What is a Podiatrist?

PodiatryA podiatrist, or doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), is a physician who provides foot and ankle care. A DPM spends years in rigorous training to treat the foot and ankle. This includes four years in medical school and another three years in a hospital-based residency treating patients. In addition, doctors earn board certifications designating them as experts and leaders in their field.

Some podiatrists specialize in the dermatological, or skin-related aspects of treating the foot and ankle. Other podiatrists provide surgical care for a wide spectrum of interventions for any foot or ankle issues, including the repair of bunions and hammertoes or trauma to the lower part of your legs and their underlying structures. 

Why Would I See a Podiatrist?

Your feet are very important. By age 50, you’ll have walked at least 75,000 miles on them! Your feet are very complex, with many tendons, ligaments, and bones that function together to keep you mobile.

The feet and ankles are incredibly complex structures that serve to propel the body and serve as shock absorbers for your body weight as you conduct your daily activities. That makes them very important for mobility. If you have any issues that affect the foot or ankle, whether it’s a skin problem, an injury, or arthritis, or joint pain, that means it’s time to seek the help of a podiatrist.

What Are Some of the Most Common Foot Issues That You Treat?

Taking good care of your feet is important to your overall health. Podiatrists treat all of the most common foot problems that would cause a patient to visit their doctor. Some of the most common issues that a podiatrist treats include:

  • Ankle fractures and sprains or joint pain
  • Bunions are bony bumps on the outside of the big toe that can be very painful
  • Corns or calluses are thick areas of dead skin on the bottom of the foot
  • Hammertoes are deformities that curl the structure downward instead of pointing the toe straight out
  • Heel pain can make you limp and cause a lot of suffering but the cause can vary from heel spurs to plantar fasciitis or other issues
  • Ingrown nails can make wearing shoes an uncomfortable experience 
  • Neuromas are pinched nerves usually found between the third and fourth toes on the foot

All of these conditions can be quite painful, but a visit to a podiatrist can help get you back on track.

What Are the Advanced Wound Care Techniques That You Use?

Many podiatrists complete fellowship training in advanced limb salvage and limb preservation in patients who are at risk for limb loss. During this training, doctors learn a number of advanced wound care techniques, such as: 

  • Applications of grafts to help close and heal wounds of the feet
  • Reconstruction of lower anatomy whether it’s to treat inflamed or torn ligaments, correct structural abnormalities, or other treatments
  • Rotational flaps, or the surgical technique to cover a wound or scar

Podiatric surgeons can treat many other foot-related conditions as well, but also specialize in interventions related to wound care, particularly for diabetic patients.

When is Surgical Intervention Needed with Wound Care Conditions?

Many times, when wounds have not decreased in size over a period of time, surgical intervention is warranted. They regularly work with other specialists, like the vascular, infectious disease, and internal medicine doctors to make sure the surgical intervention is only used once all nonsurgical treatment methods have failed. 

What Does High-Risk Foot Care Refer To?

Patients with diabetes can develop problems with the nerves in the feet and legs or they may have trouble with the circulation of blood to their feet. More than 65,000 people each year have a foot amputated because of terrible complications from diabetes.

Diabetic neuropathy is a serious condition that damages the nerves in the feet and legs or other parts of the body. It can affect as many as 50% of the people suffering from diabetes. The condition causes these patients to lack normal sensations on their feet and lower anatomy.  

With neuropathy, the patient is still able to walk, however, due to the nerve damage they’ve suffered, they may be unable to feel when they step on something. The loss of sensation can turn even a minor cut into a serious ulcer or sore. In severe cases, this can lead to an infection that can spread throughout the tissue and even into the bone. 

Diabetic neuropathy requires the intervention of a podiatric surgeon who specializes in these types of conditions.

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