Foot Pain: Do You Need to Get a Referral to See a Podiatrist?

For most of us, foot pain is something that happens every now and then. We tend to ignore it until it affects our mobility. When foot pain begins to interfere with your daily activities, what do you do? Do you see your primary care physician, or do you go directly to a podiatrist? Let us find out how to get the right kind of medical attention, while also answering the question, "Should I get a referral before seeing a podiatrist?"

When is a referral necessary when dealing with foot pain?

1. In the case of a foot injury

A person who has recently injured their foot and is in constant pain should seek medical attention immediately. The bones of the foot may be broken or fractured, or there could be an injury of the soft tissue, like a torn Achilles tendon.

When a person goes to the emergency room or personal doctor with a foot injury, the doctor will likely request a podiatrist.

2. If the insurance provider requires it

Some medical insurance companies only pay for the services of a podiatrist after a primary care physician requests it. To be safe, check if the insurance company will pay for a podiatrist without a referral.

If the insurance provider is a health maintenance organization (HMO), a person will need their primary care physician to issue a written referral to make sure that the cost of seeing a podiatrist will be covered. This holds true for all non-emergency cases.

3. When there is an underlying medical condition

People who suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes or arthritis should first see their personal doctors, who will do an evaluation and diagnosis, then give a referral.

Consider the case of a diabetic. If the patient reports tingling and pain in the feet or if the doctor observes calluses or wounds, a podiatrist will be called on. Depending on the diagnosis, the podiatrist will treat the patient's feet with medication, foot orthoses, prescription shoes or minor surgical procedures.

Going forward, the diabetic will continue to see the podiatrist for routine checkups, and the podiatrist will continually monitor the health of the patient's feet.

4. When the foot pain is chronic

Long-term foot pain that comes and goes could be a symptom of an underlying condition. If the pain persists for more than a month, a person should consult their doctor and have the cause of the pain diagnosed.

If the underlying cause requires treatment by a podiatrist, the primary care physician will give a referral.

When can you go straight to the podiatrist?

1. Bunions

Some conditions are quite easy to identify. If a person is suffering from bunions, they can consult a podiatrist without seeing a general physician first. Because a podiatrist specializes in the treatment of feet, they will suggest treatment options to get rid of foot pain and its cause.

2. A flat foot

Sometimes, one foot may look different from the other and may hurt when a person walks. This could be a symptom of a flat foot, which is caused by damaged or malformed tendons. A podiatrist is the perfect person to deal with this particular problem.

3. The sudden appearance of a painful, growing lump

A person with these symptoms should consult a podiatrist for a diagnosis. The lump may turn out to be a tumor or a harmless cyst. Either way, timely treatment will make all the difference.

Do not ignore the pain

Sometimes, foot pain does not go away. If your foot has been hurting for a week or two, chances are that you will still be in pain a month later. So do yourself a favor, talk to your primary care physician or podiatrist, and have the problem dealt with.

What are you waiting for?

Looking for a podiatrist near the 83201 area? Call Ambulatory Foot & Ankle Clinic at (208) 803-0010.

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