One of the most common questions is what is the difference between a pedicurist and a podiatrist? The most basic answer lies in education. Pedicurists go to cosmetology school and podiatrists go to medical school. Perhaps the basis of the confusion lies in one of the tasks that a podiatrist does. A podiatrist makes sure nails and calluses are cut down to a safe length. The purpose, however, is not cosmetic and podiatrists do not offer ancillary services such as painting the nails, foot massage or any of the services normally associated with a pedicure or foot spa service. However, a few podiatrists’ offices do have cosmetologists on staff who do that. Some pedicurists may also have training in sterilization and disease.
Podiatrists reduce the nails and calluses often of at-risk patients, for example, those with poor circulation, poor nerve sensation and burning and tingling in the feet. Oftentimes, the elderly, diabetics or smokers fall into the at-risk category. For these populations it may be dangerous to trim one’s own nails, as it may lead to infections or gangrene. Those who nails and calluses are painful, such as with fungal nails, will also benefit from podiatric services, since oftentimes pedicurists cannot and will not cut these nails. Elongated nails may lacerate adjoining structures and toes, and if they are thickened, may cause ulcerations in the nail bed. Deep calluses or corns may cause ulcerations in the skin. These may lead to infections and gangrene.
As podiatrists are physicians and surgeons, they are able to treat infections when they occur, either with topical or oral antibiotics, debridement (or removing non-viable tissue) and surgical procedures such as amputation. Podiatrists are also not limited to working with nails and calluses. Their medical and surgical practice involves many organ systems in the foot, such as the blood vessels, nerves, skin, bones and muscles. They may, for example, perform reconstructive surgery to straighten a hammertoe which causes a corn to recur, or simply because the hammertoe is painful and interferes with one’s lifestyle.
A podiatrist is a medical specialist who treats feet through medical, surgical and biomechanical means.