Podiatry is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. The term podiatry came into use first in the early 20th century United States, where it now denotes a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), a specialist who is qualified by their education and training to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg. Within the field of podiatry, practitioners can focus on many different specialty areas, including surgery, sports medicine, biomechanics, geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics, or primary care.
As a specialist in foot care, the podiatrist receives extensive training in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of foot and ankle disorders by medical and surgical means. After obtaining an undergraduate degree, the podiatric doctor spends four years in a college of podiatric medicine to obtain a doctorate degree.
Many podiatrists further their education by participating in a post-graduate residency program at an approved hospital or university. Following their doctorate degree, each podiatrist must pass national and state examinations in order to be licensed by the state in which he or she will practice.
The podiatric physician cares for people of all ages, treating any foot problem. The common disorders include bunions, heel pain/spurs, hammertoes, neuromas, ingrown toenails, warts, corns and calluses. The podiatric physician also renders care of sprains, fractures, infections, and injuries of the foot, ankle and heel.
A podiatric surgeon is a surgical specialist who performs surgery on the feet, ankles, and sometimes the lower leg. Podiatric surgeons are also known as "foot and ankle surgeons" in a reference to their area of specialty. In order to become a podiatric surgeon, a doctor must attend podiatric medical school, followed by a residency in podiatric surgery, and the surgeon may also opt to take a fellowship to learn advanced surgical techniques. While some of the procedures performed by a podiatric surgeon can be accomplished by other surgeons, podiatric surgeons have special training and skills which greatly improve patient outcomes.