What's a Podiatrist?

Your feet are full of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons, which means there are a lot of places for things to go wrong. And since you use your feet for, well, everything but sitting and sleeping, chronic foot pain can get in the way of all of your favorite activities. But it can be hard to tell when the pain is something that will go away on its own and when it’s something that will just keep getting worse.

The specialist who can help tell the difference is a podiatrist. Podiatrists focus on foot and ankle injuries and can diagnose sprains, tendinitis, bunions and any of the other issues that commonly happen to feet. But while 77 percent of Americans have had foot pain, the majority haven’t seen a podiatrist about it. Read on for insight into when a podiatrist might be able to help you get back on your feet.

  • Consistent pain: Having a weird ache every now and then is one thing, but if you are feeling foot pain day-in and day-out, you may want to see a podiatrist. It could be a sign of something that can be treated, like a broken bone, infection or tendonitis.
  • A growing bump: A lump on your foot or ankle that continues to get larger could be a cyst, which is common but extremely painful. A podiatrist might be able to offer treatment options and also make sure it isn’t a sign of a larger, more serious issue.
  • Discoloration: If your feet or toenails change colors, something could be going on. For example, feet that start to look pale can mean you have a circulation problem while darkened toenails could be a sign of a fungal infection.
  • Pain during physical activity: If you experience a shooting pain in your feet when running or during other physical activity, this could be a sign of a stress fracture, which could ultimately lead to broken bones. If you see a podiatrist early on, it could help nip the problem in the bud and avoid a lengthy recovery process.
  • Numbness or tingling sensations: These two symptoms could be a sign of neuropathy, which can result in decreased sensation in your feet. People with diabetes are at a higher risk for neuropathy, so diabetics might want to talk to their primary care physician about how often they should see a podiatrist.

Make sure you check your insurance coverage before you make an appointment with a specialist like a podiatrist. Your coverage might require you to get a referral through your primary care physician first. And if you’re searching for a podiatrist, you can use Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Find a Doctor tool.

Interested in learning more about your feet? These blogs from A Healthier Michigan are full of information:

 

Photo credit: Julien Haler

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