When faced with foot or ankle conditions, one must seek immediate medical treatment from qualified professionals. However, there are many types of healthcare providers who evaluate and treat the needs of the feet. Those who have tried searching for medical practitioners for their foot issues have most likely faced the dilemma of choosing between a podiatrist and an orthopedist.
While both professionals are qualified to treat the lower extremities, the difference between orthopedic and podiatrist lies in their education specialization, and the specific conditions each can treat.
What Is the Difference Between a Podiatrist vs Orthopedist?
An orthopedist starts in a generalized medical school and then goes on to a general orthopedic residency where they learn to treat musculoskeletal injuries of the entire body. Some then go on to a fellowship year, where they spend more time learning about foot and ankle musculoskeletal issues. When evaluating foot problems, they also review other orthopedic issues that may be contributing to the pain. This is because foot or ankle issues often originate from different parts of the body, such as the lower back, hip or knee.
On the other hand, a podiatrist’s education is specialized from the start of medical school. They learn about all body systems but focus primarily on the foot and ankle from day one. They then go to a foot and ankle residency for three to four years and possibly a fellowship. Therefore, podiatrists can do the same musculoskeletal surgical and nonsurgical treatment as orthopedists on the foot and ankle but can also diagnose and treat conditions related to dermatology, vascular disorders and even some neurological issues of the lower extremity.
While orthopedists have a better general background, podiatrists receive more in-depth and specialized training in the lower leg, ankle and foot. So keep this in mind if you’re considering your choices between a podiatrist vs orthopedist.
What Conditions Can Podiatrists Treat?
Both professions are allowed to treat ankle fractures, bunions and Achilles tendon injuries. But the difference between orthopedic and podiatrist is the latter can also tend to non-musculoskeletal conditions like warts, diabetic foot ulcers, athlete’s feet and fungal toenails.
They can also offer recommendations for correcting foot conditions. For example, some children encounter issues with their growing feet. If a child’s foot points inward or their toes don’t line up correctly, a podiatrist can help correct them. Usually, they recommend braces, shoe inserts and exercise to address these problems.
Can a Podiatrist Perform Surgery?
Podiatrists are trained in surgical residency programs at university hospitals across the country alongside other surgical specialties such as orthopedics, plastic surgeons and general surgeons. Podiatrists are the experts at surgical correction of injuries and deformities of the foot and ankle. In addition, podiatrists do surgeries to repair tendon injuries such as the Achilles, bone fractures of the foot and corrective surgeries such as bunion corrections and hammertoe repairs, as well as many surgeries of the skin and nerves of the lower extremities.
How Can We Help
Yeargain Foot & Ankle is a podiatric clinic in Dallas that offers advanced treatment options and customized recovery plans for any foot or ankle condition. From ingrown toenails to fractures, we can help you get back out there with confidence and strength. Book an appointment today or call (972) 853-4886.