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What is a Podiatrist?

There are different doctors to see for different things: When dealing with conditions and injuries relating to mental health and wellbeing, make an appointment with a psychologist. When dealing with conditions of the heart, a cardiologist is the right doctor to visit - and when dealing with conditions of the skeletal system or bone-related disorders, see an orthopedic surgeon.

People who are used to seeing different doctors can often rattle off the names of different specialists with ease - but people with new chronic conditions might get confused when it comes to figuring out which doctor to see and when.

But what about a podiatrist?

It's another type of specialist that most people will need to see at least once in their lives - and the short answer is that podiatrists cater to disorders, conditions and health of the feet and ankles.

The longer answer is that a podiatrist is one of the most important specialists you can see.

Here's why:

What is a Podiatrist?

Simply, a podiatrist refers to a specialist type of doctor that caters to the health of the feet, toes and ankles.

If you experience an injury or condition of the foot - one that's related to the bones, muscles or ligaments instead of related to the skin or toenails - then a podiatrist is the right kind of specialist to make an appointment with.

Sometimes you might want to make an appointment directly with your podiatrist, but other times another doctor might refer you to a podiatrist instead.

Podiatrist - or Pediatrician?

A podiatrist is often confused with a pediatrician.

Even though both might sound similar, they're actually different specialists. A pediatrician is the type of doctor that you will want to see for specialist care of infants, babies, toddlers and children (usually up to the age where they are about to cross into their teens, at which point the doctor changes from a pediatrician to a general practitioner).

What Does a Podiatrist Do?

A podiatrist takes care of the ankles, feet and toes; this includes the bones, ligaments, joints and muscles in this area.

What they physically do is diagnose, treat and examine any conditions or problems that might occur in this area.

A podiatrist can additionally prescribe relevant medications to treat these conditions, recommend applicable treatments where it becomes necessary, diagnose conditions of the feet and ankles as well as perform surgery when it's needed.

If you have issues with the skin (such as athlete's foot), then a podiatrist is not the right doctor to see and you might be referred to a dermatologist or a doctor who deals with the skin instead.

When Should I See a Podiatrist?

There are many types of conditions and injuries that means you might need to see a podiatrist.

Injuries like a sprained ankle, dislocated bone, broken toe, torn ligament or stretched out muscle can all be ones that mean an appointment with a podiatrist. Conditions such as flat feet or high arches can also be ones that mean an appointment with the podiatrist is the right one to make.

Additionally, any other conditions (like arthritis) that cause pain, inflammation of discomfort in the ankles or feet could mean that you should see a podiatrist.

If you aren't sure which type of doctor to see, make an appointment with a general practitioner and ask them to refer you to the right specialists to take care of your health.

How Often Should I Visit a Podiatrist?

It's recommended to see important specialists (such as a dental surgeon, cardiologist and general practitioner) at least once every six months if you want to make sure your health is in good condition - and it's something that you should do even when you think your health is fine.

See your podiatrist at least once every six months, although sooner if you are experiencing issues that could use their diagnosis or treatment - and more often if any chronic health conditions that need consistent management are present.

How Should I Choose My Podiatrist?

Don't just choose the first doctor that you find on the internet: Look for your doctor either on referral from a current doctor that you trust or on recommendation from an existing patient.