By Dr. Mel Colón, CEO Medical Director
As the foundation of your body, the foot is a structural wonder of the human body. The foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles, and tendons hold the structure together and allow it to move in a variety of ways. The foot is called upon to carry, balance and support the entire human body. The average person walks 115,000 miles in a lifetime — more than four times the circumference of the globe. Unfortunately ailments of the feet afflict a majority of the US population, and some sources place the figure as high as 70 percent.
Podiatric Medicine is the specialty of medical sciences which deals with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of foot and leg disorders by medical and surgical means. The Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, or podiatric physician, is the medical specialist responsible for the care of the foot, ankle and leg.
It takes eight years of higher education to become a podiatric physician. After college, podiatric medical school is four years in length. Afterwards, podiatric physicians continue their training through post-graduate course work and residency training in reconstructive surgery of the foot, ankle and lower leg.
Podiatrists treat the foot and leg medically and surgically. Nearly one-fifth of all podiatric medical visits involve surgical procedures, involving bones, muscles, tendons or joints skin and nails. Probably the most frequent surgical procedures in podiatric medicine correct hammer toes, prevent recurrence of corns, repair bunions, remove warts, and permanently fix ingrown nails. Actually most problems can be helped without surgery. Even though many people are fearful or embarrassed to see a foot doctor, podiatrists have devised methods of treatment that are often not painful at all. Podiatrists normally have x-ray, laboratory, out-patient facilities in their offices to best serve their patients.
When should you seek help from a Podiatrist?
Podiatrists treat a wide range of problems: heel pain, ingrown toenails, bunions, calluses, flatfeet, hammertoes, diabetic foot problems, arch pain, neuromas, plantar warts, thick fungal toenails, foot and ankle fractures and sprains, sports injuries, infections, tumors, cysts, sweaty feet and foot odor, cold feet, burning, numbness and tingling, and arthritis.
Is it possible to avoid foot problems?
Women have about four times as many foot problems as men; lifelong patterns of wearing high heels often are the problem but many foot problems are actually inherited.
Possible Implications of untreated foot injuries and disorders
Poor foot health is common and can have adverse effects on the quality of life. Any disease or disorder of the foot which results in pain and, therefore, disability, will create serious problems for the individual. Painful foot, ankle and leg problems can prevent people from the ability to make a living, enjoy sports, go shopping or play with their kids.
For the child, a painful foot condition, injury or congenital abnormality not properly treated can result in inattention, loss of time from school, decreased participation in sports and other activities which are important to normal development, and can also result in more serious health problems later in life.
For the elderly, untreated foot problems can interfere with taking care of personal needs, obtaining essential exercise and hinder participation in other aspects of daily life, leading to increased dependency on others. For the diabetic, many of the complications associated with diabetes, such as foot infection and ulcers, gangrene and amputations, can be avoided with proper foot care and exercise.
In addition, certain foot problems can be early signs or symptoms of such serious general health disorders as diabetes, arthritis, thyroid disease, heart disease, kidney ailments and arteriosclerosis. The podiatric physician consults with other medical specialists in treating those diseases affecting the whole patient.
Good foot care is of vital importance to everyone. Podiatric physicians, working as part of the health care team, can help ensure an active, independent and healthy life.
It is so very true that “when your feet hurt, you hurt all over”!