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Your ankles and feet often play an important role in how the rest of your body functions. When something is wrong with your foot or ankle, you may not know who to see to get the best possible results. With many conditions and injuries affecting the foot and ankle, podiatrists as well as orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists can provide effective treatment. However, it is important to understand the differences when you are seeking foot and ankle care.
One of the main differences between an orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon and a podiatrist is the amount of training and education each completes. An orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist completes four years of medical school, a five- to six-year orthopaedic surgery residency, and an additional year of fellowship training in the foot and ankle. As a medical doctor, an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in the foot and ankle has a better understanding of the entire body, including bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints, as well as medical conditions that may affect your overall health. Through this training, an orthopaedic surgeon intimately understands the impact that the entire body can have on a foot and ankle condition.
Podiatrists attend podiatry school and typically complete a brief residency thereafter. As such, a podiatrist is not a medical doctor (M.D.). Podiatrists typically treat ingrown toenails, calluses, fallen arches, heel spurs, deformities of the feet, and some common foot and ankle injuries. They can provide important treatment for foot problems related to diabetes and other systemic illnesses.
Orthopaedists also treat the same foot and ankle problems but are trained to manage the full spectrum of problems involving the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues of the foot, ankle, and lower leg.