling or pain.
You may be at an increased risk for peripheral artery disease if you:
- Are obese
- Have high cholesterol
- Have high blood pressure
- Have diabetes
- Are over age 65
- Have a family history of peripheral artery disease or stroke
Preventing Peripheral Artery Disease
Your podiatrist’s goal is to reduce your risk for peripheral artery disease, especially if you are at an increased risk. This involves implementing a variety of lifestyle changes. Some ways to prevent PAD include:
- Getting your diabetes under control
- Lowering your cholesterol
- Exercising regularly several times a week
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy balanced diet and avoiding junk foods
- Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
Treating Peripheral Artery Disease
If you do end up developing PAD a podiatrist can be an instrumental part of your medical team to help you manage your symptoms and prevent complications. PAD treatments are designed to reduce symptoms such as leg pain while also stopping the buildup of fat deposits within the arteries.
Again, modifying your lifestyle can greatly improve your condition. The same lifestyle changes that prevent PAD can also treat PAD. Of course, lifestyle modifications alone won’t be enough to prevent atherosclerosis from progressing. Therefore, your podiatrist may also prescribe certain medications including cholesterol and blood pressure medications, diabetes medication, and medication that prevents blood clots. Sometimes surgery or angioplasty is recommended if there is a blockage within the arteries.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of PAD it’s important that you turn to a podiatrist right away for an evaluation.
One wrong step and you could just end up dealing with a sprained ankle. A sprain occurs when the ankle suddenly rolls inwards or outwards, which jolts the ankle joint out of place and also overstretches (and perhaps even tears) the ligaments and tendons of the ankles. These tendons also provide the feet with support. It’s important to understand how to best care for a sprained ankle and when you should see a podiatrist for care.
You could be dealing with an ankle sprain if you experience:
- Ankle pain
- Limited range of motion
- Trouble putting weight on the ankle
If you suspect that you have sprained your ankle it’s important to call your podiatrist right away. A foot doctor will be able to discuss your symptoms with you and then determine whether you should come in for an immediate evaluation. A doctor will also provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan that will promote a fast and complete recovery.
There are different degrees of a sprain and the way your podiatrist recommends treating the injury will depend on its severity and the symptoms you are experiencing. Mild sprains can often be managed with simple home treatment. This includes resting and staying off the ankle as much as possible as well as:
- Bandaging or wrapping the ankle
- Wearing an ankle braces
- Using crutches (for more serious sprains)
- Elevating your ankle to reduce swelling
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Taking pain relievers like ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling
- Not putting weight on the ankle
- Icing the ankle 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a day (for the first 48 hours after injury)
It can take up to 10 days for a mild sprain to heal, while more severe sprains can take several weeks. When you come into the office for an evaluation, your podiatrist will also discuss how long you should stay off the ankle and avoid certain activities.
It is rare for a sprained ankle to require surgery; however, if there is significant damage to the ligaments that could lead to long-term instability and other issues, or if your symptoms do not improve with home care, then your foot and ankle doctor may recommend surgery to repair the torn ligament.
With proper and prompt care an ankle sprain should heal completely and not require additional treatment; however, the minute you experience symptoms of a sprained ankle or ankle injury you should see your podiatrist as soon as possible.
Toenail fungus is a common problem that can be rather challenging to get rid of. While toenail fungus can happen to anyone it most often occurs in older adults. If you are noticing that one of your toenails has thickened, become brittle and turned yellow then chances are good that you are dealing with a toenail fungus.
What causes a fungal infection in the toenail?
A toenail fungal infection, known as onychomycosis, is the result of a fungal known as a dermatophyte. While less common, molds and yeasts can also infect the toenails. The reason older adults are more prone to fungal nail infections is because nails dry out as we age, which leads to cracks within the nail. These cracks make it easier for a fungal infection to get inside the nail.
Fungal is all around us. They are more often found in warm, dark, and damp places such as communal locker rooms and showers, gyms, and local swimming pools. It’s also possible to get a toenail fungus from a nail salon so it’s important to know the hygiene and sterilization practices of your local nail salon to make sure that you aren’t at risk for developing a fungal infection.
Treating Toenail Fungus
The good news it that healthy individuals may be able to tackle their toenail fungus on their own with over-the-counter medication. If you don’t have a weak immune system, diabetes or circulation problems then you may choose to try at-home treatments first before turning to a doctor. Those with circulation disorders or diabetes should see their podiatrist right away for treatment if they notice symptoms of a fungal infection. Not seeking treatment could greatly increase a person’s risk for bacterial infections and other potentially serious complications.
There are many over-the-counter products available to treat fungal infections. You will want to find a treatment that is geared specifically to treating fungal infections of the nail. Talk with your local pharmacist to find out the best treatment option. Over-the-counter antifungal medications often come in the form of a cream, ointment or nail polish that you will need to apply regularly for several weeks. If these medications don’t work then it’s time to talk with your foot doctor.
A foot doctor offers a variety of effective strategies for getting rid of toenail fungal infections. The most common treatment option is an oral antifungal medication that works systemically to kill the fungus. This medication is taken for several weeks but you won’t actually see results until the nail grows out clear, which can take up to four months or longer.
Other treatment options include:
- Medicated nail polish
- Laser fungal treatment
- Nail removal surgery (in rare cases)
If you are dealing with a pesky nail fungus then turn to your podiatrist to discover the best strategies for getting rid of this infection as quickly as possible.
A child's feet grow rapidly during the first year, reaching almost half of their adult foot size. This is why podiatrists consider the first year to be the most important in the development of the feet. Proper care at a young age is essential for healthy development. Since many adult foot ailments develop in childhood, periodic visits to your child’s podiatrist and basic foot care can help minimize these problems later in life.
A child’s feet are formed from soft, pliable cartilage which makes them more susceptible to deformities. A young child can be affected by foot conditions such as:
- Flat feet
- Heel pain
Tips for Parents
Parents can help promote normal, healthy foot development for their baby.
- Examine your baby’s feet regularly. If you detect anything unusual, contact your child’s pediatrician or podiatrist right away.
- Encourage exercise. Lying uncovered allows the baby to kick and move feet and toes freely so not to inhibit normal development.
- Cover feet loosely. Tight clothing or covers restrict movement.
- Alternate your baby’s position several times a day. Lying too long in one spot may place unnecessary strain on the feet and legs.
As your baby continues to grow and develop, so will the feet. It may be necessary to change shoe and sock size every few months, as tight-fitting footwear can aggravate pre-existing conditions. After your child takes their first steps, you should also carefully observe walking patterns. Intoeing, out-toeing, and gait abnormalities can be corrected when they are detected early.
A baby’s feet will carry them throughout life, so it’s important to begin good foot care at a young age. Neglecting your child’s foot health invites problems in other parts of the body, such as the back and legs. Whether you have questions about your child’s foot health or suspect a problem with the development of your child’s feet, please contact our office. We want every step your child makes toward adulthood to be pain-free and easy!
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