What is a Podiatric Physician (Podiatrist)?
Podiatry is a field of medicine that strives to improve the
overall health and well-being of patients by focusing on preventing,
diagnosing, and treating conditions associated with the foot and ankle. Doctors
of Podiatric Medicine (DPMs) are physicians and surgeons who practice on the
lower extremities, primarily on feet and ankles. The preparatory education of
most podiatrists includes four years of undergraduate work, followed by four
years in an accredited podiatric medical school, followed by a two or three
year hospital-based residency. Podiatrists are licensed in all 50 states, the
District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to diagnose and treat the foot and its
related or governing structures by medical, surgical, or other means. The
majority of practicing podiatrists are men, however, an ever increasing number
of new podiatrists are women. The current classes in the podiatric medical
schools are comprised of about 50% men and 50% women..
In addition to private practice, podiatrists serve on the
staffs of hospitals and long-term care facilities, on the faculties of schools
of medicine, as commissioned officers in the Armed Forces and the US Public
Health Service, in the Department of Veterans Affairs, and in municipal health
departments. Many podiatrists today are also members of group medical
The skills of podiatric physicians are in increasing demand
because disorders of the foot and ankle are among the most widespread and
neglected health problems. Podiatrists treat people of all ages and are often
the first medical specialists to diagnose systemic problems that affect the
feet and ankles such as diabetes, gout, hypertension, immunodeficiencies, and
What do podiatrists do?
- They diagnose lower extremity pathology such as tumors,
ulcers, fractures, skin and nail diseases, and congenital and acquired
- They make independent judgments, prescribe medications,
utilize x-rays, MRI, ultrasound and other laboratory tests for diagnostic
purposes, and order physical therapy.
- Podiatrists treat conditions such as: corns, calluses,
bunions, heel spurs, heel pain (plantar fasciitis), ingrown nails, cysts, bone
disorders, and infections of the foot.
- They fit patients for custom shoes, particularly those with
diabetes, and corrective shoe inserts, called orthotics, that address walking
patterns to improve the overall ability of effective and efficient ambulation.
- They provide consultations for the patient and for referring
physicians regarding prevention of podiatric problems and possible treatments.
- Podiatrists perform surgical correction of the foot
including: hammertoes, clawtoes, bunions, fractures, infections, ruptured
ligaments and tendons, lesions and neuro-vascular abnormalities of the foot.
- Podiatrists are the only medical professionals who
exclusively specialize in treating the foot and ankle.