Many times the problems in your feet and ankles go away with time, rest, ice, anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) and shoe-gear changes. Sometimes those problems won’t go away, and that’s when you probably need a podiatrist’s help and expertise.
A Wound or Sore That Does Not Heal
If you have an open sore on your foot or ankle, you need to see a podiatrist. This is especially important if you have diabetes because it usually takes you longer to heal. You have a better chance of healing if you are seen by your podiatrist right away and treatment is started. If you have had an open sore for a long time, your chance of getting a skin or bone infection (osteomyelitis) increases.
For the most part, both of your feet should look alike. If one foot is a lot different color than the other, there may be a problem. Redness may be an indication of an infection or gout. A blue or purple color may indicate a vein problem. Whiteness or paleness (pallor) may be a sign of decreased blood flow. If you have these color changes, you need to see a podiatrist.
Pain and Swelling in One Foot
If you have pain and swelling (edema) in one foot and not the other, this is not normal. You should see a podiatrist. There are many problems that could be causing the pain and swelling such as a broken bone, tendonitis, tendon rupture or infection. It is more common to have swelling in both feet and ankles and this could be due to lymphedema.
Numbness, Burning and Tingling
These three things can be signs of neuropathy, which can cause decreased sensation in your feet. Diabetes is one of the many things that can cause neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that needs to be followed by a podiatrist. Having neuropathy puts you at increased risk for developing foot ulcers.
Pain That Increases with Activity
If you have pain that gets worse with activity, this may be a sign of a stress fracture. You should not try to work through the pain; you should see a podiatrist. If you treat a stress fracture early, you can hopefully avoid more serious problems such as a stress fracture that will not heal or a stress fracture that turns into an actual broken bone.
Severe Pain Lasting more than 24 Hours
This is especially important if you have just had surgery. Do not be afraid to call your podiatrist. If there is a problem, it is better to deal with it sooner rather than later. Possible problems could be an infection, tight dressing, DVT (deep vein thrombosis) or compartment syndrome. There are many treatment options for dealing with pain, but the first step is to figure out what is causing the pain. See a podiatrist.
Foot Pain with Legs Elevated
If you have pain in your feet when you are lying in bed and the pain goes away when you dangle your feet off the side of the bed, this may be a sign of decreased blood flow or peripheral artery disease. This is a condition that needs to be addressed by a few different doctors. You may start with a podiatrist, but you may also need to see a vascular surgeon.
A Deformity that Progresses Suddenly
One example of such a deformity is Charcot arthropathy. Charcot is a problem that can occur when you have diabetes. Signs and symptoms include pain, redness and a hot, swollen foot. Charcot can lead to the bones breaking and slipping out of place. If left untreated, the bones may heal in a bad position causing a foot deformity. You should see a podiatrist right away.
Arch of One Foot Flattens
If you notice that one foot seems flatter than the other, this could be a sign of tendon dysfunction or even rupture. A tendon that does not work properly can lead to the bones not being lined up and this can cause arthritis in the joints. If you treat the tendon problem early, this may prevent damage to your joints.
A Mole that Changes
A mole (nevus) that has a funny shape (or changes shape), gets bigger, bleeds or changes color needs to be examined more closely. These changes could be due to melanoma. You may start with a trip to the podiatrist, but may be referred to a dermatologist.
A Lump or Bump that Grows or Hurts
A lump or bump that is getting bigger and is painful should be looked at by a podiatrist. It may turn out to be a type of cyst, but there is also a chance it could be something more serious such as a tumor. Tumors in the foot are rare, but do sometimes occur.