1) WHAT IS A PODIATRIST?
A podiatrist, also called a doctor of podiatric medicine, is a specialist who provides diagnosis and treatment of the foot, ankle and related structures. Some of the conditions podiatrist’s treat include: bunions, heel pain, spurs, hammertoes, neuromas, ingrown toenails, warts, corns and calluses, sprains, fractures, infections, and other injuries.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, there are an estimated 18,000 practicing podiatrists in the United States. Podiatrists are in demand more than ever today because of a rapidly aging population. In addition, according to the association, foot disorders are among the most widespread and neglected health problems affecting people in this country.
- Consult with patients and other physicians on how to prevent foot problems.
- Diagnose and treat tumors, ulcers, fractures, skin and nail diseases, and deformities.
- Perform surgeries to correct or remedy such problems as bunions, fractures, hammertoes, arthritic joints, infections, ruptured Achilles, and other ligaments and tendons.
- Prescribe therapies and perform diagnostic procedures such as ultrasound and lab tests.
- Prescribe or fit patients with inserts called orthotics that correct foot imbalances.
- Treat conditions such as: bone disorders, bunions, corns, calluses, cysts, heel spurs, infections, ingrown nails, and plantar fasciitis.
2) What Are the Qualifications of a Podiatrist?
Podiatrists are the most qualified doctors to care for your foot and ankle needs. After finishing undergraduate studies, the podiatrist completes a 4 year curriculum at an accredited podiatric medical school, graduating with the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). This is identical in length to medical doctors (MD) and osteopathic doctors (DO), however during this time frame, not only do podiatrists cover basic and clinical sciences, but also focus on pathology of the foot and ankle.
After graduation from podiatric medical school, the podiatrist enters into a 3 year postgraduate hospital based residency in podiatric medicine and surgery, approved by the Council on Podiatric Medical Education. The difference in residencies, although similar to those for MDs and DOs, is the vast number of cases and time spent focused on the foot and ankle specialty. After completion of residency, podiatrists can then pursue felllwships. Podiatrists can specialize in many fields, including surgery, sports medicine, wound care, pediatrics (children) and diabetic care.
3) Are Podiatrists Board Certified?
Podiatrists can earn board certification with advanced training, clinical experience, and by ultimately completing a rigorous examination. The American Board of Podiatric Medicine and the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery are the certifying boards for the profession.
4) Look for the “DPM”
The foot and ankle are complex anatomical structures, all-in-one stabilizers, shock absorbers, and propulsion engines that are instrumental to overall health and well-being. They require expert care. Be sure you’re seeing the most qualified health-care professional to treat your feet by looking for the letters “DPM” after his or her name. The DPM means a physician has completed years of rigorous foot and ankle training in podiatric medical school and hospital-based residency training, making him or her uniquely qualified to care for this part of the body.