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Monday, 13 January 2020 00:00

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.

Monday, 30 December 2019 00:00

Our bones are important aspects of our body and they are constantly changing. The heavier the workload for a bone, the more likely it is that calcium will be placed in it. When a bone isn’t used often, there won’t be much calcium within it. When stress from repetitive loads prevent the bone from being able to repair itself, cracks will start to form. Stress fractures are defined as cracks in a bone that result from repetitive force, such as overuse.

The most common cause of stress fractures is a sudden increase in intensity and duration of physical activity. For example, if you begin to run long distances without working your way into doing so, you will be more likely to develop a stress fracture.

Common symptoms of stress fractures are pain and swelling near the weight bearing area on the injured bone. When initial x-rays are performed, it is possible that the fracture will not show up. However, once the stress on the area continues, the damage will increase, and the fracture will be severe enough to show up on an x-ray. Certain parts of the foot are more likely to develop stress fractures than others. Areas that typically have these fractures are: the metatarsals, the navicular bone, the calcaneus, tibia, and fibula.

Since women are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, they are twice as likely as men to sustain a stress fracture. Additionally, old age causes a decrease in bone mineral density which is why elderly people are also likely to develop these fractures.

It is important for you to be professionally diagnosed by a podiatrist if you suspect you have a stress fracture, because there are other injuries that can easily be mistaken for a fracture.  Sprains, strains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Morton’s neuroma can all easily be mistaken for stress fractures in the foot. Your podiatrist will likely ask you a series of questions to determine what type of pain you are experiencing. These questions will help your doctor identify whether you have a stress fracture.

The best method of treatment for a stress fracture is rest. Additionally, a walking boot, cast, or crutches, will help rest the area that is injured. The typical healing time for stress fractures is 4-12 weeks, however this depends on which bone is involved.

Monday, 23 December 2019 00:00

Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a medical condition that causes heel pain in children’s feet while they’re growing. Sever's disease occurs most commonly in boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 14.

Sever's disease occurs when the child’s growth plate, or the calcaneal epiphysis, an area attached to the Achilles tendon, is injured or when the muscles and tendons of the growing foot do not keep pace with bone growth. The result is constant pain experienced at the back of the heel and the inability to put any weight on the heel. This forces the child to bear weight on their toes while walking. When a toe gait develops, the child must change the way they walk to avoid placing weight on the painful heel. If this is not properly addressed, this can lead to further developmental problems.

The most common symptom of Sever's disease is acute pain felt in the heel when a child engages in physical activity such as walking, jumping or running. Children who are active athletes are among the group most susceptible to experiencing Sever's disease. This is due to the extreme stress and tension placed on their growing feet. The rolling movement of the foot during walking or running and obesity are both additional conditions linked to causing Sever's disease.

The first step in treating Sever's disease is to rest the foot and leg and avoid physical activity. Over the counter pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful for reducing the amount of heel pain. A child with Sever's disease should also wear shoes that properly support the heel and the arch of the foot. Consider purchasing orthotic shoe inserts which can help support the heel and foot while it is healing. Most patients with Sever's disease symptoms report an eventual elimination of heel pain after wearing orthotic insoles that support the affected heel.

Sever's disease may affect either one heel or both. It is important for a child experiencing heel pain to be examined by a foot doctor who can apply the squeeze test. The squeeze test compresses both sides of the heel in order to determine if there is intense pain. Discourage any child diagnosed with Sever's disease from going barefoot as this can intensify the problem. Apply ice packs to the affected painful heel two or three times a day for pain relief.

Exercises that help stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. When foot curling, the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body to help stretch the muscles. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions and repeated several times throughout the day.

Treatment methods can continue for at least 2 weeks and as long as 2 months before the heel pain completely disappears. A child can continue doing daily stretching exercises for the legs and feet to prevent Sever’s disease from returning.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019 00:00

In most cases, foot surgery is often chosen as the last available option for conditions that have otherwise been unsuccessfully treated. Surgery may be necessary for several reasons, including the removal of foot deformities (e.g. bone spurs or bunions), arthritis problems, reconstruction due to injury, and congenital malformations (e.g. club foot or flat feet). Regardless of one’s age, foot surgery may be the only successful option for treatment for certain conditions.

The type of surgery one undergoes depends on the type of foot condition the patient has. For the removal of a bunion growth, a bunionectomy is necessary. If the bones in the feet need to be realigned or fused together, a surgical fusion of the foot is needed. For pain or nerve issues, a patient may require surgery in which the tissues surrounding the painful nerve are removed. Initially, less invasive treatments are generally attempted; surgery is often the last measure taken if other treatments are unsuccessful.

While in many cases surgery is often deemed as the final resort, choosing surgery comes with certain benefits. The associated pain experienced in relation to the particular condition is often relieved with surgery, allowing patients to quickly resume daily activities. The greatest benefit, however, is that surgery generally eliminates the problem immediately.

Podiatry history has shown that foot treatments continue to evolve over time. In the field of foot surgery, endoscopic surgery is just one of the many advanced forms of surgery. As technology vastly improves so too will the various techniques in foot surgery, which already require smaller and smaller incisions with the use of better and more efficient tools. Thanks to such innovations, surgery is no longer as invasive as it was in the past, allowing for faster and easier recoveries. 

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