Podiatrists: Doctors Who Treat Your Feet

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Health care providers who take care of feet.

A wide variety of health care providers deal with conditions of the feet, including podiatric physicians, orthopaedic physicians, general practitioners, physical therapists, family physicians, internists, rheumatologists and others. Whom you see depends on your problem, and in some cases, on your health insurer. Often health care providers may require you to see your family care physician (or primary care physician) before visiting a specialist.

For many people, it is confusing knowing when to see a podiatrist or an orthopaedist for their foot problems. The following is information about both specialties.

Podiatric physicians

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) reports that podiatric physicians (podiatrists) are the major provider of foot care services.

What is a podiatrist?

A podiatric physician, also called a podiatrist, is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). This is a health care professional trained in the care of the feet and ankles. According to the APMA, DPMs receive conventional medical training (see below), plus special training on the foot, ankle and lower leg.

Podiatrists must complete the following formal education including:

  • Four years of undergraduate work.
  • Four years in an accredited podiatric medical school.
  • At least one year in a hospital-based residency program.

In all of the United States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, podiatrists must pass state board examinations before they are licensed. Most states require continuing medical education for license renewals. In addition to private practice, podiatrists also serve on the staff at hospitals and on the faculties of schools of medicine. They may also belong to group medical practices.

What is an orthpaedist?

Orthopaedics (sometimes spelled "orthopedics") is the medical specialty devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of injuries and diseases of your body's musculoskeletal system. This is the system that allows you to move, work and be active.

While most orthopaedists practice general orthopaedics, some specialize in treating the foot. Others may specialize in the hand, shoulder, spine, hip, knee or in pediatrics, trauma or sports medicine. When choosing an orthopaedist for your feet, make sure you choose one with expertise in foot problems.

Orthopaedists must complete up to 14 years of formal education including:

  • Four years of study in a college or university.
  • Four years of study in medical school.
  • Five years of study in orthopaedic residency at a major medical center.
  • One optional year of specialized education known as a fellowship.

After establishing a licensed practice, an orthopaedic surgeon must pass oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Orthopaedists that have specialty training may also be required to pass specialty boards. In addition buy silagra, orthopaedists spend many hours studying and attending continuing medical education courses to maintain current orthopaedic knowledge and skills.