Podiatrists, also known as doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs), diagnose and treat disorders, diseases and injuries of the foot and lower leg.
Podiatrists treat corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, heel spurs and arch problems; ankle and foot injuries, deformities and infections; and foot complaints associated with diabetes and other diseases. To treat these problems, podiatrists prescribe drugs and physical therapy, set fractures and perform surgery. They also fit corrective shoe inserts called orthotics, design plaster casts and strappings to correct deformities, and design custom-made shoes. Podiatrists may use a force plate or scanner to help design the orthotics: patients walk across a plate connected to a computer that “reads” their feet, picking up pressure points and weight distribution. From the computer readout, podiatrists order the correct design or recommend another kind of treatment.
To diagnose a foot problem, podiatrists also may order X-rays and laboratory tests. The foot may be the first area to show signs of serious conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. For example, patients with diabetes are prone to foot ulcers and infections because of poor circulation. Podiatrists consult with and refer patients to other health practitioners when they detect symptoms of these disorders.
Podiatrists must be licensed, requiring three to four years of undergraduate education, the completion of a four-year podiatric college program, and passing scores on national and state examinations.
Source: MedlinePlus and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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- American Podiatric Medical Association
- This web page discusses foot health, including walking, diabetes and beauty, as well as foot skeletal structure.
- American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine
- With an abundance of consumer information (how to buy shoes, winter running tips, shoe evaluations and so forth), this site is worth a few minutes of your time.