What Happens at a Podiatrist Appointment?
Far too often, we ignore our feet. The health of our nails and feet is extremely important, but until there is a problem, they can go unnoticed. Thankfully, podiatrists can help to correct any issues. Whether you’ve been before or not, there are certain things you can expect from a podiatrist appointment.
Simply put, they are medical professionals who can resolve a variety of foot, toe, and ankle issues. They often assist people with conditions that have gotten so bad that they are hard to manage on your own.
Unless you’ve had foot problems for years, you may not have been before. But, a podiatry appointment isn’t much different from any other medical appointment.
Many common foot problems can be looked at by an expert. If left untreated, these issues can sometimes affect the back or entire lower half of the body. It’s important to know when you should see a podiatrist, and what you should expect from your visit.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Can a Podiatrist Do for Me?
- 1.1 What to Wear to the Podiatrist
- 1.2 What to Expect on a First Visit
- 1.3 When to See a Podiatrist
- 1.4 What Conditions Are Treated by a Podiatrist?
- 1.5 Preventative Care Options
- 1.6 What Does a Podiatrist Appointment Cost?
- 1.7 Do I Need to Go to a Podiatrist?
What Can a Podiatrist Do for Me?
Podiatrists can accurately diagnose problems with the feet. From there, they can provide treatment and prevention methods for further problems. Any abnormal conditions of the feet and lower limbs can usually be resolved.
Smaller issues can be dealt with, too. Anything from toenail fungus to pain in the ankles can often be looked at by this type of doctor.
This guide will focus on what you can expect when you visit a podiatrist. You don’t need to wait for your foot or toes to be in a lot of pain before you see a foot doctor. But, if you feel as though you might have a foot condition, they are the best person to see to get some answers.
What to Wear to the Podiatrist
There are a few things to keep in mind. One of those things is what you should wear. Unlike a general physician, a podiatrist will usually be focused on just your feet. Unless there is another obvious health condition present that might affect your feet, that’s all a foot doctor is worried about.
One thing to consider, though, is the footwear you choose on the day of your appointment. It’s a good idea to either wear or bring along a pair of shoes that you typically wear. If you’re having problems with your feet, they can check out your shoes to see if there is a particular pattern of where they are worn.
You should also bring athletic shoes if you feel the problem with your feet is due to exercise. Your shoes may tell your podiatrist about your gait, or other factors that could be causing you discomfort.
For your own well-being and the doctor’s, wear clean, fresh socks. Foot conditions like toenail fungus can be smelly. Some people are prone to sweaty feet. No matter what condition you might be dealing with, it’s courteous to wear clean and dry socks. Pay attention to what you’re wearing on your feet, and how it might help the doctor. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what else you wear.
What to Expect on a First Visit
If you’ve never been before, one of the things you can likely expect on your visit is a thorough examination of things like your family history. Before the doctor even looks at your foot, they will want to know if any problems or areas of concern might come from your genetics.
To make the experience easier for yourself and your doctor, you should be up to date on your family’s medical history. Your own medical history is essential, too. Bring along any medical records you think could be helpful. You should also be able to tell them about any symptoms you might be having, and any other current medical issues you’re facing.
Additionally, prepare a list of questions ahead of time for your visit. This might seem like a silly ‘extra’ step, but you’ll be happy to have your questions written down during the appointment. It ensures you won’t forget anything. They are there to address all your concerns.
From there, the doctor will examine the feet/lower limbs. They’ll check for things like circulation and strength. Of course, if you’re experiencing a specific condition or symptoms, they’ll take a closer look at those. Any areas of concern will be covered, and they should be able to make an accurate diagnosis.
Once an official diagnosis is made, your podiatrist can recommend a solution. Treatment will depend on your specific condition. In some cases, your doctor may be able to provide some preventative actions, too. They may even recommend a specialist in another area, depending on your condition.
When to See a Podiatrist
It can be challenging to know when to make an appointment. Sometimes, conditions of the foot can be treated at home. Other times, aches and pains are things that don’t need professional treatment. Some conditions, though, should be taken seriously. Far too often people wait until it’s too late, and their feet are in a large amount of discomfort.
There is no hard and fast rule for when you should make an appointment with a podiatrist. If your feet are bothering you or you think you may have a condition, it’s better to be safe than sorry. But, certain conditions should always be taken to a medical professional.
Some conditions to look out for include the following:
- Flat foot – If one foot is flatter than the other, it may not just be a coincidence. It could be an issue with the tendons in your foot. In the case of a sudden flat foot, the tendon could have ruptured. Not only can it be uncomfortable, but it can lead to more serious conditions like arthritis. A tendon problem can eventually lead to joint problems if not treated early on.
- Any kind of lump – If you lump on your foot, seek medical attention. It may be nothing serious, but it’s important to get it checked out to ensure it’s not a tumor of any kind. This is especially important if the lump starts to hurt, or shows signs of growing.
- Discoloration – Foot discoloration can be a sign of poor circulation or a vein issue. If your foot looks purple or extremely white, an immediate visit to the podiatrist is necessary.
- An ongoing injury – Foot injuries aren’t uncommon. People experience them for a variety of reasons. But, if an open wound on your foot or toes doesn’t seem to be healing, you should see the podiatrist. If a wound doesn’t heal, it could lead to an infection that could be harmful to your skin or bones.
