Otherwise known as podiatry (mainly in the US), chiropody can be described as the study of the feet. A chiropodist is a highly and medically trained practitioner whom specialises in the assessment, management and general care of the feet, common foot problems and those of the lower extremities. The scope of their role has extended to include associated problems relating to diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
The importance of foot care has been recognised for thousands of years, as the ancient Egyptians are known to have placed high priority on this area. For many people, especially the young, a simple routine of washing, drying and correct nail care is enough to maintain healthy feet; but for many the advice and expertise of a chiropodist is necessary.
When Would a Chiropodist be Needed?
Many conditions of the feet and lower limbs will require the help of a chiropodist if home care measures have failed.
This is a fungal infection that is highly contagious and is transmitted from other humans or from the soil. It causes itching and flaking of the skin and if left untreated can cause the skin to crack, increasing the risk of infection. Usual treatment includes the use of anti-fungal lotions, sprays or creams, plus stringent hygiene practices. If these are not sufficient to eliminate the athlete’s foot, a visit to the chiropodist can help find out why and advice on other treatments can be found.
This occurs when the nail grows into its own nail-bed causing pain, inflammation and infection. They are normally caused by ill-fitting shoes, trauma/injury to the toe, poor nail cutting technique or from an abnormal nail-bed anatomy. If they are left untreated a very serious infection may result. If regular cleaning has not resolved the problem, your GP may refer you to a chiropodist. Treatments include anti-biotics or surgery which may be something very minor or complete removal of the nail and nail-bed.
Corns and Calluses
A callus is a patch of thick hardened skin that causes pain and discomfort. A corn is a particular type of callus that has a slightly different anatomy and has more chance of recurring. They are caused by poorly fitting shoes, unequal pressure throughout the toes usually from another medical complaint or from continual friction.
Both calluses and corns are treated by shaving and then usually padding to alleviate pressure and to protect from infection.
These are wart-like structures that appear on the soles of the feet. They are caused by a viral related infection and are highly contagious. They are extremely common in children and treatment normally consists of the application of a special substance obtained from the chemist; there are many varieties of treatment solutions and most work equally well. If you cannot get rid of the problem, or you have other medical problems such as diabetes or circulatory problem, seek the advice of a chiropodist who will be able to offer other treatments such as cryotherapy or the use of lasers.
These are just a few of the most common conditions that require the services of a chiropodist. If you have any ongoing foot problems or you feel your feet are not ‘working’ properly, ask your GP for a referral.
How Much Does Treatment from a Chiropodist Cost?
Depending on your local NHS Trust, chiropody is normally free of charge within the NHS. However, unfortunately there are still a few that cannot offer this service. Your GP will still be able to refer you to a chiropodist, so do research the private practitioners as they vary greatly in cost, areas of speciality and experience.
Foot care is an important issue as sore feet can greatly affect a person’s quality of life. Undiagnosed and untreated foot complaints have the possibility of leading to very serious illnesses.