Ten Signs It's Time to See a Podiatrist

As the weather gets warmer, our feet and ankles are coming out of hibernation —but they may not exactly be ready for sandal season. The truth is that many people put off seeing the doctor about problems with their feet or ankles because they are unsure of where to go for treatment. Or, believe it or not, they think that continuous foot discomfort is normal. Trust me, it’s not normal to have constant foot pain.

If you have any issues that involve the foot and or ankle—a sports injury, arthritis/joint pain, skin problems, etc. —a visit to the podiatrist is your best bet. A podiatrist is a specialist who manages and treats almost all symptoms that involve the ankle and/or the foot.

If you are experiencing any of the following problems or symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment to see a podiatrist.

  1. Numbness, pain or swelling in one foot. Occasionally suffering from sore or swollen feet is normal (after running a 10k race or standing on your feet all day, for example) but sudden pain, swelling or numbness in one foot for no apparent reason can be a sign of a serious problem and requires a trip to the doctor.
  2. Nail fungus. The number of cases of fungal infection on toenails has increased exponentially with the growing popularly of nail salons. Left untreated, the infection causes the nails to become thick and discolored, and you risk it spreading to the other toenails.
  3. Continuous heel pain. Heel pain can be caused by a variety of different issues. A podiatrist will perform an exam and take x-rays to determine the root cause and develop a treatment plan.
  4. You think you’ve sprained or broken your ankle or foot. Your first instinct may be to visit the orthopedist, but a podiatrist has more experience treating foot and ankle injuries.
  5. A reoccurring case of athlete’s foot. It’s one of the most common fungal infections out there, and it can generally be treated with over the counter creams or sprays. But if athlete’s foot keeps coming back, a podiatrist can prescribe a more effective cream or oral medication and check for possible infection.
  6. You have diabetes. People with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at a much higher risk for foot problems like poor circulation, nerve damage, ulcers and infection. If you are a diabetic, you should see the podiatrist once a year for a foot exam to help prevent these potentially dangerous problems.
  7. An ingrown toenail. You may be tempted to try and remove a painful ingrown toenail on your own or visit your local nail salon for help, but it’s safer (and less painful) to have it removed at the doctor’s office. A podiatrist can provide medication if the nail has become infected and numb the area during the removal process.
  8. Bunions. A bony bump that develops on the outside of the big toe joint, the condition can become increasingly painful as the bunion gets larger. An x-ray can help diagnose the cause and the podiatrist will recommend treatment options based on the severity of the bunion.
  9. Painful corns or calluses. The result of thickened areas of dead skin, these common problems can become painful if the skin becomes too thick. A podiatrist can remove areas of the hardened skin to alleviate the pain or prescribe a topical medication to treat them.
  10. Joint pain in the foot or ankle. Even if easily treated with over the counter anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen, it’s important to see a doctor to determine the root cause of the pain – especially if the pain in your foot or ankle persists. The doctor can work with you to determine a long-term treatment plan.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to take good care of your feet, as it can directly affect your overall health and lead to more serious problems. If you are having any issues related to your feet and ankles, speak with your primary care physician about a referral to see a podiatrist.

Dr. Wynn Perlick is a podiatrist at South Shore Medical Center in Norwell and is currently accepting new patients. If you’d like to register yourself or a family member as a new patient, call 781-682-1686 or request a call from a new patient registration specialist.