Podiatrists comprise a relatively small group of physicians situated in the vast and complex field of modern day medicine. With only 18 000 licensed podiatric physicians in the United States, those working as doctors within the field ultimately make up an elite group responsible for preventing, diagnosing and treating illnesses and disorders pertaining to the lower structures of the leg. Although small, podiatry offers physicians who practice it with a substantial amount of options with respect to specialization.
There is a relatively large array of positions within the field including podiatric vascular specialists, gerontological podiatrists, podiatric diabetologists and those who specialize in high risk wound care, forensic podiatry and sports medicine. Because of the wide range of their education and training, DPMs (Doctors of Podiatric Medicine) have the authority to provide treatment by prescribing medications, recommending various types of therapy as part of a comprehensive care plan and even performing surgery.
As specialists, podiatrists are licensed to provide treatment for foot and leg ailments concerning bone, ligaments, tissue and muscle pathologies including, but not limited to, skin and nail afflictions, nerve damage, arthritis and degenerative foot and ankle disorders. In addition, because many serious illnesses initially present with symptoms in the lower extremities such as heart and kidney disease as well diabetes, podiatrists receive comprehensive, continuous training and education which enables them to handle the broad scope of their duties.
DPMs provide care and treatment for relatively minor ailments as well with common conditions such as foot and toenail fungus being one of their responsibilities as well. Although minor, they can cause severe and debilitating pain for those suffering with them and DPMs will often use one or a combination of treatment options on their patients.
A podiatrist can treat toenail and foot fungus sufferers by prescribing either topical or oral anti-fungal medication such as terbinafine, clotrimazole or fluconazole. There are several different treatments for toenail fungus, with varying levels of effectiveness and side effects. The oral medications are more commonly used as they have success rates ranging from 48% to 76% whereas topical ointments only effectively treat toe and foot fungi less than 10% of the time. However podiatrists have found that topical medications are more effective once a debridement procedure had been conducted beforehand which involves the trimming or removal of the dying nail.
A podiatrists’ formal education is typically on par with that of other specialists – they are required to obtain a bachelor’s degree and successfully complete podiatric medical school in addition to a 3 year residency in order to receive a license to practice. In the US, they can be board certified by meeting stringent requirements including the completion of a clinical and writing an examination.
After graduation, podiatrists have the option to either work in a practice or a health care facility such as a chronic care hospital and rehabilitation centre. DPMs are also employed in sectors that are not generally health care related such as the military and the sports department of post-secondary institutions. With respect to their salaries, a podiatrist’s gross income can range from between $ 60, 000 to over $ 187, 000 per annum with the median being $116 000 per year.