If you have ever had any problems with your feet or done an internet search on a foot-related topic, you may well have come across the word ‘podologist’.
It is a word that is often used interchangeably with two other feet-related words: chiropodist and podiatrist. All this ‘P’s and ‘-ists’ make it all sound very confusing, don’t they?
This article aims to clear up some of that confusion, explaining what ‘podologist’ actually means (hint: a clue is in the title!), and whether it really is interchangeable with the other two words.
We will also be exploring what a foot doctor does, and what the link between foot doctor and podologist is. So, put those feet up, get cozy, and keep reading to find out more.
So, who exactly is a podologist?
Let’s get straight into it by saying that podologist is a broad term for someone who has studied feet. They are specially and extensively trained to provide foot care to varying degrees and can be consulted for a whole manner of things such as ingrown toenails, chilblains, bunions, and many other foot or lower leg related issues.
They typically study for 4 years and have to be accredited and licensed by the state in which they are aiming to practice. They study at a medical school, generally, and when they graduate they will receive the title of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM).
Whilst at a medical school, due to the extensive knowledge they must have in order to become a doctor, they are often placed in many different healthcare facilities, such as ER, general medicine, sports medicine, and women’s health. This is to help them get a well-rounded education and allow them to train adequately for thor specialized area
However, before a podologist can even attend medical school, they typically have to undertake an undergraduate degree. As if this wasn’t enough education, they also tend to have to undertake a 3 to 4-year placement at a hospital where they will work and train with a surgical residency.
They have to be extremely well-educated due to the seriousness of their work. They will be the lead healthcare givers for a whole manner of specialist problems.
Podologist is the term given to anyone who studies this particular branch of medicine and can be used as a term to describe a foot doctor as an alternative to podiatrist and chiropodist.
Therefore, to answer the question ‘who is a podologist?’, in the broadest sense of the term, a podologist is anyone who has studied to become a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine and is someone who should be sought out if you are experiencing any issues with your feet, toes, toenails, ankles or lower legs.
A foot doctor, chiropodist, podiatrist, and, of course, podologists are one and the same!
What does a foot doctor do?
So, we now know exactly what a podologist is, and have learned that actually this is just one of a few different names that they can go by.
A more common term you may hear them being referred to as is ‘foot doctor’. The next question that we need to answer, which I am sure is on everyone’s minds is, what exactly do these foot doctors do? This question may seem to have a very obvious answer, and very generally speaking, that may be so.
Of course, a foot doctor helps people’s feet. However, that is a huge generalization, as actually they do far more complicated things than you might think, and often, can also help other parts of your lower body from under the knees and down.
They are the healthcare professional that should be sought out to diagnose and treat any pain, abnormalities, injuries, and complications from other illnesses that affect your toes, toenails, feet, ankles, and lower legs. They can also deal with the skin on your feet, too.
A foot doctor – whether they practice as a podologist, podiatrist, or chiropodist – is, as we know, highly trained and educated. They have to know a lot of things about the human body as a whole in order to understand some very specific and unique feet related problems and provide the correct treatment.
One reason for this is because many of the problems they have to deal with can actually be a side effect of other illnesses around the body. For example, a common reason one might visit a foot doctor is to get help with nerve pain in their feet.
This is called neuropathy pain and is often caused as a result of poorly managed diabetes. In order for the foot doctor to provide proper, adequate care, they have to have at least some understanding of diabetes.
Another example is the toenail cutting services. This seemingly simple procedure is something that many people can hardly believe is offered as a medical treatment. The reason it is offered is that there are a number of illnesses and conditions that mean self toenail cutting is very dangerous.
Any illness that causes numbness, such as Raynaud’s Disease could prove lethal for something as simple as a toenail trim. If someone’s feet are numb, they may not notice if they cut themselves while trimming their nails, causing a serious bleed or infection. A foot doctor needs to be aware of all these conditions to ensure that they can offer a safe toenail cutting service for their patients with these issues.
Related to toenail cutting, the health of toenails, in general, is something that a foot doctor deals with. If you notice that your toenails are changing color, getting brittle and breaking off, getting infected and ingrown, or completely falling off, then a visit to your foot doctor should enable you to get a diagnosis.
They are fully trained on toenails and foot skin health and can ensure that any issues get promptly treated. For an ingrown toenail, most foot doctors will be able to perform a minor surgery which involves cutting out the part of the nail that is affected with a scalpel. For bigger surgeries, they can refer you.
They may also be able to prescribe a number of medicines to help with any toenails infections or fungal diseases that may occur.
Another common issue that a foot doctor deals with is the need for insoles or other adjustments to your shoes. These insoles and adjustments come under the broader term ‘orthotic’. A foot doctor can prescribe these orthotics for a number of reasons.
Typically, anyone presenting with foot pain, particularly in the heel, or sides of your feet will be assessed for needing these. It is a particularly common issue for ill-fitting shoes to cause. A foot doctor will diagnose exactly what the condition is and act accordingly.
Arthritis is another common reason that people go to their foot doctor for. More common with the older generation, arthritis can affect how well a person walks. It causes swelling, inflammation, and general stress on your joints. A foot doctor can help with this by recommending medicine, exercises, specially-fitted shoes, and even surgery if needed.
Another, albeit surprising, reason for visiting a foot doctor is having extremely stinky feet! As crazy as that sounds, for some people, feet that stink are not a sign that they just need a shower, but can actually mean that there is an underlying health condition causing them to smell.
One example of this is a fungal skin or nail infection. If you are particularly worried about yours, or a loved one’s pongy paws, you should perhaps consider a trip to the foot doctor, especially if the smell persists after a shower or two. Don’t worry, they won’t mind, they’ve seen (and smelled) it all before!
We hope that this article has answered your question of ‘who is a podologist?’ and that you now know that it is a broad term for anyone who has studied to become a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.
It is a term that is used interchangeably with chiropodist and podiatrist, and truly, there is no real difference between any of these words – they are all alternative words for ‘foot doctor’. Talking of foot doctors, we are sure that you now have some extensive knowledge of what a foot doctor can do for you, and are.
We’re sure, very surprised at the sheer amount of education and knowledge needed to practice this particular branch of medicine. From sprains to fungal skin disorders, and from neuropathy pain to arthritis, these podologists can fix anything to do with our feet – you can even go to see them if your feet are too smelly (rather them than us!).
One thing is for sure, podologists, foot doctors, whatever you want to call them, all train extremely hard in order for us to receive the adequate care that we need for our feet.
We hope that you can rest easy in the knowledge that you now fully understand thesis terms, and know exactly who to call the next time you get a foot injury or an ingrown toenail!