The foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles, and numerous tendons. Complex biomechanics keep all these parts in the right position and moving together. Given these intricacies, it is not surprising that most people will experience some problem with their feet at some time in their lives.
Within each foot, the essential structure can be summed up as follows:
- Seven short tarsal bones make up the heel and back of the instep.
- Five metatarsal bones spread from the back of the foot toward front and make up the structure for the ball of the foot. Each metatarsal is associated with one of the toes.
- Fourteen phalanges, small bones, form the toe structure.
- Tarsal and metatarsal bones provide the structure for the arch of the foot.
- Bands of ligaments connect and hold all the bones in place.
- A thick layer of fatty tissue under the sole helps absorb the pressure and shock that comes from walking and everyday movements.
People call a doctor of podiatry for help diagnosing and treating a wide array of foot and ankle problems. Please contact our office if you experience one of the following:
- Persistent pain in your feet or ankles.
- Changes in the nails or skin on your foot.
- Severe cracking, scaling, or peeling on the heel or foot.
- Blisters on your feet.
There are signs of bacterial infection, including:
- Increased pain, swelling, redness, tenderness, or heat.
- Red streaks extending from the affected area.
- Discharge or pus from an area on the foot.
- Foot or ankle symptoms that do not improve after two weeks of treatment with a nonprescription product.
- Spreading of an infection from one area of the foot to another, such as under the nail bed, skin under the nail, the nail itself, or the surrounding skin.
- Thickening toenails that cause discomfort.
- Heel pain accompanied by a fever, redness (sometimes warmth), or numbness.
- Tingling in the heel; persistent heel pain without putting any weight or pressure on your heel
- Pain that is not alleviated by ice or over-the-counter painkillers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
- Diabetics with poor circulation who develop Athlete’s Foot.
A podiatrist, or a doctor of podiatric medicine, is a professional who provides medical diagnosis and treatment of foot and ankle conditions. Some of the most common conditions a podiatrist treats are calluses, bunions, ingrown toenails, heel pain, spurs, hammertoes, warts, corns, and neuromas. Podiatrists can also treat more serious conditions such as fractures, sprains, infections, and injuries of the foot and ankle. After attending undergraduate medical school, podiatrists must obtain a doctorate degree in podiatry. They must pass state and national exams and be licensed in their state.
There are an estimated 15,000 practicing podiatrists in the US according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Because of a rapidly aging population, podiatrists are in high demand. Additionally, foot conditions are among the most ignored and prevalent health complications affecting people in this country.
- Consult with physicians and their patients on how to prevent foot disorders.
- Diagnose and provide treatment for conditions such as tumors, fractures, ulcers, skin and nail diseases, and deformities.
- Correct problems such as bunions, fractures, claw toes, infections, hammertoes, and ruptured Achilles and other tendons and ligaments through the use of surgery.
- Perform ultrasounds and conduct lab tests to make diagnoses and prescribe therapies.
- Recommend and fit patients for shoe inserts, or orthotics, to correct abnormal walking patterns.
- Provide treatment for other conditions including heel spurs, infections, ingrown toenails, plantar fasciitis, bunions, corns, calluses, cysts, and bone disorders.