Podiatrists: The primary care physicians of the lower extremity

There is a nationwide shortage of primary care providers (PCP’s), which include family practitioners, internists, pediatricians, among others.  A recent US Department of Health study documented shortage of 17,000 PCP’s.  In many areas, it is often difficult to get an appointment with a PCP.  Many are not accepting new patients, and established patients may experience long waits.

The good news is that, at least when it comes to the lower extremity (foot, leg, and ankle), the specialty of podiatry stands ready to help!  Podiatrists are surgeons, but they are first and foremost PCP’s of the lower extremity.

Podiatrists treat hundreds of lower extremity conditions.  In the lower extremity, podiatrists  are the experts in rheumatology, dermatology, neurology, pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, vascular disease, medicine, wound care, and sports medicine.

Podiatrists are experts in dermatology of the lower extremity. Skin rashes of all types, skin tumors, and toenail conditions are commonly treated. The ingrown toenail is ,in fact, the most common condition that we treat.

Rheumatology, or  arthritic conditions of the lower extremity, is another common  area of podiatric expertise.  Any of the multiple joints of the foot as well as the ankle joint are prone to  arthritic conditions.

Neurology, or nerve  problems, is another common area of podiatric involvement.  Nerve injuries, nerve entrapments, and nerve disease (neuropathy) are common in the lower extremity and are often difficult to diagnose and treat.

Podiatrists also specialize in lower extremity pediatrics, or children’s foot problems.  These include gait abnormalities, flatfoot, and sports injuries. Podiatrists also specialize in geriatrics, or treatment of conditions of the elderly.

Circulation problems, both arterial and venous, commonly affect the lower extremity.  Podiatrists are often the first to diagnose these.  Evaluation of poor arterial circulation and prompt referral for vascular intervention, especially in diabetic patients, can be limb saving or life saving. Vein problems, ranging from venous leg ulcers to unsightly spider veins are all conditions treated in the office by podiatrists.

When it comes to orthopedics (bone problems), of the lower extremity, podiatrists are the experts. We treat all types of fractures, sprains, bone, muscle and tendon conditions. We are especially adept at treating athletic injuries.

Finally, it should be noted that many systemic conditions have manifestations in the lower extremity, and sometimes these are the earliest symptoms. These include diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, congestive heart failure, nutritional deficiencies, among many others. Podiatrists recognize these and make the appropriate referrals.

Most PCP’s understand the value of podiatry and refer conditions of the lower extremity to them. Podiatrists work closely with PCP’s, other specialists, and health care providers as a part of the medical team to provide the best care for every patient.

Most health insurance plans, including Medicare, do not require a referral from a PCP to see a podiatrist. You can make an appointment directly with us without a referral.

Call our offices for any condition of the lower extremity. We will be glad to help you!

Posted in Blog.