Our feet get a workout almost every day. Simply walking around puts stress on our feet, even more so when running or participating in athletics. The potential for foot injury is high, and foot problems are among the most frequent orthopedic complaints. In fact, informal polling has shown that 74 percent of all Americans have experienced some form of foot injury during their lives. Here are some facts about the most common serious foot injuries suffered by Americans, including their symptoms and treatment.
A broken ankle is actually a fracture of one of multiple bones that make up the ankle joint: the tibia, the fibula, and the talus. The break can be caused by any number of different traumas including automobile accidents, twists, falls, and workplace accidents.
Symptoms include severe pain and an inability to bear weight on the affected foot. Bruising and swelling also occur, and in some cases there may be a visible deformity of the ankle. X-rays and other imaging may be necessary to definitely diagnosis a broken ankle.
An orthopedic surgeon can advise on the best course of treatment. Many ankle fractures can be treated in about six weeks in a cast. In more severe cases, however, surgery is necessary. This usually involves the installation of hardware to fuse the broken bones and hold them in position.
A Lisfranc fracture is a fracture and dislocation of the metatarsal bones, located in the midfoot. One or more metatarsals is shifted out of place in relation to the talus, or anklebone. This type of injury is sometimes seen in vehicle accidents but also occurs frequently when a heavy object is dropped onto the midfoot.
It’s very easy to mistake a Lisfranc fracture for a bruise or sprain. If a Lisfranc fracture is suspected, an orthopedic surgeon should be consulted, as these injuries can be difficult to see on X-rays. For injuries where the bones are non-displaced, or still in their proper positions, a few weeks in a cast will usually suffice. Again, more severe cases may require surgery to insert a metal plate with screws or pins to hold it in position.
Frostbite is the result of prolonged exposure to low temperatures. The fingers and toes are especially susceptible. Ice crystals form in the soft tissues, causing damage. Symptoms include itching, pain, and blisters, progressing to numbness and a waxy appearance to the skin.
In mild cases, simply rewarming the toes is sufficient, and there is no permanent damage. However, severe instances may require surgical removal of the dead tissue and even amputation of the toes.
Gangrene is not really an injury in itself but is the result of infection or impaired blood supply. Diabetics are particularly vulnerable and should check their feet daily for wounds or suspicious areas.
Gangrene is dead tissue, usually affecting the toes first and then progressing up the foot. Again, surgical removal of the diseased tissue, along with antibiotics, is often the first line of treatment. In more progressive cases, amputation of the toes or foot may be required.