What does a podiatrist do?

A podiatrist is a university trained healthcare professional who diagnoses, treats, and prevents foot problems.

Podiatrists are an integral part of the health care team and work in hospitals, community health centres, sporting organisations and in private practice.

Many people, young and old, rely on podiatrists to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What would you say stands out as the comparative advantage of the field of podiatry?

As a podiatrist there is a great opportunity to help and deal with issues causing pain and discomfort on an immediate basis.

Patients will often come to see us in pain especially in the case of corns, calluses and ingrown nails, which we can treat resulting in almost instant relief.

This is a very gratifying feeling as a health professional and makes a significant difference to patients’ quality of life.

This is also the case in the treatment of many joint, muscle and ligament problems.

As Podiatrists we have the opportunity to work with other health practitioners.

In the case of patients with Diabetes for example, a condition whose complications are often first seen in the feet.

Podiatrists are instrumental in ensuring that patients’ feet are healthy and that their risk of significant and serious complications are reduced.

Helping others achieve their goals, free of pain and able to meet their maximum potential is a great motivator!

Can you talk about common problems that patients come to see a podiatrist about?

Foot problems can affect everyone in the community and can cause pain in the lower back and other joints by changing how you walk or run.

This can affect a patient’s mobility, independence and overall health.

Common problems include ingrown nails, fungal nail infections, corns and calluses.

Additionally, many patients attend for advice and treatment of arthritic and joint problems such as bunions, flat feet and high arched feet which are common in all ages.

We also see many children who may have problems walking, may have joint problems or whose parents are concerned about their foot structure.

Typically, in our female patients we see a lot of joint, nail and skin damage related to poorly fitting footwear.

Are the costs of podiatry treatment covered by health insurance schemes and or government funding?

Costs for podiatry treatment can be covered in a variety of ways.

Patients who have private health insurance may be covered for podiatry however, this depends on their level of private health insurance cover under “extras”.

In such cases private health insurance would cover a percentage of the costs associated with treatment and the patient would cover the “gap payment”, the difference between what is covered by private health insurance and the podiatrist’s fees.

The Australian Government also offers Medicare rebates for podiatry patients who are eligible under the “Enhanced Primary Care Scheme”.

This scheme is for patients who have complex medical needs and require care from a range of healthcare practitioners.

To determine eligibility, patients must first visit their general practitioner who will assess their eligibility and make the necessary referral to the podiatrist.

It is important to note that not all patients may be eligible.

Once they have received the referral they can contact their podiatrist and make an appointment. If not covered either by private health insurance or Medicare rebates, fees will be paid in full by the patient.

Do you have any practical advice about podiatry problems?

People often overlook their feet.

Being at the end of the body and often covered, it is not until something goes wrong with them that the public seeks advice.

It is very important that everyone has their feet checked by a podiatrist regularly.

As trained health professionals we can spot potential problems before they arise and the key to maintaining good health is to be proactive and deal with issues before they become significant problems.

Check your feet daily- are there any marks on the skin, changes to the nails, any areas of swelling that shoudn’t be there?

Make sure that your shoes fit properly. Poorly fitting footwear can be the cause of significant damage to feet, including skin, nail, joint damage.

Dry all areas of the feet properly, including between the toes, to reduce the risk of infection.

If you experience foot pain consult your podiatrist. Do not leave it until it is too late.

See you podiatrist regularly for a check up as many foot problems can be avoided!