The Subtle Difference Between Chiropody and Podiatry

Have you ever heard the term Chiropody and wondered what the difference is between podiatry and chiropody? They are one and the same. Chiropody is actually an antiquated title that was replaced by podiatry in 1993. In Canada podiatrist practice in accordance with the Ontario Chiropody Act.

Podiatrists and Podiatry Defined

Podiatry is the diagnosis and surgical or non-surgical treatment of illness, injury, or deformity of the foot and ankle. The level of education required to become a podiatrist and what kind of care they can render varies from nation to nation.

In the United States to be accepted to a school of podiatry, an applicant must have focused their studies on math and science in high school. A post-secondary degree in science, ideally biology, or premed is required. Qualifying to practice podiatry takes four years of schooling. Becoming a podiatric surgeon involves a surgical residency lasting 3-4 years.

The UK requires six years of additional training to qualify a podiatrist.

Anatomy of the Foot

Leonardo da Vinci said, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” The human foot is divided into the forefoot, midfoot and hindfoot. The skeletal structure of a foot consists of 28 bones that form 30 joints. A combination of 100 muscle, tendons, and ligaments hold the bones together and enable movement.

The forefoot contains five metatarsal bones and the 14 phalanges that form the five toes. The midfoot or arch is a collection of three cuneiform bones, one cuboid bone, and one navicular bone. The heel and ankle form the hindfoot. Of the 28 bones in the foot, the largest is the calcaneus aka heel bone.

Diabetes and Podiatric Check-Ups

Pre-diabetics and diabetics should see a podiatrist once a year. The results of an exam may necessitate more frequent visits to the podiatrist’s office. Annually, complications of diabetes result in over 60,000 amputations. Regular exams reduce the risk of limb removal to 15%.

During an exam, the feet will be checked for signs of diabetes-related complications.

  • Corns and calluses that bleed
  • Edema in the ankle and or foot
  • Skin that is cracked and dry
  • Ingrown toenails and fungal infections
  • Numbness in the feet or toes (neuropathy)
  • Pain in the legs
  • Skin color changes
  • Slow healing open sores

Diabetics should check themselves for the above conditions daily or have someone do it for them ie; a family member. Those without diabetes or other serious issues need a yearly Podiatric exam.

Reasons to See a Podiatrist

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The symptoms of the fungal infection known as Athlete’s Foot presents as dry, flaky, red skin on, around, and between the toes and on the bottom of the foot. Athlete’s Foot can cause pain, itching, and burning. Most common on the big toe bunions are a bone protrusion. Bunions can cause pain and an impaired gait. Ultimately, bunions may have to be corrected surgically.

Making the foot more susceptible to infection ingrown toenails are painful, inflamed, and require the attention of a podiatrist. Toenail fungus is especially common in people over 70. The affected nail can become thicker and discolored and the nail might fall off.

When the fascia tissue is stretched too far plantar fasciitis results. The condition causes inflammation and pain in the arch and or heel possibly leading to painful bone protrusions called bone spurs. Flat feet and unusually high arches are also causes of bone spurs.

Attributable to genetics, pregnancy, conditions like cerebral palsy, and some types of footwear flat feet can be corrected with orthotics. The arthritic condition gout is a build-up of uric acid in the joint of the big toe. Swelling, unusual warmth in the toe and redness are symptoms of gout. It is important to seek immediate treatment for suspected gout as it can be indicative of a more serious condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.

This is only a partial list of conditions podiatrists treat.

Summary

Podiatry was originally called chiropody. Podiatrists focus on treating the foot and ankle. In the US it takes a minimum of 8 years of post-secondary education to practice podiatry. Diabetics must have regular podiatric exams. Some foot conditions including gout, open sores, cracking, dryness, and ingrown toenails can be indicative of serious illnesses.

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