- Increasing pain – It might be easy to ignore foot pain. But, if your foot pain gets worse the more active you are, it shouldn’t be ignored. This could be a sign that you’ve experienced a stress fracture. As you might expect, the more stress you put on your foot, the worse it will become. Extreme pain that lasts, or gets worse should be examined.
What Conditions Are Treated by a Podiatrist?
Everything from foot and nail problems to skin conditions can be treated by a podiatrist. They are trained to deal with almost any problems of the foot, no matter how small.
Some of the most common conditions include:
- General pain in the foot, heel, or ankle
- Arch pain
- Athlete’s foot
- Toenail fungus
- Splinters under the toenail
- Knee problems (runner’s knee)
- Lower leg problems
- Toenails have stopped growing
What Does a Podiatrist Look for with Runners?
Runners and athletes are often some of the most common patients for podiatrists. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to experience some of the common foot issues they do. Anyone who is active can be at a higher risk for foot conditions, such as blackened toenails.
Podiatrists tend to look for specific things when an active individual comes in for an appointment. If you’re a runner, you might expect different things from your visit.
Some things the doctor might look at include:
- Feet that pronate (bend the wrong way)
- Joint alignment – Most podiatrists will look at the ankles, knee, and hip joints
- Hip issues – Your hips can have a significant effect on your feet, especially as a runner
- Pelvis and spine alignment
- Tension elsewhere in the body
Your podiatrist may have you move or run like you normally would. Being able to look at your gait can give them an idea of what could be wrong.
People who are more active may also be at a greater risk of toe and nail issues, like fungal infections. Repeated trauma to the toe from ill-fitting shoes or running all the time can cause significant problems.
Calluses, bunions, and sweaty feet are also common problems for runners and athletic people. If you consider yourself reasonably active, taking proper care of your feet is crucial. Going to a podiatrist for preventative care can make a big difference in the health of your feet.
Preventative Care Options
Most people won’t go to a podiatrist unless they’re experiencing some foot issue. By that point, though, it’s likely that the issue has gotten painful or serious. One thing to consider is that a podiatrist can also provide you with preventative care. While you don’t need to see one as often as your general physician, they can be helpful in keeping your feet healthy.
If you’ve had foot conditions in the past, it’s important to see a podiatrist to identify a preventative plan will work best for you. Most of the time, it has to do with making lifestyle changes.
Some of the most common preventative care tips from a podiatrist include things like:
- Owning proper footwear – This is especially important if you spend a lot of time on your feet or are regularly active. Footwear can account for many problems, especially if it’s too tight.
- Getting enough arch support – This has to do with both footwear itself and inserts you can use to support your arches.
- Keeping feet clean and dry – Things like athlete’s foot and toenail fungus are common problems people see a podiatrist for. While there is no way to 100% prevent these issues, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. Practicing proper hygiene and keeping your feet dry is a great place to start. Experts can give you tips on how to do just that.
- Losing weight – Sometimes, obesity or a lot of weight gain can lead to problems with your feet. It affects your joints and can cause a massive strain on your ankles, leading to pain. Your podiatrist may refer you to a nutritionist to help you lose weight.
- Being active – Simply walking more can make a big difference in the health of your feet. It can also boost circulation, which can prevent a variety of different issues and reduce pain and inflammation.
What Does a Podiatrist Appointment Cost?
There is no real set pricing. Many factors come into play. A podiatrist may charge more depending on how big their practice is, where they are located, etc. In most cases, though, visiting a podiatrist for a foot condition costs less than going to a general practitioner.
On average, a visit to the podiatrist can cost anywhere from $400-$600. This cost goes up depending on your specific condition and what tests may be needed. For example, if your doctor has to run X-Rays or other diagnostic tests, it may cost more.
Because podiatrists are medical specialists, they often have a lot of control over their exam costs. If you live in an area with more than one option, shop around to get a general idea of how much an office visit will cost. If you feel you have a specific condition, you can call offices to see what the treatment for that condition would cost.
Are Podiatrist Services Covered by Medicare?
Podiatry, like most specialized medical services, can be tricky when it comes to insurance. In most cases, yes, podiatrist services are covered by Medicare. If the service is considered a medically-necessary treatment, it should be covered. This same mindset is true for most insurance companies, too.
Foot injuries or diseases that need to be treated are regularly covered by insurance. Routine foot care and prevention may not be covered. Sometimes, these treatments are considered cosmetic. Even toenail fungus is unlikely to be covered by insurance.
Additionally, some of the treatments and solutions needed might not be covered by Medicare or insurance. But, a treatment that is medically necessary should be covered in full. For example, surgery may be needed in some cases. This type of treatment is usually covered by most insurance companies.
This doesn’t mean you should wait until you have a painful and scary foot condition to see a podiatrist. Proper foot care is important, and sometimes it takes a professional to help you get it right.
Do I Need to Go to a Podiatrist?
Some people will go through their whole lives without ever going to the podiatrist. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and many of those people can ‘get away’ with it and have healthy feet. But, it’s far too easy to ignore foot problems and not think about going to the podiatrist, even when it’s needed.
If you have any of the foot issues, you should make an appointment. Even if you have questions about general foot care, it’s never a bad idea to get checked out. When foot problems go ignored, they can lead to other health issues that are much harder to deal with.
There are so many potential feet and toe conditions. Some of them are more serious than others. But, if you ever have any doubts about the foot discomfort you might be experiencing, going to a medical professional is usually the right solution.