If you are due to see a chiropodist, your first consultation will involve an assessment of your feet. Your foot doctor will inspect your lower limbs and the nature and severity of your ailments. They will take into account the architecture, alignment, look and texture of your feet to make a diagnosis. The assessment stage may also involve a conditioning footbath to clean your feet and help you relax.
Following a diagnosis, your chiropodist will review treatment options. Usually minor foot problems such as verrucas, calluses and corns can be treated straight away. More complicated conditions will require further sessions and possibly additional forms of treatment. A typical session should last between 30 and 60 minutes, and will cost around £20 to £30.
Below we explore chiropody treatment used to tackle some of the most common foot problems and complaints:
Corns and calluses
These are thickened areas of hard or soft skin that are caused by excessive pressure or rubbing. People who wear poorly fitting shoes and/or do a lot of running and walking are more likely to develop corns and calluses. These will usually form on the balls of the foot and the heel.
Although gentle rubbing with a pumice stone or foot file can remove superficial areas of hard skin, a chiropodist will tackle the root cause of corns and calluses through orthotic care. Special padding, insoles and strapping will be provided to prevent rubbing and alleviate any pressure on the feet. If the corns and calluses do not respond to chiropody treatment, they may need to be removed with soft tissue surgery.
An ingrowing toenail refers to the way a nail cuts into the skin next to it rather than growing straight. This can cause a lot of pain and inflammation, and can increase the risk of infection. Ingrowing toenails can also make it difficult to walk comfortably. Chiropody treatment involves regular nail trimming and advice on self-care. Appropriate footwear will also be recommended. In some cases, soft tissue surgery will be needed to remove the nail altogether.
This is a common fungal infection that thrives in moist warm areas of the skin – particularly between the toes. Symptoms include itchy, damp and soggy skin, and in some cases cracking, flaking and bleeding. Foot doctors will most likely prescribe special creams, ointments and powders. They will also implement chiropody treatment to tackle any fungus that has spread to the toenails.
Fungal nail infections
Fungal nail infections are caused by the same fungus that triggers athletes foot. Symptoms include nail deformity, discolouration and crumbliness. Chiropody treatment will typically involve oral medication to kill the fungus, and nail cutting to expose the infected nail bed to a lighter, cooler environment. A chiropodist will also advise on appropriate footwear and self-care tips. Sometimes fungal nail infections are caused by injury. This allows the fungus to creep in and multiply under the nail. A foot doctor will provide extra care and treatment for this.
Dry and cracked heels
The skin around the heel tends to be thicker than other parts of the foot. When it becomes too dry and lacking in moisture it can lead to splits and cracking. In some cases the deep fissures will completely break apart and bleed. This can be very painful and uncomfortable. A chiropodist will recommend balms or special creams that contain moisturisers to help. They will also check for infections in open wounds and treat accordingly. Again advice will be given on footwear to prevent the condition from worsening or returning.
Flat feet is where some people’s feet have low arches or no arches at all. It tends to be a hereditary condition, and for some it does not cause any major problems. Others will endure constant pain and discomfort. This is because flat feet can put a strain on muscles and ligaments, causing pain in the legs, the inside of the ankle, and in the knee, hip or back. A chiropodist can teach exercises and provide foot orthotics to ease symptoms.
This is a bone deformity of the joint at the base of the big toes. It is where the big toe points towards the other toes and the foot bone attached to it bulges outwards. While genetics can play a part, wearing poorly fitting shoes over a long period of time can cause bunions. The condition can change the shape of your foot, cause swelling and make walking painful.
A chiropodist will generally treat bunions and toe deformities in the form of foot orthotics. They will suggest wide comfortable footwear made of softer material and will provide insoles to slow down more joint changes and improve foot function. A foot doctor may also consider felt or gel padding to prevent rubbing and will remove any areas of hard skin to aid comfort. In more severe cases, a chiropodist may suggest patients seek surgery to have their bones realigned.