Many people deal with foot and ankle concerns by simply ignoring them, hoping the problem goes away. However, certain symptoms could be a sign of a serious condition, warn experts.
“A foot and ankle surgeon has the right education and training to provide preventive care and early intervention, which remain essential, even in the age of COVID-19 when you may be avoiding in-person visits,” says Jeffrey D. Loveland, foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow Member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS).
To help you determine when it’s time to consult a specialist, here are some insights into symptoms that affect the foot or ankle and frequently are signs of serious medical conditions:
• Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): DVT is a condition in which a blood clot forms in a deep vein, most commonly in calves or thighs. Potentially very dangerous, DVT can lead to a pulmonary embolism. See a doctor if you experience swelling in the leg, pain in the calf or thigh, or warmth and redness of the leg.
• Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): Commonly referred to as poor circulation, PAD is the restriction of blood flow in the arteries of the leg and could be an indication of more widespread arterial disease that can cause stroke or heart attack. Common symptoms include leg cramping while walking or lying down, leg numbness or weakness, cold legs or feet, sores on the toes, feet or legs that won’t heal, a change in leg colour, loss of hair on the feet and legs, and changes in toenail colour and thickness.
• Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease affects millions every year. One early symptom is increased pain with walking, accompanied by redness and swelling on the top of the foot. A foot and ankle surgeon can diagnose osteoporosis through a bone densitometry test.
• Foot Bumps: Common foot bumps include ganglionic cysts and plantar fibromas. While both benign, these bumps tend not to go away on their own and can cause discomfort and disruption of everyday activities. Foot bumps can also be cancerous, so it’s always best to have them examined.
• Charcot Foot: Charcot foot, a severe diabetes complication, is a sudden softening of the foot’s bones caused by neuropathy. It can trigger an avalanche of problems, including joint loss, fractures, collapse of the arch, massive deformity, ulcers, amputation and even death. Charcot foot cannot be reversed, but its destructive effects can be stopped. Symptoms appear suddenly and can include warm and red skin, swelling and pain.
• Ulcers: Not only is a foot ulcer a painful condition which can lead to amputation, it can be indicative of several underlying ailments, which are critical to diagnose and treat, including diabetes, circulatory problems and issues with the mechanics of the foot or leg. Telltale signs that an ulcer may be brewing are swelling, temperature changes in the feet, colour changes and calluses.