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Podiatrist vs. Orthopedist

When you have a problem with your foot or ankle that needs medical attention, where do you go – to a podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon? And does it make a difference?

To answer those questions, let’s first look at what each of these specialists do.

A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), specifically a specialist whose focus is strictly on foot and ankle care. That includes treatment of such conditions as:

·       Bunions

·       Toe and hindfoot fractures

·       Diabetic ulcers and wounds

·       Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of connective tissue on the bottom of the foot)

·       Hallux rigidus (stiff big toe)

·       Flat feet

·       Gout

·       Toenail disease

·       Heel spurs

·       Athlete’s foot

·       Corns

An orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor (MD), specifically a specialist whose focus is on the care of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves throughout the body – including in the foot and ankle. In regard to the latter, that includes treatment of such conditions as:

·       Achilles tendon tear and repair

·       Ankle replacement and cartilage restoration

·       Bunions

·       Flat feet

·       Plantar fasciitis

·       Heel spurs

·       Morton’s neuroma (nerve inflammation near the toes)

·       Hammer toe, mallet toe, and claw toe deformities

·       Stress fractures

·       Toe fractures

·       Hindfoot fractures

·       Metatarsal (forefoot fracture)

As you can see, both podiatrists and orthopedists perform many of the same foot and ankle procedures. Both are highly trained and qualified to treat foot and ankle conditions both surgically and non-surgically. The only discernible difference between them is that an orthopedist manages parts of the foot and ankle that pertain to the bones, soft tissues and joints, while a podiatrist manages the same areas, but also the biomechanics and dermatology of the foot and ankle. For instance, a podiatrist is often an integral care provider for people with diabetes who have serious concerns about foot health.

So, who do you choose for diagnosis and treatment of your foot or ankle problem?

It often depends on your particular foot or ankle problem – and how comfortable you are with one doctor over another. But it’s a dilemma you don’t have to face at Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs. That’s because our practice specializes in both podiatry and foot and ankle orthopedics.

Our board-certified podiatric surgeon Dr. Frederick Hainge is highly skilled in diagnosing and treating structural and biomechanical issues, wounds, toe and foot deformities, nerve pain, and much more.

Meanwhile, fellowship-trained Dr. John Shank and our team of orthopedic physicians help patients manage their foot and ankle conditions through reconstructive procedures, arthroscopic and open fusion surgeries, physical therapy, and other procedures. And it’s all done under one roof.

The Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs regularly treats injuries to bones and joints, providing the best of care. If a foot or ankle injury or pain is cause for concern, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons will quickly diagnose and treat the condition. Call us at (719) 623-1050 today for an appointment.

Why Diabetic Patients Need to See their Podiatrist

Taking proper care of your feet is one of the most important precautionary steps people with diabetes can do for their long-term health. That’s why primary care physicians will often recommend patients who have diabetes to visit a podiatrist regularly. If you’re wondering what the correlation between diabetes and foot care is, we can help to understand the connection. 

All diabetic patients should see a podiatrist, as a foot exam by your podiatrist can tell you if you are at risk for complications. In other words, every person with diabetes should pay careful attention to the areas of the body that diabetes can directly affect, including the heart (cardiovascular system), kidneys (renal system), eyes, and most commonly the feet. Therefore, it is recommended that every patient with diabetes have an annual checkup.

As far as the feet are concerned, people with diabetes can have severe, even life-threatening foot problems if left untreated. In other words, individuals with lifelong diabetes are at a higher risk for developing foot pain and discomfort.

The manifestation of foot ulcers and nerve pain is significantly higher among diabetics, greatly increasing their risk of undergoing amputation. This can happen due to the fact that diabetes can cause problems with the circulatory and nervous systems of the body. Essentially, diabetes can cause:

  • Decreased foot blood flow (circulatory problems)
  • Decreased infection fighting capability (weak immune system)
  • Numbness of the feet

According to research, each year more than 65,000 lower limbs are amputated due to complications from diabetes. By including a podiatrist in your diabetes care regimen, you can reduce the risk of amputation by up to 85 percent.

Podiatrists play an integral role in amputation prevention by performing regular foot screenings, for early recognition of diabetes related changes. The earlier any complications are recognized, the better the outcome and treatment will be. During your annual exams, a podiatrist will look for the following diabetes warning signs:

  • Dry cracks in the skin
  • Ingrown and fungal toenails
  • Numbness in the feet or toes
  • Open sores on the feet that are slow to heal
  • Swelling of the foot or ankle
  • Pain in the legs 
  • Skin color changes
  • Bleeding corns and calluses

Regularly visiting a podiatrist can help patients keep their foot conditions in check and maintain healthy sugar levels. A podiatry expert can offer them valuable advice about preventing foot complications by opting for comfortable and well-fitted footwear. These routine appointments also allow them to keep a tab on your foot health and catch symptoms early. With that said, having a podiatrist at your service, will reassure those with diabetes that they are in control of their health.

To learn more about why diabetics need to see their podiatrist on a consistent basis, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs at (719) 623-1050 or request an appointment online.

