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What's a podiatrist?

A podiatrist, DPM, doctor of podiatric medicine, is the only physician whose total training focuses on the foot, ankle and related body systems. Also commonly known as a foot doctor, a podiatrist is dedicated to the medical & surgical treatment of foot and ankle disorders.

Podiatric education & training includes education in all systems of the body in order to provide a comprehensive treatment plan. Podiatrists can manage and treat foot problems which pose an ongoing threat to a patient's health. Such conditions include diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Podiatrists work closely with internists and other specialties involved in a patient's overall healthcare. Foot doctors are uniquely qualified to detect warning signs in the early stages of disease in the lower extremities.

To diagnose a foot problem, podiatrists may take x-rays, order laboratory tests, or perform more advanced . The foot may be the first area to show signs of serious conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. For example, diabetics are prone to foot ulcers and infections due to poor circulation and lack feeling in feet. Podiatrists consult with and refer patients to other health practitioners when they detect signs of these disorders.

Podiatrists treat plantar fasciitis, bunions, ingrown toenails, corns, calluses, heel spurs, and arch problems; ankle and foot injuries, deformities, and infections; and foot complaints associated with diseases such as diabetes and gout.

To treat these foot problems -- podiatrists may prescribe medication, order physical therapy, set fractures, and perform surgery. They also fit custom-made corrective inserts called orthotics.

Podiatric medical degree requires the completion of a 4-year medical program at a college of podiatric medicine, and a postdoctoral residency program. Following their doctorate degree, each podiatrist must pass national and state examinations in order to be licensed by the state in which he or she will practice.

Colleges of podiatric medicine offer a four-year program where the curriculum is similar to other schools of medicine. During the first two years, podiatry students receive classroom instruction in basic sciences, including anatomy, chemistry, pathology, and pharmacology. Third and fourth-year students have clinical rotations in private practices, hospitals, and clinics. During rotations, they learn how to take general and podiatric histories, perform routine physical examinations, interpret tests and findings, diagnose, and perform therapeutic procedures. Graduates receive the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM).

The journey to happy feet begins with healthy feet!