Dr. Brendan McConnell is a board certified, American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery Fellow, and has been practicing foot and ankle surgery & podiatric medicine on the Virginia Peninsula since 1987. Dr. McConnell has been recognized by Hampton Roads Magazine in the “TOP DOCS” issue for several years. Today he takes some time for a Q&A on common causes of foot pain and treatment options.
1). As a foot and ankle doctor what types of injuries do you treat?
I frequently see patients who have suffered injuries including foot and ankle fractures ,dislocations ,contusions, sprains associated with sports ,falls , and other mishaps. Other conditions also treated include soft tissue injuries to the lower extremities such as puncture wounds ,lacerations ,and animal bites.
2). What is a bunion?
A bunion is a bony bump of the first metatarsal. It is most often found near the joint at the base of the big toe. Bunion deformity development may be associated with heredity factors and maybe accentuated by mechanical forces acting on the foot and ankle. Bunions can cause pain ,swelling ,and skin irritation. Wearing tight shoes will not cause a bunion to develop but can certainly make them worse. Arthritis and injury can accelerate symptoms to develop in an area of a bunion deformity. Bunions vary in degree from mild to severe and they can be successfully alleviated with a wide spectrum of treatments.
3). When should you seek treatment for a bunion?
Patient should seek treatment for bunion deformity when they have been experiencing pain and difficulty with shoes. Bunion pain may interfere with exercise levels , extensive standing and walking at work as well as activities of daily living . Frequently bunion deformity will cause pain and alter ones walking pattern and may be associated with causing additional problems (by compensation )with other areas of the foot. Persons who have a family history of bunion deformities may want to be proactive and look for an assessment of what they may be developing in the long term as a “look into the future “.
4). What does it mean to have a “diabetic foot”?
Diabetic individuals have special circumstances in that often the disease process of diabetes mellitus will affect the feet /ankles in such a way that nerve sensations as well as blood flow to the feet may be reduced and possibly absent in these individuals. Additionally host defenses and ability to fight infection may be compromised by poor control of diabetes. This situation can unfortunately lead to having a previously “minor ” infection ,injury ,blister , or wound result in a potential threat for one to lose part of or their entire foot ,ankle ,or leg. Amputation of a foot or leg can severely impair ones ability to exercise ,perform previous simple activities and increases the risk of losing the other foot later in life.
5). When should one seek treatment for a diabetic foot problem?
Knowledge and prevention are ultimately the best approach to dealing with potential diabetic foot problems. The old adage “If your body hurts there’s something wrong” may be misleading in the life of a diabetic with neuropathy (lessened sensation of the feet) . Diabetic people with severe infections including bone and joint infections with profound loss of feeling in their feet may not experience any pain in their feet at all. This would be a case where “ignoring the problem ” may lead to serious consequences such as loss of the foot or leg. Diabetics and family members who have diabetic foot questions and concerns are always correct in checking with medical professionals instead of burying their heads in the sand . The cost of ignoring a diabetic foot problem could have a potential devastating outcome so it is better to be safe.
6). What do you enjoy most about being a podiatrist?
I enjoy meeting and getting to know people . Most frequently when patients come to podiatrists they are in pain and they want relief. As a podiatrist I find patients frequently are puzzled and frustrated by their foot and ankle problems . First by identifying/unraveling the factors /causes of the foot and ankle conditions we can explain this to the patient, formulate and implement the treatment solutions. It is gratifying to be able to assist people in solving these types of problems.