A Foot to Stand On

3 Subtle Signs You Need To See A Foot Doctor

by Grace Ortiz

Far too often, patients put off seeing a foot doctor until they can barely walk. Of course a foot doctor can help at this point — usually with either cortisone injections or surgery, depending on the ailment. But ideally, you should seek treatment before things get this bad. Early treatment allows a foot doctor to use less-invasive techniques such as splinting, physical therapy, and orthotics. Obviously not every little ache or pain means you need to see the foot doctor, though. Here are some signs that something might be amiss and that you should make an appointment soon.

1. One or more of your toes is not straight.

Two of the most common foot problems are bunions and hammertoe. Bunions cause your big toe to start bending inward towards your other toes. Hammertoe causes one of your toes to curl up at the joint. Neither of these conditions cause pain initially, so patients tend to ignore them until they do become painful. At that point, surgery really is the only option. If you see a foot doctor about early-stage hammertoe or bunions, they can give you a splint or orthotics to wear to help keep the condition from worsening over time. You'll be preventing the pain rather than trying to get rid of it.

2. You wake up to a stiff and painful arch.

If your arch and heel feel stiff and painful when you get up in the morning, it is easy to brush this condition off as long as the pain subsides after you walk a few steps. But usually, this is an early sign of plantar fasciitis, a swelling of the connective tissues in the bottom of your foot. Something about your lifestyle or the way you walk is causing it, so it's only going to get worse until you figure out what that is. A foot doctor can help identify the contributing factors and eliminate them so your plantar fasciitis gets better rather than progressing to the point that you need surgery.

3. Your toenails are turning yellow and thickening.

If your toenails are turning yellow and thickening, you probably have a fungal infection of your toenails. Even if it is not causing pain, see a foot doctor. Many home remedies don't work, and you really want to take care of this early because if you don't, having your toenails surgically removed may be the only option.

In general, the sooner you see a foot doctor, the better. Most foot problems only worsen over time, and early treatment is key.