Best Foot Forwards January 2009
BEST FOOT FORWARDS
If the word chiropodist is still in your vocabulary, you haven’t moved with the times. The word has now been replaced by podiatrist – and the training and tools available for modern day podiatrists is excellent.
A podiatrist treats feet – but there is a lot more than just advising on corns and hard skin on heels. A podiatrist is fully trained to assess, diagnose and treat a range of problems of the foot and the lower limb below the knee.
Their main role is to prevent or correct deformity and maintain normal mobility and function, but this covers a wide range of conditions and problems. Their work can cover your walking style and posture to treating infections and skin, problems with circulation in your feet or problems with your toe nails, and yes, they can also advise on footwear.
Training in podiatry is hugely professional and involves three years of learning. Once qualified, podiatrists can set up on their own or work for the NHS.
According to the FootCare Expert, the most common problems podiatrists find in feet include:
Athlete’s foot causes itching of the feet especially between the toes and can also cause a burning sensation of the feet. The skin can become dry and flaky, sometimes developing redness, cracked skin and very rarely, bleeding. If the infection spreads to the toenails, they can become thickened and toughened with discolouration of the nail.
Blisters commonly affect feet. Basically they are a fluid filled pouch caused by continual rubbing or friction to the superficial layers of the skin. They can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort and can also cause infections to develop if they are not treated properly.
A bunion is an enlarged sore area around the large knuckle of the big toe joint. It occurs as the long bone of the toe directs in one direction, and the toe itself pushes inwards towards the rest of the toes resulting in a usually painful deformity.
The term callus is given to an area of hardened skin that has become toughened over time due to repeated friction and pressure to the area. They are not serious or particularly detrimental to overall health but can cause significant discomfort to the person, or if left untreated can carry the possibility of leading to an infection developing.
Chilblains, otherwise known as pernio, appear as small lumps on the surface of the skin and can be itchy red and irritating. They rarely cause any long-term problems and are seen as a minor ailment that is more of a hindrance to the affected person than a condition.
When a bony prominence of the foot experiences continued pressure or friction from an opposing surface the tissues can become thickened and more tough resulting in a corn developing. They vary is size, shape and severity and tend to be more common in women, especially those who constantly wear tight or narrow shoes.
To suffer from in-growing toenails is a common complaint and can affect anyone of any age. If left untreated it can be extremely painful and affect mobility and quality of life.
Verrucas, otherwise known as ‘plantar warts’, are very common occurrences for many people, and are essentially a simple wart that appears on the sole of the foot. They seem to carry a stigma with them, but in fact anyone can develop a verruca regardless of their age, origin or hygiene levels.
If you have a serious foot problem you need to visit your doctor who may well then recommend a podiatrist.
If you wish to call in a private podiatrist, the website of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists is a good source of information. The Society is the professional body for all registered podiatrists. It represents private and NHS podiatrists.
The Society’s home page is the charmingly named: www.feetforlife.org
Another source of information is at www.footcareexpert.co.uk