Podiatrists, also known as chiropodists, diagnose and treat ailments, injuries and diseases of the foot, ankle and lower leg. They are doctors with medical degrees who perform several major duties. If you can picture yourself working with people's feet all day -- and have the critical thinking and interpersonal skills necessary for the job -- you may someday find yourself performing the duties of a podiatrist.
Podiatrists examine patients' feet, ankles and lower legs through touch, X-rays, lab tests and scanner plates connected to computers. As a podiatrist, you diagnose ailments such as calluses, ingrown toenails, arch problems, bunions, heel spurs, arthritis, fungal conditions, fractures and deformities. Swelling in the feet and ankles may indicate heart, circulation or kidney problems, according to U.S. News & World Report. A podiatrists analyzes X-rays and lab tests carefully before identifying a particular ailment.
To treat injuries or ailments, podiatrist may prescribe orthotics -- or shoe inserts -- for people with arch problems; set fractures with plastic casts; or prescribe antifungal medications for conditions such as athlete's foot. They may recommend rest and pain relievers for people with plantar fascitis, or heel and arch stress. Conditions related to diabetes or circulation often require special diets designed to alleviate symptoms. You may refer patients to other specialists when they have conditions that fall outside your area of expertise.
Some conditions of the feet cannot be treated with drugs, casts or minor surgical incisions, including bone spurs and compound fractures. In these cases, podiatrists may elect to perform surgery. For example, a compound fracture is when bone breaks the skin and requires immediate surgery, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Heel bone spurs are painful growths that podiatrists usually have to surgically remove. Podiatrists must know when to end certain treatments and perform surgeries on patients.
Twenty-six percent of podiatrists were self-employed in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some may have small operations without office managers or large clerical staffs. They may need to create patient reports for files, bill patients, track revenue and expenses, and do their own taxes. You may also have certain administrative duties working for a hospital or medical company, such as training other podiatrists or staff members.