Foot disorders are conditions that interfere with smooth and efficient movement of the foot. Common foot disorders include corns and calluses, blisters, bunions, hammer toe, plantar fasciitis, flat feet, clubfoot, and ingrown toenails.
Caroline is a 26-year-old ballerina. She has been dancing since she was six years old. She is now dancing professionally with a major ballet company. Although she is slim and healthy, her feet are not in good condition. She frequently has blisters and has developed bunions on both feet. She almost always has pain on the bottom of her feet and heels. She knows that most professional dancers have the same problems, but no one wants anyone else to know. She wants to dance, and she will quietly suffer the pain. She sees her personal physician, who refers her to a podiatrist, a doctor with specialized knowledge of and experience in treating foot problems. The podiatrist diagnoses the pain in the bottom of her foot as plantar fasciitis (FASH-ee-EYE-tis). He makes several recommendations for Caroline to help her take better care of her feet.
The human foot is made up of bones including the tarsal bones * (bones of the heel); metatarsal (MET-uh-TAR-sul) bones (bones of the midfoot); and phalanges (fa-LAN-jes) (bones of the toes). Ligaments, tendons, and muscles surround and support the bones, allowing the foot to move in flexion, extension, and twisting. This flexibility of movement is important for the foot to adjust to various surfaces as a person walks, runs, stands, and dances. Foot injuries and disorders can interfere with smooth and effortless movement of the foot.
There are many disorders of the foot, including the following:
Foot problems are very common; according to the California Podiatric Medical Association, 75 percent of people in the United States will experience a foot problem at some point in their lives. Some foot problems are related to poorly fitting shoes. Some are related to occupations, such as ballet dancers or people whose jobs require them to spend long hours on their feet. Some are related to such recreational activities as sports or dancing.
Most foot problems can be diagnosed by direct observation. The healthcare provider, who may be a primary care physician, an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist, or a podiatrist, will obtain a history of the problem, specifically the amount of pain associated with the problem and to what extent the problem interferes with daily activities. X-rays may be taken to determine the exact location and extent of the problem.
Many foot disorders, including corns, calluses, and blisters can be treated without consulting a healthcare provider. If there are signs of infection or the problem interferes with daily activities, a physician can be consulted. The person may also consult a podiatrist, who is a doctor with special training and experience in treating disorders of the feet.
See also Arthritis • Birth Defects: Overview • Clubfoot • Diabetes
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American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. 8725 W. Higgins Rd., Suite 555, Chicago, IL 60631-2724. Toll-free: 800-421-2237. Website: http://www.acfas.org (accessed April 6, 2016).
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. 9400 W. Higgins Rd., Suite 220, Rosemont, IL 60018. Toll-free: 800-235-4855. Website: www.aofas.org (accessed April 6, 2016).
American Podiatric Medical Association. 9312 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda, MD 20814-1621. Telephone: 301-581-9200. Website: www.apma.org (accessed April 6, 2016).
* tarsal bones are the bones of the heel; there are seven specific bones: the calcaneus, talus, cuboid, navicular, and medial, middle, and lateral cuneiforms.
* serous refers to thin watery fluid resembling serum.
* antibiotic (AN-tie-by-AH-tik) is a drug that kills or slows the growth of bacteria.