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What is a Foot Doctor?

A foot doctor, or podiatrist, is a medical professional specializing in diagnosing and treating conditions of the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg. They manage issues ranging from ingrown toenails to fractures. Curious about what conditions require a podiatrist's care?
D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

A foot doctor, also called a podiatrist, treats patients with different types of illnesses and injuries that affect the ankles and feet. Podiatrists use a number of tools and equipment to examine and diagnose foot conditions. Depending on the cause of problems, foot doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medication, surgically remove skin maladies, or fit patients with special shoe inserts to relieve discomfort. Some podiatrists specialize with a certain type of foot care or condition, though many operate general practices.

When patients meet with a foot doctor, they are usually asked about their symptoms and medical histories. After learning about a patient's problems, the podiatrist conducts a thorough examination of the foot. If a patient has a skin condition such as a wart or corn, the doctor may remove it by freezing, burning, or cutting it off. Other conditions like ingrown nails often require equally delicate procedures. In addition, most podiatrists' offices are equipped with x-ray machines and other technological devices to help them make accurate diagnoses or internal problems.

Foot doctors frequently fit patients with custom shoe insoles.
Foot doctors frequently fit patients with custom shoe insoles.

If a foot doctor finds a torn ligament, bone fracture, or other internal injury, he or she might recommend surgery. Some podiatrists are licensed to perform invasive surgery themselves though most refer their patients to specialists known as orthopedic surgeons. After a surgical procedure, the foot doctor generally schedules checkup appointments to make sure that the foot or ankle heals properly. He or she may order custom orthotic shoe inserts to provide support and cushioning, prescribe painkillers, or arrange for physical therapy sessions to help a patient on the road to recovery.

One job of a foot doctor is to treat patients with injuries to the ankles and feet.
One job of a foot doctor is to treat patients with injuries to the ankles and feet.

The majority of podiatrists work in private or joint practices, though some act as part of larger medical teams at hospitals. Regardless of the setting, podiatrists generally handle many administrative duties, such as keeping accurate, confidential patient records. Those in private practice are usually responsible for additional administrative and business duties, such as hiring employees, advertising their services, and paying bills.

Foot doctors are known as podiatrists.
Foot doctors are known as podiatrists.

An individual who wants to become a foot doctor must be willing do dedicate several years to education and professional training. In most countries, prospective podiatrists must complete four-year undergraduate programs followed by four to six years of specialized medical school. Upon completion of a degree program, individuals are required to work as postdoctoral residents in hospital or clinical settings for at least two years before they can take licensing examinations. Written and practical tests are administered by state or national medical boards, and most practicing podiatrists are required to retake exams every few years to maintain their licenses.

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Discussion Comments

jonrss

How can I find a foot doctor in my area? I have done a few searches and there are a lot of them around but I want to find a good one. All doctors are not created equally and I think it is always worth it to find one with the most training and the best performance record.

summing

I have been a long distance runner for almost 20 years now. I love it and can't stop doing it but it has taken a real toll on my feet over the years. I can't tell you how many foot doctors and even specialized foot doctors I have been to trying to find a cure for the various things that ail me.

The foot is one of the most complicated parts of the body and it takes a beating on a daily basis. There are more bones concentrated in the foot than in any other part of the body. If you take your shoe off and give a close hard look to your foot you will see what a complicated and almost beautiful thing it is.

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    • Foot doctors frequently fit patients with custom shoe insoles.
      Foot doctors frequently fit patients with custom shoe insoles.
    • One job of a foot doctor is to treat patients with injuries to the ankles and feet.
      By: Julián Rovagnati
      One job of a foot doctor is to treat patients with injuries to the ankles and feet.
    • Foot doctors are known as podiatrists.
      By: JPC-PROD
      Foot doctors are known as podiatrists.
    • Most podiatrists' offices will be able to take x-rays of an injured foot.
      By: zirconicusso
      Most podiatrists' offices will be able to take x-rays of an injured foot.
    • Patients are usually asked about their symptoms and medical history when initially meeting with a foot doctor.
      By: JackF
      Patients are usually asked about their symptoms and medical history when initially meeting with a foot doctor.
    • A foot doctor may be able to remove plantar warts from a patient's foot.
      By: Arve Bettum
      A foot doctor may be able to remove plantar warts from a patient's foot.