Definition and Overview
Patients who require diagnosis, treatment and long-term management of foot-related problems and conditions can consult a foot specialist called a podiatrist. The patient can make the appointment with or without a referral from a general practitioner or family doctor. This consultation is helpful for patients who are experiencing any foot problem including those that are caused by underlying conditions like diabetes. Depending on the patient’s condition, the consultation, which typically lasts between 30 minutes to one hour, may involve some basic tests that pose little to no risk to the patient. Initial treatment can also be provided if the patient agrees to the podiatrist's recommendation.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
A foot consultation is highly beneficial for any patient who has some problems with his foot. These problems may include:
- Toenail issues, such as fungal growths and ingrown or thickened toenails
- Corns and calluses
- Athlete’s foot
- Dry and cracked heels
- Big toe joint pain
- Morton’s neuroma
- Plantar fasciitis
- Flat feet
- High arched feet
The consultation is also a crucial part of long-term management of diabetes, a condition that increases the patient’s risk of developing disease-related foot problems, such as:
Diabetic neuropathy – This foot problem is caused by nerve damage due to uncontrolled diabetes. It causes a lack of feeling in the foot, which means that even if the person suffers a cut or sore on the foot, he will not feel any pain, increasing the risk of the wound becoming infected. Neuropathy also weakens the muscles, so there is also a possibility of a movement imbalance that may lead to one area of the foot bearing more pressure than normal, raising the risk of foot ulcers.
Peripheral vascular disease – This foot problem is caused by poor blood flow to the feet. Although it may not cause noticeable symptoms, it hinders a foot sore or wound from healing properly, increasing the patient’s risk of foot ulcers and gangrene (or tissue death).
A foot consultation helps people suffering from the above conditions to know more about the causes of their problem, the possible complications, what they can do about their symptoms and what treatment options are available to them. Additionally, a foot consultation is helpful for anyone seeking a specific kind of foot treatment, such as those who want to use custom foot orthotic devices. The consultation thus serves as their first step to seeking a possible solution for their foot problem.
How the Procedure Works
A foot consultation appointment, also known as a podiatry assessment, typically lasts between 30 minutes to one hour, depending on the patient’s concern and whether or not certain tests need to be conducted. It begins with the podiatrist asking questions about the patient’s health, existing medical conditions and symptoms affecting the feet. The doctor will also ask about the patient’s lifestyle and habits, his footwear preferences and previous injuries that involved the feet.
The consultation will also involve a detailed physical examination that typically includes the following:
- Biomechanical assessment
- Dermatological assessment
- Blood flow assessment
- Blood pressure assessment
To ensure the accuracy of the information gathered during the consultation, patients are advised to bring prior health records, orthotics used in the past (if any) and x-rays of their feet, preferably those taken within the last six months.
Patients who are diagnosed with certain feet-related conditions may receive initial treatment during the consultation. These may include:
- Physical therapy
- Foot exercises
- Medications, such as pain relievers
- Advice about correct footwear type
However, the patient is under no obligation to undergo any treatment on the same visit and is free to seek a second opinion if he desires.
Possible Risks and Complications
A foot consultation typically does not involve any treatment procedures, and only do so if the patient desires. Thus, consultations generally pose little to no risk to the patient. In fact, seeking a podiatry appointment will help protect a person from the risks and possible complications of a foot problem, which include:
- Severe foot infection
- Serious foot injury
- Foot ulcers
- Foot amputations
Foot problems, however minor, can progress and worsen if left untreated. To avoid serious complications such as losing a leg to an amputation, patients are strongly advised to schedule a foot consultation when necessary.
Klein SE. Conditions of the forefoot. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009: Section H.
Hirose CB, Clanton TO, Wood RM. Etiology of injury to the foot and ankle. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009: Section J.