What is Podiatry
This is a new area of complementary medicine for Greece and it is related with conditions that affect the lower limbs and the feet. Podiatry applies to all age groups because each age has its' own spectrum of problems. Skin problems such as corns and calluses, fungal infections of the nails, bunions and flat feet are only a few of these problems that most people will experience in their life, but some problems can be "silent" as far as pain is concerned, and can create symptoms further up - in the knees, hips or even the spine. Additionally, there are systemic conditions such as Diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis that affect the feet and cause serious complications when they are not treated properly.
Podiatrists are members of a multi-disciplinary team that includes Orthopaedic Surgeons, Rheumatologists, Diabetologists and Neurologists. Together they provide comprehensive solutions to a wide range of complaints. However, patients can visit a Podiatrist without a referral because Podiatrists are qualified to examine, diagnose and treat foot problems.
It is important to mention that podiatry is not a simple pedicure or a beauty therapy for the feet. It is a medically-orientated profession that manages a wide spectrum of foot problems; the main aim is to treat them efficiently and quickly, keeping the patient functional.
Education and professional qualifications
All the Podiatrists have completed their studies at International Academic Institutes around the world and they all hold a Bachelors Degree in Podiatry after three to four years studying. Most podiatrists have expanded their skills, and they hold a Masters Degree in the area of their interest (i.e. Diabetic foot, biomechanics, sport injuries or others).
Warning! Please be aware of those claiming podiatry qualifications with certificates from one-day workshops and weekend seminars. A fully qualified Podiatrist has a Bachelor of Science Degree from an internationally accredited university. If you are in any doubt as to the expertise of any professional, ask for the degree taken, the years of study and the country of graduation if these are not displayed.
Your first visit to a Podiatrist.
The Podiatrist will take a full history in order to collect all the relevant information about the presenting complaint and the general health status of the patient. Next, the Podiatrist will focus on the observation of the feet (colour, temperature, condition of the skin and nails) and run a series of tests such as sensation, vibration, the range of motion of the joints of the foot, the reflexes and gaint analysis.
The collection of the information gained from the history, observation and tests identifies any possible problems affecting the status of the patient, and allows the Podiatrist to organize a treatment plan for the presenting complaint, the number of visits required, the cost and any other parameters that need to be taken into consideration, such as the prognosis and the home advice for the patient.
What problems can a Podiatrist treat?
The range of conditions treated by the podiatric profession is very wide. More specifically includes:
- Biomechanical problems such as flat feet, high arch feet, metatarsalgia and heel spurs following casting and gait analysis
- Sport injuries (strains, sprains, fractures, tendonitis and more)
- Occupational accidents, road traffic accidents and others
- Leg length discrepancies (functional/structural)
- Diabetic foot (prevention and treatment of diabetic complications, e.g. ulcers)
- Neurological complications (poliomyolitis, stroke etc)
- Rheumatological complications (bunions, hammer toes, other deformities)
- Osteoarthritis complications (degeneration and wear and tear of the joints)
- Skin & Nail conditions (fungal infections, verrucae, athlete's foot, hardening/thickening of the nails, corns, calluses and skin hardening etc)
What treatment does Podiatry offer?
An important advantage of the Podiatric profession is that improves the condition of your feet and that provides advice for a number of issues:
Protection: some conditions of the foot and ankle present with pus, open wounds and serious complications. The podiatrist has a wide spectrum of materials and techniques to keep the wounds clean and provide a safe environment.
Prevention: the Podiatrist will spend a lot of time giving footwear advice in order to prevent a number of conditions that are caused by improper footwear. These conditions include callus and corns, metatarsalgia, bunions and others.
Correction: there are biomechanical problems that require orthotic devices and long-term follow-ups. In this case, the patient schedules appointments every six to eight months to check the progress of the problem, to amend the insoles if modification is required and to make sure that the initial treatment plan is followed properly.
Finally, the Podiatrist is in touch with the Medical Doctor when required, in order to provide a complete and comprehensive treatment for the patient.
How long does the treatment last?
The duration of the treatment depends on the nature of the problem. In most cases, two to three sessions are adequate to treat the problem. However, there are conditions that require more visits, as an important element affecting the duration of treatment is the general status of the patient and how closely the patient follows the advice given. From the first visit the Podiatrist is able to estimate the number of visits required for each case, when these concepts are taken into consideration.
What is the cost of the treatment?
The cost of each treatment sessions remains the same throughout the treatment plan. If the seriousness of the presenting complaint requires a different examination or if a secondary complaint arises that requires further examination and treatment, the Podiatrist will inform you about the extra cost beforehand. Moreover, some of the expenses, such as those of the orthotics, are covered by the insurance provided by the National Health System.