Podiatry is a more modern name for chiropody but there is essentially no difference between a chiropodist and podiatrist.
What is a podiatrist?
Podiatry is a specialist area of healthcare that involves foot and lower limb conditions. A podiatrist is a healthcare professional who specialises in conditions affecting the feet and ankles.
A podiatrist has a degree-level qualification and must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). A podiatrist may also be a member of a professional organisation, such as the British Chiropody and Podiatry Association, the College of Podiatry or the Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.
What does a podiatrist do?
Podiatrists are trained to help prevent, diagnose and treat problems affecting your feet. By treating foot conditions, they can help to improve mobility and activity, relieve pain and treat infections.
Podiatrists also have a major role in some chronic conditions, especially diabetes, which without advice and treatment can cause severe foot problems because of damage to the blood vessels and nerves.
You may want to see a podiatrist for advice and treatment if you have painful feet, cracks or cuts in the skin, growths such as verrucas, scaling or peeling on the soles, or any other foot-related problem. Podiatrists can also provide insoles, padding and arch supports to relieve arch or heel pain. This can help to take pressure off vulnerable areas of your foot.
Podiatrists can provide advice on how to look after your feet and the best type of shoes for you to wear. A podiatrist can also help if you need any hard skin on your feet removed, or if you need help treating athelete's foot, blisters or dry heels.
Podiatrists can also treat many common foot problems, including:
- Toenail problems, such as an ingrowing toenail.
- Corns and calluses.
- Flat feet.
- Heel pain.
Podiatrists can also help with more complex foot problems, including injuries caused by sports and other activities.
Biomechanics and gait analysis
Your gait means the way you move your body when you walk. Pain in your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back can be caused by a problem with how your body moves.
Analysis of your gait helps to identify and treat a number of complex and important issues. This include:
- Rehabilitation after injury.
- Helping to treat pain in your back or legs caused by your gait.
- Improving sporting performance.
The assessment may involve different examinations, including a trained professional carefully watching how you walk or run, video analysis and even more sophisticated techniques such as measuring the pressure on different parts of your foot when walking or running (foot pressure plate analysis).
Partial nail avulsion (PNA)
This is a minor surgical procedure that involves the removal of a small strip of the side of the toenail. A local anaesthetic is first injected into the base of your toe so that the toe is numb.
A PNA is a very effective treatment for ingrowing toenails. The exposed part of the nail bed is often treated with a chemical called phenol. The chemical destroys the nail bed and usually prevents recurrence of the ingrowing toenail.
A PNA is an alternative to removing the entire nail (total nail avulsion).
Swift verruca treatment
This is licensed for the treatment of verrucas and warts. The microwave energy is delivered through a special probe applied to the skin to treat the affected tissue.
You may feel a sharp sensation, similar to an injection, during the procedure. However any pain felt during the treatment disappears very quickly.
Verruca needling is performed using a local anaesthetic to numb the foot (ankle block), which is an easy procedure for a trained professional.
Verruca needling is a relatively new technique in the UK. The procedure is usually very effective and the pain after the procedure is usually mild and often less painful than freezing treatment (cryotherapy).
Can you see a podiatrist on the NHS?
How easy it is to get podiatry near to you will depend on how it is funded and prioritised by your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
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 national NICE guidance in the UK for podiatry for foot problems that aren't associated with any long-term condition. That means that NHS podiatry isn't usually available if you don't have one of these conditions.
You can contact your local CCG or your General Practice to find out more about podiatry services in your area.
Can I see a podiatrist privately?
If free NHS treatment isn't available, you can visit a local podiatry clinic for private treatment. Private fees can vary, depending on where you live and the treatment you need.
It may be possible to arrange for a podiatrist to come to your home. Many private podiatrists provide home visits.