Questions to Ask Your Podiatrist

A podiatrist is a licensed health care professional who specializes in the care of feet, ankles and legs. A podiatrist is also a fully trained foot surgeon with a medical designation of DPM (doctor of podiatric medicine) instead of an MD (medical doctor). A licensed podiatrist can diagnose and treat medical conditions of the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. Some PDM’s focus on one area of care, such as diabetic complications that affect the foot. If you visit a podiatrist, here are some questions you might want to ask.

Questions to Ask a Podiatrist

During your visit, the doctor is probably going to examine your feet as well as take a full medical history. This makes sense because the health of your feet is part of your overall health and wellbeing. This is especially true when you have other related medical conditions such as diabetes, poor circulation, nerve damage, kidney issues or previous injuries of the foot, ankle, or leg. Your podiatrist may also take X-rays, an MRI, and observe the way that you stand, run, or walk.

During the exam, you may have questions about topics such as foot pain, numbness, bunions, or other foot-related topics. Just as you would with any other health professional, it is always okay to ask questions when you do not understand something. You can ask what kind of tests the doctor is going to run to determine the underlying cause of your condition. You may also want to ask about the doctor’s experience treating your specific kind of issue. 

Ask if there is a medication that can help or if there are any advantages or disadvantages to the treatment they are recommending. You can always ask general questions too, such as what kinds of socks and shoes are right for you.

You can, for example, ask if bracing and rehabilitation can be used instead of (or alongside) surgery. You may also want to ask how to support your healing with exercise and diet, or ways that you can reduce your risk for re-injury in the future. Ask if the condition is chronic (ongoing) or acute (sudden), and if it’s possibly due to a medical condition or an injury. The kinds of questions you may want to ask the podiatrist will, of course, vary according to the specific issue that you are having treated.

Be sure to inform the podiatrist of any signs and symptoms that you are aware of. For example, if you hear clicks when you rotate the outside of your ankle, or if you are having numbness, tingling, or any other symptoms related to the care of your feet and legs.

If you, or a loved one is looking for exceptional care of the foot, ankle and leg, we are here to help. Please call the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050 or request an appointment online. Don’t let foot pain get in the way of your busy life. Call today for a better tomorrow.

What can Your Podiatrist Do for You?

One-quarter of the bones in the human body are in our feet. In other words, the foot is a complex structure of 26 bones and 33 joints, with more than 120 muscles, ligaments, and nerves. Our feet have many benefits, as they support our weight, act as a shock absorber, serve as a lever to allow our legs to move forward, and help us maintain our balance.

During a typical day, the average person takes about 10,000 steps, which means that our feet support a combined force equivalent to several hundred tons every day, resulting in possible injury and pain. Statistics show that 75 percent of Americans will experience foot problems at some point in their lives. The question then arises, what can a podiatrist do for you?

What is a podiatrist?

Podiatrists are health care professionals who have been trained to prevent, diagnose and treat common conditions and injuries affecting the foot, ankle and lower leg. Depending on their credentials – such as certifications, state license, or hospital affiliation – podiatrists can perform surgery on the bones, ligaments, tendons and joints of the foot and ankle. Podiatrists treat many conditions related to the foot, ankle and leg, including:

  •  Bunions
  • Plantar fasciitis
  •   Morton’s neuroma
  •  Corn and calluses
  •  Heel pain
  •   Athlete’s foot
  •   Flat feet
  •  Sports injuries
  •  Hammer toes
  •  Ingrown toenails

When should you go to a podiatrist?

Foot and ankle problems can be due to chronic medical conditions like arthritis or diabetes, or from everyday situations, such as overuse or poorly fitting shoes. A person warrants a visit to the podiatrist if they are experiencing acute or chronic pain in the foot and ankle, or if they are suffering from an injury or condition, such as diabetes.  You should go to a podiatrist for the following reasons:

  • Runners: A podiatrist can examine your feet and address any potential problems, or provide tips to avoid them. They can also recommend the best shoe for your feet.
  • Joint pain: Arthritis is one of the most common conditions affecting Americans. If the joints in your feet are often swollen, red, stiff or tender, see a podiatrist.
  •  Diabetes: Diabetes makes you significantly more prone to foot problems. These issues can range from dry skin to serious infections. If you have diabetes, you should have a foot exam performed by a doctor or podiatrist at least once a year.
  •  The pain is limiting your activities: If you have persistent pain in your foot, heel, or ankle, see a podiatrist for a diagnosis. He or she will perform a foot exam and may take X-rays. A proper diagnosis is the first step toward developing a treatment plan.
  •   Ingrown toenail: When a toenail grows into the skin, the ingrown nail can cause an infection. Ingrown toenails most often affect the big toe. If a toenail is very red or has lots of drainage, visit a podiatrist for treatment.
  • Have a sprain, strain, or broken bone: If you are experiencing swelling, trouble walking, redness, and increasing pain, it is suggested that you see a podiatrist. Podiatrists are experts at treating sprains, strains, and broken bones in the foot or the ankle. They can diagnose your injury and suggest treatment.

If you are experiencing pain in your foot, ankle or leg, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050 to request an appointment with our podiatrist.