What is a podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a medical professional who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of foot, ankle, and lower extremity conditions. Podiatrists are also known as Doctors of Podiatric Medicine or DPMs.

Podiatrists may perform foot and ankle surgery, prescribe medications, and provide orthotics or other assistive devices to improve foot function and relieve pain. They can also provide advice on proper foot care, footwear, and exercise to prevent future foot problems.

What types of conditions does a podiatrist treat?

Podiatrists are trained to treat a wide range of foot and ankle conditions, including fractures, sprains, infections and deformities. Common conditions include:

  • Fractures and tendon injuries
  • Ankle sprains
  • Arthritis
  • Plantar fasciitis / Heel pain / Arch pain
  • Bunions
  • Hammertoes
  • Flat feet
  • Neuromas
  • Gout
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Corns and calluses
  • Diabetic foot ulcers
  • Warts
  • Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections

What type of training does a podiatrist have?

To become a podiatrist, one must complete a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) program at an accredited college of podiatric medicine. A DPM program typically takes four years to complete and includes both classroom and clinical training.

After completing the DPM program, podiatrists must complete a residency program to gain additional specialized training in their field. The length of residency varies depending on the program, but it is typically three years. During residency, podiatrists receive advanced clinical training in podiatric medicine and surgery.

To become licensed to practice, podiatrists must pass state licensing exams and meet continuing education requirements to maintain their license.

What should I expect at my first visit to the podiatrist?

Your first visit to a podiatrist will likely involve a comprehensive evaluation of your foot and ankle health, medical history, and symptoms. Here’s what you can expect:

  • MEDICAL HISTORY: The podiatrist will ask you about your medical history, including any previous foot or ankle injuries, surgeries or chronic conditions. They may also ask about your current medications and overall health.
  • PHYSICAL EXAM: The podiatrist will perform a physical examination of your feet and ankles, looking for any signs of deformities, injuries or other conditions. They may also evaluate your gait and foot mechanics to identify any issues with how you walk.
  • DIAGNOSTIC TESTS: If necessary, the podiatrist may order diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI scans, to get a more detailed look at your foot and ankle health.
  • TREATMENT PLAN: Based on their evaluation, the podiatrist will develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. This may include medication, physical therapy, custom orthotics, or other treatments to relieve pain, improve foot function, and prevent future foot problems.
  • FOLLOW-UP: The podiatrist will schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.

What are some of a podiatrist’s non-surgical treatment options?

Here are some common non-surgical treatment options that a podiatrist may recommend:

  • CUSTOM ORTHOTICS: These are custom-made shoe inserts that can correct foot deformities, improve gait, and relieve pain.
  • PHYSICAL THERAPY: A podiatrist may prescribe exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles, as well as to improve your balance and stability.
  • MEDICATIONS: Podiatrists may prescribe medications to relieve pain and inflammation associated with foot and ankle conditions. These may include over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription-strength medications.
  • BRACING OR CASTING: A podiatrist may use braces or casts to immobilize the foot or ankle and promote healing.
  • INJECTION THERAPY: This involves injecting medications or other substances directly into the affected area to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • FOOTWEAR MODIFICATIONS: A podiatrist may recommend specific types of shoes or shoe modifications to relieve pressure on the foot and prevent further injury.
  • TOPICAL TREATMENTS: For certain conditions such as fungal infections, a podiatrist may recommend the use of topical antifungal creams or ointments.

What are some of a podiatrist’s surgical treatment options?

In most cases, non-surgical treatment options will be considered first, and surgery will only be recommended if non-surgical approaches are ineffective in relieving symptoms or improving foot function.

Here are some common surgical treatment options that a podiatrist may recommend:

  • BUNION SURGERY: This is a procedure to remove the bony bump at the base of the big toe and realign the joint.
  • HAMMERTOE SURGERY: This involves straightening a bent or curled toe through the removal of a portion of the bone or soft tissue.
  • PLANTAR FASCIITIS SURGERY: This is a procedure to release the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes and can cause pain in the bottom of the foot.
  • TENDON SURGERY: This may be necessary to repair a torn or damaged tendon, which can occur with conditions like Achilles tendonitis or posterior tibial tendon dysfunction.
  • FOOT & ANKLE RECONSTRUCTION: This is a complex procedure that involves rebuilding or repairing the structure of the foot or ankle, often after a traumatic injury.
  • NEUROMA SURGERY: This is a procedure to remove a painful growth on a nerve in the foot, typically between the toes.
  • JOINT REPLACEMENT: In severe cases of arthritis or joint damage, a podiatrist may recommend joint replacement surgery to replace the damaged joint with a prosthetic joint.

When should I seek podiatry treatment?

You should consider seeking podiatry treatment if you are experiencing any foot or ankle pain or discomfort that is interfering with your ability to walk, stand, or engage in your daily activities. Some specific signs that you may need to see a podiatrist include:

  • Persistent pain or swelling in the foot or ankle
  • Difficulty walking or standing due to foot or ankle pain
  • Heel pain, particularly in the morning or after prolonged periods of standing or walking
  • Ingrown toenails, blisters, or other skin or nail issues on your feet
  • Wounds or injuries to the foot or ankle, including fractures or sprains
  • Numbness or tingling in the foot or ankle
  • Deformities or abnormalities in the foot, such as bunions or hammertoes
  • Arthritic or joint pain in the foot or ankle
  • Fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek prompt podiatry treatment to prevent the condition from worsening. A podiatrist can diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend a personalized treatment plan to relieve your pain and improve your foot function.