What is Podiatric Medicine?
Podiatric medicine is the specialty of medical sciences that deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of foot and leg disorders by medical and surgical means. The Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM), or podiatric physician, is the medical specialist responsible for the care of the foot and leg.
It takes seven to eight years of higher education to become a podiatric physician. Completion of undergraduate work is required for entry to colleges of podiatric medicine. The podiatric medicine course is four years in length. Podiatric physicians receive their professional education at one of nine acccredited colleges of podiatric medicine throughout the U.S. One of the colleges is located in Florida: established in 1985, Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine, is in Miami, Florida. All colleges award the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) to candidates who have successfully completed the formal four year program. After receiving this degree, podiatric physicians continue their training through post-graduate course work and residency training.
Most podiatric physicians are in private practice and many serve on hospital, clinic, and nursing home staffs. They serve in City Health Departments, Veterans Administration Hospitals, and the U.S. Public Health Service. Podiatric physicians also participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Programs.
Ailments of the feet afflict well over half of the U.S. population, and some sources place the figure as high as 70 percent. It is estimated that there are currently 42 million patient visits to the 13,000 practicing podiatric physicians in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. Nearly one-fifth of all podiatric medical visits involve surgical procedures, about 10 percent of which pertain to surgery involving bones, muscles, tendons, or joints. Probably the most frequent surgical procedures in podiatric medicine correct hammer toes, prevent recurrence of corns, and repair bunions. Although common, the effects of poor foot health cannot be minimized. Any disease or disorder of the foot that results in pain and, therefore, disability, will create serious problems for the individual.
For the child, a painful foot condition, injury, or congenital abnormality not properly treated can result in inattention, loss of time from school, and decreased participation in sports and other activities, which are important to normal development, and can also result in more serious health problems later in life. For the elderly, untreated foot problems can interfere with taking care of personal needs, obtaining essential exercise, and hindering participation in other aspects of daily life, leading to increased dependency on others. For the diabetic, many of the complications associated with diabetes, such as foot infection and ulcers, gangrene, and amputations, can be avoided with proper foot care and exercise.
In addition, certain foot problems can be symptoms of such serious general health disorders as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, kidney ailments, and arteriosclerosis. The podiatric physician consults with other medical specialists in treating those diseases affecting the whole patient.
Good foot care is of vital importance to everyone. Podiatric physicians, working as part of the healthcare team, can help ensure an active, independent, and healthy life.