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What does a podiatrist do?

What does a podiatrist do?

Posted 28 Oct

Most people know that a podiatrist works with feet - but, aside from that, they don't know the specifics of what a podiatrist actually does.

They are categorised as allied health professionals focused on maintaining healthy feet. You can think of us as a foot doctor. They concentrate on lower limb health and are foot health experts who are university-trained to recognize, diagnose and treat both foot and lower leg problems. These problems can be genetic, developmental, a result of an accident, acquired sports injuries or pain, or a surgical condition.

They are also trained in treating foot problems that come from underlying medical conditions like diabetes and arthritis.

This explanation of a podiatrist's role only scrapes the surface, below we go into some more detail about what a podiatrist actually does.

Is podiatry the same as Chiropody?

No. Podiatry is a relatively new profession spawning from chiropody. Chiropodists were only trained to treat conditions of the feet once a condition was diagnosed by a doctor. Podiatrists differ from chiropodists because they have been university trained to diagnose and treat conditions relating to the lower limbs.

What is the scope of Podiatry?

Podiatric medicine involves assess lower limb health, implement a treatment plan, and provide medical advice. The lower limb system includes the skin, musculoskeletal, vascular, lymphatic, and neurological extending from the hip to the toes. At your first visit to a podiatrist you can experience an assessment of these systems relevant to your presenting concern.

They operate from a range of health settings where they offer different health solutions. Private practices tend to focus on common foot problems for all ages and athletes. Public health podiatry within hospitals is focused on high risk wounds and complications caused from diabetes. Community podiatry tends to be in the home focusing on maintaining independence, falls prevention, and basic foot care. Residential aged care podiatry is focused on maintaining respect and dignity through basic foot care for people at end of life.

What conditions does a podiatrist treat?

A podiatrist is trained to treat many problems that are involved with feet and lower legs. One of the only conditions that a podiatrist wouldn't treat is when open surgery is required. However, they perform some forms of minor foot surgery to toenails and skin, or refer their patients to a podiatric surgeon or orthopaedic surgeon if a surgical opinion is required. The scope of podiatric surgery or orthopaedic specialists tends to be utilised when conservative treatments have failed to provide the desired outcome.

Some common conditions that a podiatrist will treat are as follows:

Fractures

Most people assume fractures are only taken care of by doctors. However, this is not the case. Podiatrists can refer for x-ray to diagnose a fracture. In the case of a complex fracture, a podiatrist may work together with an orthopaedic specialist or podiatric surgeon to ensure the best immediate and long term outcome.

Sprains & Tendon Injuries

Sprains to ligaments and injuries to tendons are common conditions treated by podiatrists. Ultrasound is a useful imaging tool to diagnose sprained ligaments around the ankle or damaged tendons, as well as guide injection therapies to the correct location. The Feet People may ultrasound in house at their Newmarket Clinic.

Skin problems

Feet are often forgotten about when it comes to skin problems, but the skin of feet has a number of its own problems that actually won't be found anywhere else on the body. Some skin conditions that podiatrists treat include hard skin conditions like corns, callouses, dry and cracked heels, dermatitis, athlete's foot, warts. They also screen for melanomas on the feet and legs.

Correcting the alignment and function of feet

Painful feet and ill fitting shoes This is where orthotics come in. Podiatrists are specially trained in how to create custom orthotics to correct problems of the feet. Incorrect alignment of feet can not only cause foot pain, but it can also cause ankle, leg, and back pain. If someone requires an orthotic due to their alignment and doesn't use one, it can cause foot damage to the point where it can lead to serious health issues. As well as correcting alignment, orthotics are designed to relieve pain. To reach optimum outcomes, orthotics usually only one part of a care plan and are often accompanied with with manual and physical therapy such as massage, foot mobilisation, dry needling, shockwave, and laser.

