What is Podiatry?
Podiatry is a branch of medicine that deals specifically with the feet and ankles. Podiatrists (once known as Chiropodists) are medically trained experts in the diagnosis, pharmaceutical (and sometimes surgical) treatment, and prevention of many common foot problems.
Podiatry dates back to ancient Egypt, and there are many records of people treating corns and calluses throughout ancient Rome; it is believed that, around this time, the first scalpels were created to remove dry, hard skin from the soles of the feet.
Taking care of our feet is often something that many of us neglect. Our feet carry and support our bodies’ daily and are put under tremendous pressure on a regular basis; wearing certain shoes, wearing poorly fitting shoes, exercising, running and even walking, can cause problems with the skin, nails, joints, muscles and ligaments of the feet.
What can a Podiatrist treat?
Podiatrists treat all manner of common and often painful, foot complaints. Some Podiatrists extend their treatment to the ankles and lower leg. Conditions such as corns, calluses, Verruca’s, Athlete’s Foot, ingrown toenails and fungal nail infections, flat feet and bunions, as well as joint and ligament issues including congenital abnormalities, Gout and Arthritis, are all treated in the field of Podiatry.
You may consider visiting a Podiatrist if you are suffering from any of these, or had noticed pain when walking or moving, discoloured nails, growths (such as warts) or hard, cracked skin anywhere on the soles of your feet.
Your Podiatrist may recommend orthotics (inserts for your shoes) which will be designed to relieve the pressure on your feet at specific points, helping to improve mobility if the condition is painful. This is particularly important in older people, whose mobility may already be limited.
Some Podiatrists will specialise in Sports Care, helping and preventing problems that arise from overuse, stress, strain and injury to the muscles and ligaments of the feet.
What can I expect when I visit my Podiatrist?
Initially, your Podiatrist will offer you a consultation to discuss the complaint or condition and ask you about your medical history. They will conduct a physical examination of the feet and sometimes trim and treat any damaged toenails, remove any hard skin and diagnose any condition. In most cases, treatment for minor ailments can be carried out on your first visit; it is very unlikely that this will be painful or uncomfortable. They will typically then offer you advice on future care and prevention.
In some cases, particularly with joint complaints such as Gout, you may require future sessions, but more often than not, only one treatment will be necessary.
Podiatry is available on the NHS for more serious or painful conditions, but you can visit a Podiatrist privately. Any practitioner of Podiatry or Chiropody is obligated to be registered with the Health Professionals Council (HPC); you can check that your Podiatrist is qualified and registered by visiting the HPC’s website.