When you need a specific medical treatment, you have a lot of specialists to choose from in any hospital or health care facility. But, if two or more specialists offer similar services, which one of them should you choose? Two good examples of specialists that sound like they share the same medical services are orthopedic surgeons and podiatric doctors. What exactly are their similarities, and who should you approach for your condition?

Here below is our short guide on how to distinguish between a podiatric doctor and an orthopedic surgeon to help you decide who to go to:


What do these medical specialists focus on?

When you compare both specialists in terms of what parts of the body they focus on, you will see that they are somehow similar. General orthopedic surgeons can help you with any issue related to your joints, bones and soft tissues. There are also foot and ankle orthopedists like ACT Podiatry you can approach if you want a long look at the foot and ankle issues that are affected by their joint, bone and soft tissue conditions.

Meanwhile, a podiatric doctor focuses mostly on issues affecting your ankles and feet directly, which is similar to how a foot and ankle orthopedist looks at your condition. But, a podiatric doctor will also look into other medical conditions caused by your foot and ankle problem. These conditions may be in your skin or in how you move.

How are these specialists trained?

While both specialists study the same core science subjects and are exposed to various medical fields during their residency, their training focus varies.

Orthopedic doctors take several courses before they are allowed to test their knowledge during their residency. They learn how to understand the medical characteristics of a human body’s bones and joints and how to manage them during surgical procedures. They may also opt to take a specialization on foot and ankle disorder treatments, which takes a year to complete. Before they can practice their profession, they must pass a national medical licensure test.

Meanwhile, podiatric doctors train immediately on how they treat patients once they start podiatric medical school. Their training continues during their three to four residency, and they will not focus on other parts of the body. After their residency, they will need to pass a state board examination before they can practice.

Who should you approach for specific injuries?

Trained orthopedic surgeons and podiatric doctors can check fundamental health problems such as fractures and bunions. Both will be able to identify the issue and provide treatment that will cure your problem.

But, if you need a specific treatment for your foot and ankle problem, you should reach out to a podiatric doctor or a foot and ankle orthopedist. Some issues you can ask for their advice include diabetic foot ulcerations, callosities and nail diseases. They will be able to determine the exact problem, what is causing it and prescribe a localized treatment. Some podiatrists are capable of performing surgery on foot and ankle problems. Others can even do reconstructive surgery.

General orthopedic surgeons work best in the basic foot and ankle issues, as well as hip, shoulder and knee problems. They will also check at the other impacts your bone, joint and soft tissue problems will cause throughout your body. If you have arthritis or diabetes, an orthopedic surgeon can help you prevent any damage caused by the disease to your body. Failure to do so may cause the infection to ravage other parts of your body, which can paralyze you in the long run.

To treat these problems, an orthopedic surgeon can treat you with or without surgery. They can identify where the problem can be found in your bones, joints and tissues and correct it as fast as possible. If you are unable to get treatment from them, you may end up losing one of your limbs or be under treatment management.

Where can you find these specialists?

If you plan to reach out to these specialists, podiatric doctors often run a solo clinic for their practice. Others can be found in speciality health clinics or primary care groups. Meanwhile, orthopedic surgeons have residencies in primary health clinics and hospitals in the country. Some also have small clinics where they can do surgeries on-site.

What to remember?

If you find yourself in need to reach out to these specialists, you need to remember that they will have a different prognosis when they check your condition. While they may have similarities in what they specialize in and trained for, both will look at your situation differently.

Before you visit either one of these specialists, research about their qualifications and training. You can also check recommendations by family and friends who have the same medical problem you are experiencing. With your research and other people’s advice, pick the specialist that you feel you can trust.

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