Should I seek professional help?
For most people foot problems can come and go without any prescribed treatment, or can respond well to self-treatment.
However, if you have a known condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma or diabetes, you should discuss any new foot problem with your rheumatologist, your GP or a podiatrist.
Even if you don't have any significant health conditions, you should still seek help if your foot problem:
- involves ulceration of the skin or is infected
- impairs the blood flow to the skin
- has caused pain for more than three months
- is getting noticeably worse
- is changing the colour of your skin - especially if it's dark blue or black
- is leading to progressive changes in the shape of your foot.
You should also seek help if you develop foot problems and you have increased swelling, you're on drugs which suppress your immune system (including steroids or biologics) or if you have a history of poor skin healing.
How are foot problems diagnosed?
In most cases a simple clinical examination is all that is required. This usually involves looking carefully for signs such as swelling, combined with a short hands-on exam to work out which structures might be involved. Sometimes it is helpful to have the person walk up and down to see what happens during weight-bearing and routine activities.
It is less common for foot problems to require blood tests or imaging (for example, X-ray or ultrasound) to reach a diagnosis.