What is a Podiatrist?
A Podiatrist is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), also known as podiatric physicians or surgeons, qualified by their education and training to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. Podiatrists are uniquely qualified among medical professionals to treat the foot and ankle based on their education, training and experience.
Your feet and ankles are barometers of your overall health, and they deserve attention by a qualified professional. Symptoms of vascular disease and diabetes often appear first in your feet, and can be helped when treated early. Common problems such as heel pain and ingrown toenails, can prevent you from enjoying your usual lifestyle. Foot health is also essential for success in your sports and daily activities.
Why a Podiatrist?
It's no surprise that our feet often hurt considering that an average day of walking exerts a force on the feet that's equal to several hundred tons. All that dashing around makes feet more prone to injury than any other part of the body.
Studies show that over 50 percent percent of Americans experience problems at some time in their lives. But despite the millions of aching feet out there, many of us don't seek the medical attention we need for relief. Foot pain is never normal, and you shouldn't be resigned to teetering around on sore feet. The American Podiatric Association believes that neglect and improper care -- including ill-fitting shoes -- bring on most foot problems.
What are the qualifications of a Podiatrist (Podiatric Physician and Surgeon)?
DPMs receive medical education and training comparable to medical doctors, including four years of undergraduate education, four years of graduate education at one of nine accredited podiatric medical colleges and a multi-year residency in a variety of specialties. Within the field of podiatry, practitioners can focus on many different specialty areas, including surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics or primary care.
Are all Podiatric Physicians board certified?
A majority of Podiatric Physicians are board certified.Certification is considered to be an earned credential for those podiatric physicians who have achieved certain levels of skill and ability based upon completion of specific advanced training and clinical experience and examination.
- The American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM) is the certifying board for the specialty areas of podiatric orthopedics and primary podiatric medicine.
- The American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS) is the certifying board for the specialty area of foot and ankle surgery.
- The American Board of Multiple Specialties in Podiatry (ABMSP) certifies podiatrists in Diabetic Foot Surgery and Medicine
When to Consult a Podiatric Physician (Podiatrist)?
- Heel Pain and plantar fasciitis
- Diabetes-related foot problems
- Ingrown and painful toenails
- Bunions, hammertoes, and other foot deformities
- Sports injuries
- Sprains and fractures
- Children's foot problems
- Nerve and circulatory conditions
- Corns, calluses, warts
The Maine Podiatric Medical Association recommends that diabetic patients be seen by a podiatric physician (podiatrist) for a "diabetic foot evaluation" every 6-12 months.
How To Find A Podiatrist?
- Physicians. Ask for a referral from your primary care physician or any other doctor you respect and see regularly.
- Friends, relatives or business associates. Referrals from people you know are usually based on trust and confidence, which is certainly in your favor. Remember, though, that your contacts' opinions may be largely based on how they click with the physician's personality and style. Only a visit with the doctor will reveal if these qualities suit your personal preferences.
- State Podiatric Association Contact your local Podiatric Association for referrals to podiatrists in your area.
- Hospitals. Reputable hospitals usually offer a referral service that can provide you with the names of staff doctors who meet certain criteria you may be seeking, such as specialty, gender and location. However, the referral service cannot vouch for quality of care.
- Managed care plan. If you belong to a managed care plan, find out what podiatrists are affiliated with it. If you see a doctor outside your plan it could cost you a lot more. Also, ask what information they have available on the doctor's background and services.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR VISIT
You can show a desire to be a decision-making partner in your medical care by participating fully in your visit.
- Be prepared. If it is your first visit, bring a summary of your medical history, including childhood diseases, chronic illnesses, hospitalizations, medications and a health history of your parents. Also bring reports of relevant diagnostic tests, such as x-rays and blood workups (which you can request from your former doctor).
- Tell the podiatrist everything about your health and illness. Withholding information may result in an inaccurate diagnosis or inappropriate treatment. For example, diabetes and arthritis can have serious effects on your feet and ankles. If you have either of those conditions, let the podiatrist know immediately.
- Ask precise questions. The best way to get advice that relates to you, as opposed to the population in general, is to be specific: "How do I..." or "What is the best way for me to..."
- Take notes. Many patients can't remember their discussions with a doctor once they've left the office. A forgotten bit of information or a recommendation could change the course of your treatment.
- Podiatric Primary Care: Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of podiatric conditions for the family-oriented health care environment. DPMs can be Board Certified in Podiatric Primary Care by the American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM).
- Podiatric Orthopedics (Biomechanics): Conservative non-surgical treatment of imperfect foot and leg structure and function through the use of special footwear, orthotics (devices that can help maintain proper foot support by realigning the foot and distributing body weight), prosthetic devices, and physical therapy. DPMs can be Board Certified in Podiatric Orthopedics by the American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM).
- Podiatric Sports Medicine: The prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lower extremity disorders in athletes.
- Podiatric Surgery: Use of modern operating procedures to the alleviate various foot and ankle problems. DPMs can be Board Certified in Podiatric Surgery by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery (ABPS).
- Podogeriatrics: Treatment of lower extremity disorders in the elderly.
- Podopediatrics: Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of children's foot and leg problems.