Podiatry: Focus on the Feet
Podiatry is a branch of medicine that focuses specifically on the foot, ankle and lower portion of the leg. Podiatrists are physicians who have completed extensive training with an emphasis on such anatomy. People of all ages may need to visit such specialists who can provide immediate, short-term and long-term relief of common or rare problems with the aforementioned body parts.
A primary doctor usually provides referrals to podiatry practices that have the resources and expertise to offer the best possible treatment for the feet and legs. For example, a patient who complains about having frequent blisters on the feet would be encouraged to schedule a prompt appointment with a local podiatrist rather than just a physician who specializes in family medicine. Upon examining a patient’s feet, a podiatrist may notice other more serious concerns besides common problems like blisters, corns and calluses. For example, toenail fungus and athlete’s foot are some issues that arise from the presence of fungi and bacteria on the feet and toes. A podiatrist would usually recommend over-the-counter topical applications that can kill the fungi responsible for such problems on the feet.
Podiatry also diagnoses foot problems such as plantar warts and plantar fasciitis. Both of these conditions lead to pain and sensitivity on the heel of the feet. However, only an experienced podiatrist can distinguish between these two concerns. Plantar warts result from a virus, and such a condition can be treated with medication such as salicylic acid. By contrast, plantar fasciitis is caused by abnormalities in the anatomy rather than the growth of any viruses, bacteria or fungi.
Athletes often seek treatment from podiatrists for common sports injuries. For example, a rolled ankle can be treated by a podiatrist who would usually prescribe orthotics, which are medical devices that are designed to correct misalignment in the bones, muscles, tendons or ligaments. Ankle braces and other similar bracing accessories are considered orthotics that are very effective in treating minor to moderate sports injuries. However, specialty surgery might be required to correct some severe deformations in the bones and other body parts due to accidents or sports injuries. For example, a podiatrist might surgically treat a patient with a ruptured achilles tendon.
Podiatrists treat all types of problems with the feet regardless of the cause. Some podiatry practices may even have their own spas and salons that offer professional handling of toenails and damaged skin anywhere on the feet.