What is Podiatry?
Podiatry is the medical specialty that deals with injuries and diseases of the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg. Caring for feet may seem simple at first glance, but podiatry combines elements of sports medicine, wound care, diabetic care, and pediatrics into one specialty.
Podiatrists examine and treat many minor conditions in their office. They may perform surgery at a hospital, and they may refer patients to other professionals for physical therapy or orthotics if needed.
Some of the conditions commonly seen by podiatrists include:
Sprains and fractures
Heel pain and heel spurs
Ingrown or infected toenails
Corns and calluses
Structural issues of the foot
Pain in the feet and ankles is often neglected or seen as a normal part of daily life by patients, but keeping your feet healthy is a great way to maintain your mobility into old age. A podiatrist can help you keep moving comfortably.
What is Foot & Ankle Surgery?
Foot and ankle surgery is the specialty offering medical and surgical care for the foot and ankle. The feet and ankles are some of the most frequently injured parts of the body, but foot and ankle surgeons also treat damage due to illness, major trauma, or structural disorders.
Foot and ankle surgeons begin their career by either studying podiatry or orthopedics. Podiatrists study and care for the feet and ankles, while orthopedists study how bones, muscles, and tendons work and help us move. After their initial training, foot and ankle surgeons go on to do a surgical residency for three years, studying specifically how to care for feet and ankles with surgery.
A foot and ankle surgeon may treat conditions including:
Trauma, such as due to a car accident
Surgical management of joints damaged by arthritis
Polydactyly (extra toes)
Tumors of the foot
The care offered by foot and ankle surgeons does not always involve surgery. Depending on the diagnosis, they may recommend non-invasive medical treatments such as rest, ice / heat, casting, bracing, or physical therapy.
What is Rheumatology?
Rheumatology is the medical specialty that is concerned with arthritis and other diseases of inflammation. Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body, but it is most common in the joints and connective tissues. Arthritis, which occurs in the joints, is also a very common condition, so rheumatology is strongly associated with joint care. But rheumatology is about more that just arthritis. Other conditions that a rheumatologist might treat include:
Lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease
Ankylosing spondylitis, inflammation at the base of the spine
Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that stops production of tears and saliva
Fibromyalgia, a disorder causing widespread, chronic pain and fatigue
Pediatric rheumatologists are doctors that specialize in treating inflammatory diseases in children. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory diseases can begin even in childhood, and can cause a unique set of problems for active and growing children.
Rheumatologists use patient symptoms as well as lab tests and imaging tests such as MRIs to diagnose disease. Treatment varies widely depending on the diagnosis, but it may include physiotherapy (to improve motion, ability, and function) or medications. Commonly prescribed medications include anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDS (e.g. Tylenol, Ibuprofen) and steroids, or immune system suppressants such as methotrexate and TNF inhibitor medications (e.g. Enbrel, Humira). The goal is always to increase the patient’s ability to move without pain and to reduce the need for future treatment.
What is Sports Medicine?
Sports medicine is the specialty that promotes physical fitness and activity while managing, treating, and preventing injuries that happen during exercise or participation in sports. Sports medicine fosters wellness and fitness and works to inhibit injury. A sports medicine specialist may work with professional athletes, school sports teams, individuals who participate in sports on the weekend for fun, or someone who is just beginning to exercise for the first time. Although their main focus is on musculoskeletal function, sports medicine specialists also care for patients’ full medical and nutritional needs as they relate to their active lifestyle.
Some examples of the kinds of injuries and issues that a sports medicine specialist might see in their work include:
Acute sports injuries (sprains, fractures)
Overuse injuries (tendonitis, bursitis)
Head injuries (concussion)
Heat injuries (heat stroke)
Athletes with chronic illness (asthma, diabetes, heart disease) and how their illness is affected by exercise
Nutrition and the use of supplements
Developing a safe exercise plan for obese or sedentary patients
Substance abuse of performance-enhancing drugs
Teaching proper form and technique to reduce the chance of injury
Sports medicine specialists often work closely with orthopedic specialists, and the scope of their work can have some overlap. The main distinction is that orthopedic specialists can perform surgery when it is needed, while sports medicine specialists focus on non-surgical solutions for injuries.
Whether they are the team physicians making sure every professional player is performing safely and at their best, or community specialists getting you back in the game after a sprained ankle, sports medicine doctors are there to make sure you’re in good condition to lead an active life.
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