Sometimes in life, it’s incredibly easy to know when you need professional help:
- Your car’s engine is producing thick, black smoke? Get your car to a mechanic ASAP.
- You’re being sued by someone? Make an appointment with a good lawyer.
- You have some kind of medical problem? Time to see the doctor!
Now, depending on the nature of that medical problem, you might need to see a specialist. And if the issue is a foot or ankle in pain—or unable to function normally—the specialist you need to see is a podiatrist.
Because a podiatrist earns his or her doctorate in podiatric medicine (DPM) and is board-certified by the American Board of Podiatric Medicine and/or American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery—after graduating from podiatry school and gaining real-life experience during a residency.
Following all that studying and training, podiatrists have the tools they need to specialize in treating problems that develop in the lower limbs (feet, toes, and ankles).
As you’re probably able to guess by this point, that means a prime reason to see a podiatrist is to have foot or ankle pain treated. Of course, this is a pretty broad spectrum and it covers more ground than you might realize.
Podiatrists treat structural issues
See, you may not be aware of this, but each of your feet and ankles contain 26 bones. Combined, that means your lower limbs have over 25% of the bones in your entire body. Keeping those bones connected and moveable are more than 100 different soft tissues—muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These various tissues are responsible for forming 33 joints (which allows optimal movement and functionality).
Take a moment to process all of that, and you can see that it adds up to a lot of opportunity for issues to arise!
In fact, structural abnormalities and deformities like bunions, flat feet, and hammertoe can, in turn, cause their own unique sets of symptoms and difficulty.
At times, these conditions can be considered “progressive’ in nature.
So what does that mean?
Basically, progressive conditions are ones that will continue to progress (worsen) over time when left unaddressed. This highlights one reason for early intervention.
Another is the fact that progressive conditions are irreversible and can only be corrected with surgery.
If we have the opportunity to treat a bunion or hammertoe in an early state, we may be able to create a nonsurgical treatment plan to address symptoms and at least slow the condition. (Admittedly, this would constitute a “best case” scenario and surgery is the more likely option, but this is something we will discuss together.)
We also treat biomechanical problems (including sports injuries)
Beyond the intricately structured nature of feet and ankles, another contributing factor in foot and ankle problems is the amount of physical force they have to endure.
Even in a normal day of walking around and performing your routine daily activities, you place around two times your bodyweight in force on the landing foot. And that amount can jump up to around four times your weight when you run!
(To provide a little context, the average person takes around 10,000 steps on an average day, which equals a cumulative force of load of several tons…every day!)
Of course, our feet are natural equipped to handle all of that force and usually do a solid job. That said, there are many conditions, situations, and structural abnormalities that can impact how much force feet and ankles are able to absorb.
On top of that, we treat many of your fellow neighbors from our Washington metropolitan area for lower limb sports injuries.
If you think about the roles feet and ankles play in most sports (and other physical activities), that’s probably quite easy to understand. After all, when you—or your loved ones—are running and jumping, there is simply an increased risk of sustaining an injury.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid physical activity!
On the contrary, being active on a regular basis is essential for optimal foot health and wellbeing (along with your overall health!). Besides, there are measures you can take to lower your injury risk.
More than that, you’ll probably be relieved to know that a vast majority of foot and ankle sports injuries are resolved without needing surgery.
(And even if surgery is our recommended course of treatment for the best possible outcome, you can find peace of mind in knowing that we have experience in providing successful procedures for many patients throughout the years.)
When you have an injury or there’s an issue with foot structure and you’re experiencing pain or impaired functionality, it’s time to contact our Alexandria office and request an appointment so you can receive the professional diagnosis and treatment you need.
Help for skin and toenail conditions
Clearly, there are an abundance of internal structural reasons as to why you might need to see a podiatrist for foot care—and we haven’t even started touching on skin and toenail issues yet.
As is the case with internal conditions and injuries, external problems also need to be addressed.
Skin and nail conditions like fungal toenails, plantar warts, and ingrown toenails won’t always go away on their own. And in cases where they probably will—such as with warts—you’d most likely rather not have to deal with present symptoms and increased infection risk.
Accordingly, you may want to have one of our team members at Capital Podiatry Associates assess the situation and create a treatment plan to resolve it for you.
How foot health is related to diabetes
Another major facet of podiatry—one that can be impacted by anatomical structure, physical force loads, and skin and nail conditions—is diabetic foot care.
Given that an estimated 30 million Americans have the disease (along with about 80 million who are considered to be prediabetic), the odds are pretty decent you’re at least somewhat familiar with diabetes and the effects it can have on your health.
You might readily be aware of the fact it can raise your risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and blindness—but do you know about foot-related concerns from diabetes?
If not, you really should:
Diabetic foot ulcers can have a mortality rate that is more concerning than the rates for several leading forms of cancer.
Diabetes causes (or at least contributes to) widespread, systemic damage throughout the human body, including decreased circulation, peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage), and an impaired immune system.
What this means for you is that you need to make an appointment with our Crystal City podiatry practice if you are diabetic and do not see a podiatrist on a regular basis—and even if you don’t happen to have any foot pain or difficulty at this time.
You may not be aware of this, but you have a high risk for serious medical complications and we can work with you to establish a plan to protect your feet and provide you with the proper tools so you can catch issues at their earliest and most treatable stages.
Remember, two key pillars for an effective diabetic foot care plan are protection and early intervention.
How to know when to see a podiatrist
To this point, we’ve covered an array of general reasons as to why you might want to come see us at our National Landing office. Now we need to let you know how you can recognize when it’s time for you to request your appointment!
We can make this really simple for you:
Contact us and schedule a visit with one of our podiatrists whenever you are experiencing severe and/or lingering foot or ankle pain.
When you do come to see us, we will provide a professional diagnosis and create a treatment plan to resolve the pain and get you back to your favorite activities (and make the ones you need to do less miserable).
(Further, we will take any available measures to prevent future recurrence!)
Remember, no matter if the pain is something that develops over time or has a sudden onset, foot pain is not “normal” and shouldn’t be dismissed as being “not a big deal.” Rather, this is your body’s way of letting you know there’s some kind of problem that needs to be addressed.
And that brings up another situation wherein you should seek professional care:
If you are unable to feel any physical sensations in your lower limbs.
Pain clearly has a purpose—and this means being unable to feel issues in your feet and ankles is also a problem.
Since peripheral neuropathy is often associated with the disease, yet one more way to know when it’s time to see your favorite Crystal City podiatrist is:
You have been diagnosed with diabetes, but do not have a diabetic foot care plan in place.
As we said earlier, diabetes is a very serious medical condition for several reasons, including ones related to the health and wellbeing of your feet. If you don’t have a diabetic plan in place to ensure protection and early detection, then you need to come in for an appointment.
Whether or not you have a foot care plan, you should contact us for an appointment as soon as you observe any problems with your feet. For signs of infection, though, seek immediate medical care at one of our local hospitals!
If your body is telling you something is wrong with a foot or ankle, call Capital Podiatry Associates at (703) 560-3773 and we’ll be happy to answer any questions or assist you in scheduling an appointment with our Alexandria office.