A podiatrist is a health professional who deals with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of medical and surgical conditions of the feet and lower limbs. A podiatrist is required to have a diploma in podiatry and / or be a graduate with a BSc(Hons) degree.
Podiatrists are highly trained in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions resulting from bone and joint disorders such as arthritis and soft-tissue and muscular pathologies as well as neurological and circulatory diseases. Podiatrist are also able to diagnose and treat any complications of the above, which affect the lower limb, including skin and nail disorders, corns, calluses and in-growing toe nails. Foot injuries and infections gained through sport or other activities are also diagnosed and treated by podiatrists. The prescription and manufacture of orthoses is an important part of podiatric practice. These are used to treat a number of biomechanical conditions which result in dysfunction of the foot and/or lower limb.
Podiatrists are recognized as important members of the multi-professional team in preventing and managing lower limb complications for patients with diabetes. A high percentage of lower extremity amputations among diabetics can be avoided by preventing and treating foot ulcers, preventing recurrence of ulcers, recognizing early signs of vascular and nerve problems and educating patients about proper foot care. In diagnosing and treating diabetic patients, podiatrists may save patients from amputations, restore their mobility or prevent serious problems by early detection and referral to appropriate specialists.
The podiatrist also forms part of the multi-professional team involved in the treatment of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Foot and ankle deformities affect nearly all patients with rheumatoid arthritis. These will lead to pain, difficulty with ambulation and disability. Early attempts at prevention, delay or correction of foot and ankle biomechanics related to rheumatoid arthritis may play a key role in helping patients maintain an active ambulatory lifestyle.