Visiting a podiatrist is a good idea if you have pain in your feet or ankles. Your doctor can check your feet and look for signs of diabetes, circulation problems or other foot issues.
Podiatrists treat a wide variety of conditions that affect the bones, joints, skin, muscles, connective tissue, nerves and circulation in your lower limbs. They’re experts in diagnosing and treating foot and ankle problems, and they often have training in both surgical and non-surgical techniques for treatment.
How to find a Podiatrist?
There are many ways to find a podiatrist in your area. You can use the Healthdirect service finder to locate a podiatrist near you, or you can ask your general practitioner if they can refer you to a foot and ankle specialist.
The American Academy of Podiatric Medicine (AAPDM) provides a list of schools accredited to train doctors of podiatric medicine, which is also known as DPMs. These schools are similar to medical schools, but the focus is on foot and ankle disorders.
A podiatrist typically spends three years in a college of podiatric medicine. The curriculum focuses on classroom studies and clinical rotations to gain experience in caring for patients. After graduation, they must pass a board exam and obtain licensure to practice.
Some podiatrists specialize in a particular field of podiatric medicine, such as surgery, trauma or sports medicine. These podiatrists complete a fellowship program in their chosen field and must then pass certification exams for their subspecialty.
Plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain, is caused by inflammation or overuse of the plantar fascia, a long ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot from your toes to your heel. If you have this condition, your doctor may prescribe medication and suggest exercises to stretch the plantar fascia.
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct the problem. In the meantime, you can ease the symptoms with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications or ice.
Your doctor may also prescribe cortisone shots or injections into the affected area, as well as physical therapy to improve your balance and flexibility. You might also need to wear supportive footwear or change your lifestyle to reduce stress on the fascia.
If you’re experiencing a painful bunion, see your podiatrist right away. Your doctor can provide padding, taping or shoes with flexible heels to reduce the pressure on your big toe. In some cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to correct the bunion.
Arthritis and other joint problems are another reason to visit a podiatrist. These problems are caused by inflammation and swelling in your joints, which can be painful when walking or standing. Your podiatrist can help you manage your arthritis through exercise, medication or special inserts in your shoes.
Athlete’s foot, which makes the skin between your toes itch and look scaly, is another reason to see a podiatrist. Over-the-counter antifungal creams can sometimes relieve the itching, but prescription medicine is usually more effective.