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The human foot is a complex structure. It contains 26 bones—plus muscles,  nerves, ligaments, and blood vessels—and is designed for balance and mobility. The 52 bones in your feet make up about one fourth of all the bones in your  body. Podiatrists, also known as doctors of podiatric medicine (DPM's),  diagnose and treat disorders, diseases, and injuries of the foot and lower leg to  keep this part of the body working properly.

Podiatrists treat corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, heel spurs, and arch problems; ankle and foot injuries, deformities and infections; and foot complaints associated with diseases such as diabetes. To treat these problems, podiatrists  prescribe drugs, order physical therapy, set fractures, and perform surgery. They  also fit corrective inserts called orthotics, design plaster casts and strappings to  correct deformities, and design custom-made shoes.

To diagnose a foot problem, podiatrists order x rays and laboratory tests. The foot may be the first area to show signs of serious conditions such as arthritis,   diabetes, and heart disease. For example, diabetics are prone to foot ulcers and infections due to poor circulation. Podiatrists consult with and refer patients to other health practitioners when they detect symptoms of these disorders.

All States and the District of Columbia require a license for the practice of podiatric medicine. Each state defines its own licensing requirements. Generally, the applicant must be a graduate of an accredited college of podiatric medicine and pass written and oral examinations.Most States also require completion of a postdoctoral residency program. Most States grant reciprocity to podiatrists who are licensed in another State. Most States require continuing education for licensure renewal.

Podiatrists also complete a hospital residency program after receiving a DPM. Residency programs last from 1 to 3 years. Residents receive advanced training in podiatric medicine and surgery and serve clinical rotations in anesthesiology, internal medicine, pathology, radiology, emergency medicine, and orthopedic and general surgery. Residencies lasting more than 1 year provide more extensive training in specialty areas.

Consult the Health Information Center for more consumer information
related to this specialty

To locate a podiatrist in your area: Directory of Podiatrists

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