What Is A Podiatrist and What Does A Podiatrist Do?

Whenever you have a health complaint, I'm pretty sure you would want to complain to someone who is trained to particularly care for your specific health challenge.

When it comes to issues involving your feet, ankles, and legs, the health care professionals trained to care for you are Podiatrists.

podiatrist- foot doctors

Podiatrists are 'foot doctors' who focus on preventing, diagnosing and treating any issues around these areas.

The origin of the word 'podiatry' is from the Greek words- 'pod' and 'iatros' which mean 'foot' and 'physician' respectively. So podiatry literally means 'foot doctor'.

Who Is A Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating problems with the foot, ankle and the leg. Podiatrists are also called chiropodists or foot doctors.

The term, 'chiropodist' is still used in the UK and Canada. It was retired in the United States after foot specialists did not want the name to be confused with the term 'chiropractor'.

Podiatrists know about and take care of the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and even nerves in your feet, ankles, and legs.

The training program for Podiatry differs from country to country. For example, in the United Kingdom and Australia, chiropodists have to get a bachelor's degree in Podiatry, a program that lasts about 3-4 years.

In the United States, Podiatrists are called Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). They have to first get a four-year undergraduate pre-med degree, graduate from a four-year doctoral program from an accredited podiatric college and then serve a 3-year residency program before they are allowed to practice independently.

What Does A Podiatrist Do?

To explain what podiatrists do, let's start with a simple fact about your feet. Your feet are interestingly complex. As a matter of fact, there 52 bones in your feet, 26 in each foot.

That makes up more than 25% of the entire number of bones in your body! 

foot doctor

Podiatrists are trained in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and even restoration of disorders affecting the feet, ankles, and legs. 

In some countries, podiatrists are referred to as doctors but in others, they are not. The reason is that doctors go learn about all aspects of medicine before specializing in a particular area, while podiatrists only train to administer treatment to the foot.

However, these are some common conditions podiatrists can handle:

  • Ingrown toe nails
  • Athlete's foot
  • Foot pain
  • Heel pain
  • Tendon inflammation
  • Bunions
  • Club foot
  • Corns
  • Tumours
  • Lower extremity ulcers
  • Abscesses

They can also set fractures, administer anesthetics, treat sports injuries and prescribe orthotics and prosthetics.

What should I expect from a visit to a podiatrist?

A podiatrist would normally take a history which involves asking you questions related to your complaint(s). They will also examine you physically to look for signs and may request for tests or X-rays that will help in establishing a diagnosis.

Foot X-ray

If you have previous test results or X-rays relevant to your complaint, don't forget to take them with you for your appointment.

Depending on what your complaints are and the findings of the podiatrist, you may be placed on medications or scheduled for a procedure or referred to other doctors or specialists where necessary.

Always remember to ask questions relating to your complaint and ensure you understand the treatment plan your podiatrist is offering. 

If there are any follow up appointments, ensure you attend. It is important not to skip scheduled clinic visits, even if your complaint has been resolved and you feel better.

Attending a follow up with a podiatrist would help provide valuable feedback on the effectiveness of their treatment plan and ensure you have a complete resolution of your complaint.

How Can I Find A Podiatrist Near Me?

It is one thing to know what a foot doctor can do, it is another thing to know where to find them or to know if there is any podiatrist near you.

So, how do you find a podiatrist near you?

Well, go to a hospital and file your complaint. Most hospitals can give referrals for you to see a podiatrist. 

One advantage of this is that a doctor that attends to you can adequately assess you and also refer you to other specialists if your condition requires the attention of other specialists.

However, if there is no foot doctor directly near you or if you want an immediate answer to a question about your foot, you can ask a doctor online to get an opinion in real time.