WHO IS A PODIATRIST?
A podiatric physician or podiatrist treats the disorders of the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg. A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), is qualified through education and training. They are mastered to diagnose as well as treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related structures of your leg.
While treating patients suffering with foot problems, this system is also referred to as the lower extremity. Podiatrists are qualified among medical professionals to treat the lower extremity based on their education, training and expertise. Podiatrists are designated as physicians by the federal government.
ARE PODIATRIST DOCTORS?
Podiatrists are the doctors who do not go to a traditional medical school. Podiatrists are capable of carrying out surgery, reset broken bones, prescribe drugs, and recommend lab tests or X-rays. They work along with other specialists when a problem affects your feet or lower legs. Podiatrists are licensed and regulated by state governments in the United States.
WHAT DO PODIATRISTS STUDY?
In the United States, podiatrists are licensed as Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM).The education of podiatric physicians is similar to the paths of traditional MD, and Osteopathic Medicine (DO) includes four years of undergraduate work.
They study for four years in an accredited podiatric medical school and followed by a three or four years of hospital-based surgical residency. Along with this podiatrist undertake an optional one to two year fellowship in foot & ankle reconstruction, surgical limb salvage, sports medicine, plastic surgery, pediatric foot & ankle surgery, and wound.
Podiatrists are granted licenses in all fifty states. Although, each state usually has its own licensing requirements. The scope of practice however might vary from state to state and residency training.
Podiatrists study the anatomy of the bones, nerves, and muscles along with how they work together to help you move. They also study about the illnesses and injuries affecting your feet including how to diagnose and treat them as well as fixing the feet with surgery depending on their condition.
WHAT CONDITION DO PODIATRISTS TREAT?
The podiatrists would treat people of any age for various foot-related conditions, including:
- Fractures and sprains: Podiatrists usually treat the common injuries affecting a foot or ankle. They also master sports medicine, treating foot problems for athletes and recommending ways to avoid them.
- Bunions and hammertoes: These are the problems with the bones in your feet. A bunion affects the joint at the base of your big toe. This gets bigger or knocked out of place causing pain and inflammation. The toe would bend toward the other fingers. A hammertoe is a condition in which the middle joint of a toe bends in an abnormal manner.
- Nail disorders: These would include problems such as infection in your nail due to fungal infection or an ingrown toenail. The corner or side of a nail grows into your toe instead of straight out.
- Diabetes: It is a condition where your body either doesn’t produce insulin hormone or doesn’t use it the way it should. Insulin helps in digesting the sugar. Diabetes could cause damage to the nerves in your feet or legs, and you might have trouble getting enough blood to your feet. Diabetes could have serious complications if not controlled. Serious conditions could also lead to foot amputations or removal by a doctor due to diabetes. A podiatrist would help to prevent the amputation.
- Arthritis: This is caused from inflammation, swelling, and wear & tear of your joints with around 33 joints. A podiatrist recommends physical therapy, drugs, or special shoes or inserts to treat your arthritis. Surgery might also be an option when other treatments don’t work well for you.
- Growing pains: A podiatrist would help with your child’s feet when they are pointing inward, look flat or toes that don’t line up right. They would recommend exercises, insoles, or braces to help with the problem or they might recommend surgery.
- Heel pain: The most common cause of heel pain is heel spurs that are a buildup of calcium at the bottom of your heel bone. This is usually caused from running, ill-fitting shoes, or being overweight. Plantar fasciitis develops the inflammation of the band of connective tissue running along the bottom of your foot. Sports and non-supportive shoes usually aggravate the problems. Over pronation causes the foot bends in or out too far when you walk. It affects the athletes such as Achilles tendinitis, causing pain at the back of your heel where this tendon attaches. Treatment often begins with over-the-counter pain medicines and might include shoe inserts known as orthotics. Some people might require surgery.
- Morton’s neuroma: Nerve problems occurring between the third and fourth bones of your foot might cause pain, burning, and a feeling something in your shoe mainly affecting runners. Tight shoes and over pronation make it worse. A podiatrist treats the inflammation and pain with the help of an orthotic. Podiatrist might need surgery to remove it.
Podiatrists usually treat a variety of foot conditions. Other podiatrists specialize in specific types of podiatric medicine including sports medicine or wound care. Other podiatric specialties include:
- Pediatric care
- Geriatric care
- Neurologic foot conditions
- Circulatory food conditions
- Autoimmune and inflammatory conditions
- General or reconstructive surgery
HOW DO PODIATRISTS DIAGNOSE THE CONDITION?
Podiatrists start the diagnostic process by reviewing your medical history and current symptoms. Based on the findings, they would recommend additional tests before making their final diagnosis. Podiatrists use the following diagnostic tools:
- Imaging tests, including X-ray, ultrasound, bone scan, CT scan, and MRI scan that would reveal bone fractures, blocked or narrow blood vessels, and other structural problems.
- Blood tests help in detecting the presence of an infection or inflammatory or autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Quantitative sensory testing uses a specialized computer system to record the nerves’ changes in temperature and vibration. Podiatrists use this test to diagnose the diabetic neuropathy, hypersensitivity, and other nerve disorders of the foot.
- Electromyography (EMG) helps in measuring the muscles response to nerve impulses. During the diagnoses a healthcare provider would insert one or more thin needles known as electrodes, into the muscle to pick up electrical activity from the muscle tissue. Abnormal EMG determines a problem with the nerve and could help your podiatrist recommend the treatment regime.
Foot is a complex structure requiring expert care. A podiatrist is a physician who has completed years of rigorous foot and ankle training in podiatric medical school and hospital-based residency training.
This makes a podiatrist uniquely qualified to care for this part of the body. Podiatrists specialize in certain areas of podiatric medicine are required to complete a fellowship program after their residency.
Podiatrists get direct experience in their subspecialty during the course of fellowship. They are also required to pass certification exams of their subspecialty subject.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from foot problems, our expert providers at Specialty Care Clinics will take care of your health and help you recover.