Podiatrists diagnose, treat and manage problems to do with the foot and lower leg. They treat painful symptoms, manage longer-term problems, inspect feet to notice problems as early as possible, and provide education and advice on keeping feet healthy. 'Podiatrist' is the new name for 'chiropodist'.
Podiatrists can treat people of any age, although a lot of their work tends to be with older adults and children. To make a diagnosis, the podiatrist examines the patient, talks to them about their symptoms, and looks at any notes or reports, for example, from a GP.
- using scalpels to remove corns
- using chemicals to treat verrucas
- surgery on ingrowing toenails, using local anaesthetic
- applying dressings to treat ulcers
- using insoles (orthotics) to manage or prevent problems.
The aim is not only to cure the problem but to prevent it happening again. With some patients, it is sometimes not possible to cure problems, so the work can be more about managing the condition. This means keeping the patient as mobile and pain-free as possible.
During treatment, and in activities such as greeting patients and setting up equipment, podiatrists might have the help of a podiatry assistant. Podiatrists can go on to specialise in several areas:
- Sports injuries.
- Podopaediatrics (children).
- Biomechanics - using the mechanics of anatomy to assess, diagnose and treat problems.
- High risk management of conditions such as diabetes that increase the risk of foot problems.
- Surgery. In general podiatric care, podiatrists can do nail and minor soft tissue surgery. They can also train as podiatric surgeons, managing bone and joint disorders with surgery. This is only after surgical training over a number of years.
Podiatrists usually ask laboratory technicians to make up insoles (orthoses), although some make these themselves or specialise in this area.
In some cases, podiatrists work as part of a multi-disciplinary team which includes other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses and doctors.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of podiatrists include hospitals, health centres, private clinics, schools, sports and leisure centres, industry (such as podiatry equipment manufacturers), residential care homes and mobile clinics. Some work in health education, health management and research.
There are opportunities for podiatrists to become self-employed in independent practice.
Entry requirements will vary for each degree so it is important to check with each university for details.