Fungal toenails

Fungal toenails are caused from fungus growing in the nail commonly following a traumatic event, poor hygiene, low immunity, or a visit to a nail salon that does not use an autoclave to sterilise it instruments between clients. Fungus needs moisture and warmth to grow so wearing closed in shoes for prolonged periods with excessive perspiration on the feet provides the best environment for fungus to develop. Some species of fungus can cross from the skin, a condition is commonly known as Athlete's Foot, to the nails and vice versa so when treating fungal nails it's important to treat the athlete's foot at the same time. There is limited evidence for topical treatments working as they usually require applications over a prolonged period of time (up to 24 months) and they tend to target a small demographic of the fungus called Dermatophytes. Fortunately, technology for fungal toenails has improved over the years and at The Feet People we offer an effective and pain-free solution called PACT (Photodynamic Antimicrobial Therapy)

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails may not sound like a big deal, but the reality is that this couldn't be further from the truth. They can be easily fixed and shouldn't cause many issues, however as the nail grows it can come into contact with skin and break it which can lead to infection and cause major health problems. This infection can get into the bloodstream can cause sepsis. Sepsis is a very serious - and sometimes fatal - condition.

A podiatrist can examine an ingrown toenail and offer short-term conservative management that involves cutting the nail before it cuts the skin with shoes or a minor toenail surgery that is an effective and permanent solution.

Heel and arch pain

There are medical conditions that can cause foot pain - specifically heel and arch pain - however, one of the most common conditions associated with this kind of pain is plantar fasciitis. The ligament in your foot that connects the front of your foot to your heel is called the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis is a condition where the plantar fascia is inflamed or injured.

A trained podiatrist will be able to recognise this condition and suggest the best way to treat it.

Diabetes

Diabetics are required to have their feet checked regularly to prevent complications like a loss of sensation and blood supply which can lead to wounds because they can't feel their feet, and amputations if the infection is untreatable because the poor blood supply is not able to deliver antibiotics to the site of infection. As the saying goes, cut the limb to save the life. Prevention is the best medicine.

Arthritis

There are several types of arthritis such as osteo, rheumatoid, psoriatic, and more. Whether the arthritis is in the big toe joint or the 29 other joints of the feet, podiatrists can help implement strategies to offload these joints with footwear advice, footwear modifications, and orthotics. Manual therapies like foot mobilisation therapy are useful for osteoarthritis.

But, how does a podiatrist treat foot conditions?

How a podiatrist treats a foot problem depends on the specific foot problem itself. Podiatrists are trained to consider your situation based on pre-existing health conditions, medications, social and environmental factors, and how this all relates to the presenting symptoms and patient goals to provide an individualised treatment plan.

and From foot surgery and creating corrective orthotics to prescribing medicine and resetting broken bones, podiatrists undertake a range of treatments to fix foot problems.

Podiatrists are also extremely knowledgeable in just the specific area of the foot. So, they have much more training than a general practitioner in this area and will be able to find the problem quickly and know the precise treatment.

What training, or studies, does a podiatrist have to do?

In Australia, podiatrists must complete a Bachelor of Podiatry. Many podiatrists will also go on to complete their Graduate Diploma, Master and PhD in podiatry. Podiatrists are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and The Podiatry Board of Australia. You can find a list of registered podiatrists at the AHPRA website. As part of their registration podiatrists are required to complete twenty hours of professional development each year to maintain their skills.

Podiatrists may be members of their professional Association the Australian Podiatry Association website.

As well as being fully educated podiatrists, the staff of our team at The Feet People has decades of experience in diagnosing and treating foot conditions to improve foot health.

Why should I see a podiatrist?

If you have any issues that involve your foot or ankle - including skin problems, flat feet, heel pain and toenail problems - you should make an appointment with a podiatrist and they're medical professionals that can check if there are any underlying medical conditions, identify the root of the problem, and treat it accordingly.

How do I choose a podiatrist?

When choosing a podiatrist, always make sure that they are registered by checking the list of registered podiatrists at the AHPRA website. All of our practitioners at The Feet People are trained and registered podiatrists who have extensive experience in keeping feet healthy.

Although podiatrists are specialists in their field, referrals usually aren't needed when making an appointment with a podiatrist. At our clinic, we don't require a referral in order for you to see one of our practitioners and we do accept walk ins.

If you're based in Brisbane and are looking for a thorough podiatrist to assist with feet or leg problems, you can feel safe trusting our skilled team as we combine your goals, with our passion, and the latest in technology to provide excellence in podiatry care. If you'd like to make an appointment, you can get in touch with our Brisbane City podiatrist clinic here.

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