Our feet carry us throughout life, across different places and seasons. They form our bodies’ main foundation by supporting our upper torso and frame, so it is unsurprising that foot problems can greatly impede daily function and quality of living. While some conditions may arise due to natural aging and wear and tear, others can arise due to natural causes or over-straining. Fortunately, professional help is readily available from podiatrists in Singapore.
What is a Podiatrist?
Podiatrists are foot specialists in Singapore who specialise in treating medical conditions involving the feet and lower legs. While they do not attend medical school, podiatrists still undergo rigorous and professional clinical training, being authorised to do surgery, prescribe medication and reset broken bones. They also frequently collaborate with other specialists to treat various conditions,since numerous conditions in the feet and lower limbs are affected by other health issues, such as diabetes and vascular disease.
Various Conditions That Podiatrists Treat
While small, our feet are surprisingly complex, consisting of 26 bones, 30 joints and hundreds of ligaments, muscles and tendons. Because of its elaborate nature, podiatry centres in Singapore exist to provide dedicated foot care. Beyond foot injuries, here are some examples of the foot and ankle conditions that these medical experts can treat.
- Foot Deformities
Foot deformities are surprisingly common, often being present at birth or through poor foot posture, disease or over-straining. Common deformities include bunions and hammertoes.
Bunions are characterised by an enlarged bump that forms on the side of the foot, along the big toe. As some bones in the front of the foot move out of place, it causes the big toe to be pulled towards the smaller ones, leading the joint to stick out. Bunions are often congenital, or can develop after the age of 10; often as a result of wearing tight-fitting shoes or heels, or arthritis at older ages.
Hammertoes are toes that have abnormal bends in the middle joint, causing the toe to bend downwards in the shape of a hammer. It arises due to various reasons, from poor footwear to arthritis and even pressure from a bunion. Often, people in Singapore only visit podiatry centres when these deformities bring about significant pain, discomfort or distress; neglecting treatment at an earlier and less painful stage.
Foot clinics in Singaporefocus on conservative treatment to address these issues and consider surgery to be the option of last resort. For severe cases of bunions and hammertoes, these may be the only option. If addressed sufficiently early, it is possible to use non-surgical methods such as specialised shoe inserts that are designed to keep your feet in an optimal position, prevent deformity, and relieve pain. They can be either over-the-counter arch supports or prescribed orthotic devices.
- Nail Infections
Nail infections occur due to the overgrowth of fungi underneath, on top, or surrounding the toenail. Nails can become brittle and dry with age, allowing fungal growth to occur during wet and humid periods, and often occur because nail hygiene is often neglected. Other risk factors include walking barefoot in damp areas and having other health conditions such as diabetes or a poor immune system.
As the fungus grows, it causes the nails to discolour and crumble. It also causes foul smells, and can lead to other skin conditions, such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. In Singapore, a podiatristcan prescribe oral medication to treat fungal nail infection, such terbinafine, itraconazole, and fluconazole. In other cases, podiatrists may also choose to remove the part of the infected nail to prevent further infection too.
Another common nail infection is an ingrown nail. Many know how painful ingrown toenails can be, as the edge of the nail grows into the skin, resulting in redness, swelling and infection. Often a result of shoe pressure or poorly trimmed nails, partial nail removal is recommended as it is highly effective at preventing recurrence.
- Corns & Calluses
Although corns and calluses do not pose serious health risks, they can still affect your daily life. They form naturally as a result of your skin trying to protect against injury and pressure, particularly when wearing tight-fitting shoes or constantly moving. It forms hardened skin that frequently causes pain and irritation, and in severe cases can make normal walking an arduous affair.
Corns have a hard centre surrounded by inflamed skin and can develop on parts that don’t bear weight. They can also be painful when pressed and can lead to infections and ulcerations of the skin. Calluses are thickened sections of skin that are rarely painful and develop on parts that experience constant weight or movement.
While eliminating the source of friction often does away with both corns and calluses, afoot specialist may be requiredto trim them away. Podiatrists can also use shoe inserts or padding to relieve pressure for walking and prevent calluses from forming.
- Diabetic Foot Problems
Diabetes leads to numerous health issues, including foot problems. There are two key problems; diabetic neuropathy which can lead to damaged nerves in legs and feet; along with peripheral vascular disease that affects blood flow and leads to slower healing of wounds, while increasing the risk of ulcers and gangrene.
Individuals suffering from diabetes can have complications arise from common foot problems, such as athlete’s foot, calluses and nail infections. In severe cases, these can even lead to amputation of the foot. It is recommended to visit a podiatristas soon as possible to help prevent further complications and take preventive measures such as proper feet hygiene and wearing proper footwear.
- Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis refers to the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a tissue on the bottom of the foot, particularly at the heel area. It is characterised by excruciating pain as you start the day, and while it may go away, it can return with long periods of standing. While common amongst athletes who place stress on the heel, it is also more common in overweight individuals and poor footwear – all these factors result in increased pressure to the tissue. Long-term plantar fasciitis can cause chronic heel pain that impacts your activities and movements.
Podiatrists will often schedule physical therapy, teaching various exercises to strengthen leg muscles and stretch the plantar fascia. In addition, they often prescribe orthotics and arch supports to better distribute pressure to your feet. For more severe cases, steroid injections and surgery may be required as well.
Your feet deserve the utmost care to help you move around in comfort and convenience. If you ever experience foot problems, act early and visit a foot clinic in Singapore, while they are easier to treat and less painful.
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