What a podiatrist does
Podiatrists treat many kinds of foot-related ailments. Patients suffering from diabetes, for example, may experience problems in the feet that require special care. Podiatrists help patients suffering from bone spurs, arch disorders, sports injuries and arthritis. They also diagnose and treat pain within the tendons and joints and help patients suffering from ingrown toenails and warts. Podiatrists are educated and trained to provide both basic services, such as callus removal, and more advanced treatments, such as surgical procedures.
Podiatrists examine patients and diagnose their problems using a variety of methods, which may include lab tests and X-rays. During your initial visit, the podiatrist will ask you to describe your symptoms and point out the areas of the foot, ankle or lower leg area where you're experiencing pain or discomfort. Depending on the diagnosis, one treatment might prescribe specially designed orthotics, which you wear in the shoes to help increase your mobility. If the diagnosis extends to the bones within the ankles and feet, other options may include surgery.
Choosing a podiatrist
If you know that you'll need the services of a podiatrist, consult with your health insurance provider to make sure that your policy covers this specialty. Most companies give their customers a directory of health care providers with doctors listed by their medical specialty, including podiatrists. Another option to explore is to ask your regular physician for suggestions to refer you to a reputable podiatrist.
For guidance, check out reviews on Angie's List from members who have used the services of a podiatrist in the area where you live. There, you'll also find information on their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals.
Podiatrists undergo extensive education and training in preparation for entering and practicing in the field. After completing an initial bachelor's degree that includes the required coursework, a prospective podiatrist must complete a four-year program that leads to the professional designation of DPM, or doctor of podiatric medicine. Before entering the field of podiatry and starting a practice, a doctor must also complete a residency, which hones his or her skills in a clinical environment.
Visiting a podiatrist
If this is your first visit to a podiatrist, make a point to gather information about the doctor's practice, such as office location and hours available for scheduling an appointment. If you are having difficulty walking, make sure a close friend, coworker or family member can drive you to your appointment and help you inside the doctor's office.
When going to a podiatrist for the first time, have your medical records transferred from your regular doctor before your visit, which will help inform the specialist about your medical history, current medications and related ailments. Do not hesitate to ask the podiatrist any questions that you may have during your examination.