A podiatrist is an Allied Health professional who specialises in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of all medical and surgical conditions affecting the feet and lower limbs.
Common conditions a podiatrist can treat include heel or arch pain, flat feet, ingrown or unmanageable toenails, corns or calluses, knee, hip or lower back pain. Podiatrists also commonly perform ingrown toenail surgery using a local anaesthetic.
Diabetes is another area in which a podiatrist plays an important role. Patients may need the services of a podiatrist to cut their toenails correctly or to monitor any changes in their feet. Podiatrists also check the blood pressure to a patient’s feet to determine whether the patient is having an adequate amount of blood flowing through to the toes. They can also treat ulcers and dress the ulcerated wounds.
In the sports medicine field, a podiatrist can monitor the condition of an athlete’s feet, treat any injuries that may have occurred, observe how the athlete moves, and can advise on the best footwear. Sports injuries that a podiatrist may treat include plantar fasciitis, shin pain, a sprained ankle, stress fractures or Achilles tendonitis.
A podiatrist can also prescribe and make orthotic inserts for patients. Sometimes a patient needs extra support in their shoes to help them walk without discomfort. A podiatrist will assess and diagnose whether an orthotic device would make a difference. If so, the podiatrist will take a 3D laser scan of the foot and then create the appropriate device, whether it’s for functional or palliative reasons.
A functional orthotic is a shoe insert that helps the patient to walk normally and is most commonly made from a thermoplastic substance.
A palliative orthotic is made from rubber or foam and is designed to help people who have painful feet or who suffer from ulcers to be able to wear shoes comfortably. Patients whose feet are deformed may be able to experience relief when wearing palliative orthoses.
Podiatrists can work in private practice, in hospitals, nursing homes, sports medicine practices or in community health clinics.