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A podiatrist is a doctor with medical school education in diagnosing and treating problems of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Licensing qualifications vary in by location, but in addition to having a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree, this person is often expected to have had a two year postdoctoral residency. In the US, continuing education is usually necessary for a podiatrist to meet state license renewal requirements.
Podiatric specialists in primary care, orthopedics, and podiatric surgery should be board certified. Although board certification is not an indicator of a doctor's exact skill level, certification does ensure that the medical professional has passed all exams and completed the required residency period. A primary care podiatrist works in a family practice environment, while one in orthopedics prescribes supportive devices for the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Podiatric surgeons perform surgery on the foot, ankle, and lower leg, such as reconstructive surgery in an arthritic patient to lessen pain and improve mobility.
Entrance into a college of podiatric medicine usually requires an undergraduate degree. An acceptable score on a medical school admission exam such as the Medical College Admissions Test® (MCAT®) is also needed. The seven accredited podiatric schools in the United States are located in California, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The curriculum covered in the first two years at a college of podiatric medicine is comparable to many other medical schools. Core classes include general sciences such as anatomy, chemistry, pharmacology, and pathology. Clinical rotations take up most of the third and fourth years, and they provide training in taking podiatric histories, performing examinations, interpreting test results, and making correct diagnoses.
Doctors who care for the feet often address issues like diabetic foot problems and blisters. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, called peripheral neuropathy, which numbs the feet. Regular professional medical care is necessary as diabetic patients with nerve damage may not feel pain or other indications of injury or infection in the foot. Blisters are created by friction, and broken blisters are an entryway for bacteria, so antibiotic cream should be used to prevent infection. Moleskin bandage pads on tender spots as well as wearing heavy socks usually works well in preventing blisters on the soles of feet.