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What Is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), also known as a podiatric physician or surgeon. Podiatrists diagnose and treat conditions of the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg.

What Are the Qualifications of a Podiatrist?

Podiatrists are the most qualified doctors to care for your feet. They complete four years of training in a podiatric medical school and three years of hospital residency training. This training is similar to that of other doctors. Podiatrists can specialize in many fields, including surgery, sports medicine, wound care, pediatrics (children), and diabetic care.

Are Podiatrists Board Certified?

Podiatrists can earn board certification with advanced training, clinical experience, and by ultimately taking an exam. The American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and the American Board of Podiatric Medicine are the certifying boards for the field.

Common Foot Problems:

Achilles Tendonitis – The Achilles tendon is a resilient part of the foot, but it can become damaged due to overuse. It is common among athletes who do a lot of jumping, such as basketball or volleyball players, and runners. Symptoms: pain and stiffness in the morning; pain along the back of the heel, which worsens with activity; severe pain after exercising; swelling that gets progressively worse.

Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis)– This is a contagious fungal infection that can be difficult to eradicate completely. It is known as "athlete’s foot” because the infection, a form of ringworm, spreads easily when feet are wet for a prolonged period of time, particularly after excessive sweating. Symptoms: itchy red skin; burning, stinging; oozing blisters.

Bunions – When your big toe points toward the second toe, it is known as a "bunion.” Because of the unusual setting of the toes, bumps often form on the edges, causing pain or discomfort. Bunions can be hereditary or can be caused by other factors, such as wearing narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes. Bunions are more common in women. Symptoms: bony bumps; red, callused skin along the inside edge of the big toe; pain of the affected joints which can be aggravated by increased pressure.

Diabetes – Diabetics are at increased risk for foot and ankle complications caused mostly by neuropathy. Neuropathy, or numbness in the body’s extremities, make it difficult for diabetics to know when they have suffered from a small wound, such as a blister. Because diabetes adversely affects the body’s ability to heal itself and prevention infection, even the smallest of wounds can have serious consequences.

Gout – Although gout can affect any joint of the body, it is most common in the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout is caused by an increased level of uric acid in the blood, which crystallizes and deposits into joints, tendons and other tissues. The increase of uric acid which causes gout is commonly caused by an improper diet that is rich in alcohol, meat and seafood. Although diet is the most common cause of gout, the condition can also be the result of genetics or metabolic diseases. An increase of ulric acid is also the culprit behind the development of kidney stones. Symptoms: swollen, tender, painful joint; fatigue; fever.

Plantar Fasciitis – The arch of the foot is formed by a tight tissue. At times this tissue can become irritated and inflamed, causing plantar fasciitis. This condition is common in middle-aged people; young people who are on their feet often, such as soldiers or athletes; and those with high arches or flat feet. Symptoms: heel pain with prolonged walking or standing; swelling.

Sprains – Sprains are caused when the ligaments are either stretched too far or tear. They are common primarily among athletes or those who live an active lifestyle, although sprains can also occur as the result of a sudden injury. Symptoms: immediate pain following the injury; difficulty putting weight on the foot or ankle; swelling.

Stress Fractures – Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone that develop from overuse. Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg and are particularly common among tennis players, track and field athletes, gymnasts, dancers and basketball players – athletes whose feet are repeatedly striking the ground with force. Symptoms: pain that develops gradually, increases with weight-bearing activity, and diminishes with rest; pain that is progressively severe; swelling at the top of the foot or outside of the ankle; tenderness.