What does a podiatrist do?
Podiatrists are health care professionals who have been trained to prevent, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate abnormal conditions of the feet and lower limbs. They also prevent and correct deformity, keep people mobile and active, relieve pain and treat infections.
They can give you and your family advice on how to look after your feet and what type of shoes to wear. They can also treat and alleviate day-to-day foot problems, including:
- toenail problems, such as thickened, fungal or ingrown toenails
- corns and calluses
- athlete's foot
- smelly feet
- dry and cracked heels
- flat feet
- heel pain
- ageing feet
- sports injuries
How can a podiatrist help?
You may want to see a podiatrist for advice and treatment if you have painful feet, thickened or discoloured toenails, cracks or cuts in the skin, growths such as warts, scaling or peeling on the soles, or any other foot-related problem.
Podiatrists can also supply orthotics, which are tailor-made insoles, padding and arch supports to relieve arch or heel pain. You put the orthotic device into your shoe to re-align your foot, take pressure off vulnerable areas of your foot, or simply to make your shoes more comfortable.
Even if your feet are generally in good condition, you might consider having a single session of podiatry to have the hard skin on your feet removed, toenails clipped, to find out if you're wearing the right shoes (take your shoes with you for specific advice on footwear) or just to check that you're looking after your feet properly.
Podiatrists can also help with more complex foot problems including preventing, diagnosing and treating injuries related to sports and/or exercise.
What's the difference between a podiatrist and a chiropodist?
There's no difference between a podiatrist and chiropodist, but podiatrist is a more modern name.
What happens at the consultation?
At your first consultation, the podiatrist will take a full medical history and do basic tests such as checking the blood circulation and feeling in your feet. They may also check the way you walk and move your lower leg joints.
They will discuss your concerns with you and then make a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Usually any minor problems that are picked up can be treated on the spot including the removal of hard skin, corns and calluses.
The session is usually completely painless (even pleasant) and takes 30 to 60 minutes.
Can I get podiatry on the NHS?
You may be able to.
Since April 1 2013, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were given the power to decide what footcare services to commission for their local area.
Guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that footcare services related to long-term conditions such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease and rheumatoid arthritis should be available on the NHS.
However, there is no NICE guidance for foot health provision that is not associated with a long-term condition. This means that each individual CCG will decide on what to make available on the NHS, depending on local need.
If your condition is not affecting your health or mobility - such as a verruca that looks ugly, but doesn't hurt when you walk - you are unlikely to be eligible for NHS podiatry.
If you want NHS podiatry treatment, contact your GP to see if you qualify.
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Read more about getting podiatry on the NHS.
Can I see a podiatrist privately?
If free NHS treatment isn't available, you can visit a local clinic for private treatment, but you will have to pay.
Would a podiatrist come to my home?
If your foot problems are so bad that you find it difficult to walk, it may be possible to arrange for a chiropodist to come to your home. Tell your GP if you need to have a home visit and they should be able to find a suitable chiropodist or podiatrist.
Many private podiatrists do home visits whatever your health status.
How can I make sure the podiatrist is qualified?
Anyone who calls themselves a podiatrist or chiropodist must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Go to the HCPC website to check if your podiatrist or chiropodist is registered.
It's also worth checking that they are a member of one of the following organisations:
- The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists
- The Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists
- British Chiropody and Podiatry Association
How much does private podiatry cost?
Private fees can vary, depending on where you live and the podiatrist's experience. Ring a few local podiatry clinics to check their prices.
Article provided by NHS Choices