Foot & Ankle Specialist
Toe pain can originate from corns, calluses, hammertoes, and bunions, as well as ingrown toenails, sprains, fractures, and dislocations. Corns develop as the toe rubs against the inside of a shoe which causes the skin to thicken as a form of protection. A corn is typically cone-shaped and has a small, hardened spot that points inward. When a corn is pressed into the skin, the toe becomes painful. Corns usually form on the top or side of the toe. A callus is also a thickened patch of skin that generally forms on the bottom of the foot. Calluses are the result of friction from the toe rubbing against the inside of a shoe. They may also occur by walking barefoot or having flat feet. A hammertoe is a bump on the knuckle of the second toe that is produced by wearing shoes that are too short for your feet. The bony protrusion rubs against the top of the shoe causing pain and irritation. A bunion is a malformation of the big toe. The base of the big toe pushes away from the smaller toes, forcing the top of the big toe to press toward the other toes. Bunions can be hereditary, or they can result from injury to the toe joint or from wearing high heels with a narrow toe box. The toe becomes inflamed, and a bump may develop at the end of the misplaced bone. Ingrown toenails typically affect the big toe and its surrounding skin. The nail will dig into the skin and become painful. Wearing tight or narrow shoes that compress the big toe causes the nail to grow into the fleshy part of the toe. Cutting toenails incorrectly can also add to the development of an ingrown toenail. A toe sprain originates from a torn or stretched ligament. Strapping the injured toe to the toe next to it for stabilization is common. A broken or fractured toe usually occurs from trauma like dropping a heavy object on it or bumping into something extremely hard and rigid. Osteoporosis, a thinning of the bones, can also bring about toe fractures.
Any of the conditions mentioned can lead to pain and irritation. While some are more serious than others, seeking an examination and diagnosis from a podiatrist is a good idea. A podiatrist can treat each ailment and get you back on your feet again without pain.
Bunions are large bony bumps at the base of the big toe. Medically known as hallux valgus, a bunion is a misalignment of the metatarsophalangeal joint, or big toe joint. The misalignment will generally worsen with time if left untreated.
The exact cause of bunions is unknown, with genetics seen as a potential cause. High heels and poorly-fitted footwear, rheumatoid arthritis, and heredity all seem to be potential factors behind the exacerbation of bunions. Women have been found to be more likely to develop bunions in comparison to men.
Bunions do not always produce symptoms. The best way to tell is if the big toe is pushing up against the next toe and there is a large protrusion at the base of the big toe. You may or may not feel pain. Redness, swelling, and restricted movement of the big toe may be present as well.
Podiatrists use a variety of methods to diagnose bunions. If there are symptoms present, podiatrists will first consider that it is a bunion. If not, a physical examination will be conducted to check function of the big toe. Finally, an X-ray may be taken to view the extent of the bunion and confirm it is a bunion.
Typically, nonsurgical methods are used to treat bunions, unless the bunion has become too misaligned. Orthotics, icing and resting the foot, roomier and better fitted shoes, taping the foot, and pain medication are usually utilized first. If the bunion doesn’t go away or causes extreme pain, surgery may be required. Surgeons will either remove part of the swollen tissue or bone to straighten the toe out.
If you have a bunion, it is recommended to see a podiatrist. The longer it is left untreated, the worse it may get. Podiatrists can properly diagnose and treat a bunion before it gets worse.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the tibial nerve, located in the tarsal tunnel in the foot, is compressed. The tibial nerve can become compressed from injury, such as an ankle sprain, flat feet, and lesions. Arthritis, diabetes, and varicose veins can also cause swelling and thus result in nerve compression.
Symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome include several different sensations in the sole of the foot, inside the ankle, and around the tibial nerve. These sensations include shooting pains, numbness or reduced sensation, pins and needles, burning, and tingling. Symptoms tend to worsen with greater activity to the area. In rare and severe occasions, this can change the muscles in the foot.
If you suspect you have tarsal tunnel syndrome, you should consult with your podiatrist. He or she will examine your medical history to see if you have a history of diabetes, arthritis, or flat feet. They will also check to see if you have suffered an injury to the area recently. An electrical test will be conducted to check if the nerve has been damaged. A simpler Tinel’s Test might also be used. This includes simply tapping the nerve to create a sensation. An MRI scan of the area may also be used.
Treatments vary greatly for tarsal tunnel syndrome. Treatments include both nonsurgical and surgical options depending upon the severity of the condition. Nonsurgical options include anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections to the area. Orthotics, such as a splint or brace that immobilizes the foot, is another noninvasive option. For those with flat feet, custom shoes can be made to offer better foot support. Surgical options include a tunnel tarsal release, in which an incision is made behind the ankle down to the arch of the foot. This releases the ligament and relieves pressure off the nerve. Some doctors use a more minimally invasive surgery, where smaller incisions are made in the ankle and the ligament is stretched out.
If you are suffering from painful sensations in your foot, see a podiatrist who can determine if you are experiencing tarsal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel syndrome that is left unchecked can cause permanent nerve damage to the foot.
The branch of medicine that is focused on the treatment, diagnosis, and study of disorders of the lower leg, ankle and foot is referred to as podiatry. Because people often spend a great deal of their time on their feet, many problems in this area can occur. A person seeks help from the field of podiatry when they need treatment for heel spurs, bunions, arch problems, deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, foot and ankle problems, infections, and problems with the foot that are related to diabetes and additional diseases.
To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery, or set fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.
When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.
Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise. Referrals will then be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.
Some podiatrists have their own independent, private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel. Many podiatrists work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals, or visit patients in nursing homes. Podiatrists typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.
Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that results from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.