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Doctors who treat feet first began making rounds in larger U.S. cities in the early 1800s. During that century, podiatrists were called chiropodists, after the Greek word chiropody. Chiropody refers to the study of the hand and foot. Most other physicians and surgeons of that era ignored the treatment of foot disorders.

The first offices devoted exclusively to foot care were established in 1841. The chiropodists of this period had difficulty competing with physicians in the care of ingrown toenails. The law read that a chiropodist had no right to make incisions involving the structures below the true skin. Treatments included removal of corns, warts, calluses, bunions, abnormal nails, and general foot care.

The term chiropody was eventually replaced by podiatry, likely because chiropody dealt mainly with the foot.

Modern podiatric medicine emerged in the early 1900s. More recently, surgery has become a necessary part of podiatric care. Today, the skills of podiatric physicians are in increasing demand, because foot disorders are among the most common and most often neglected health problems affecting people in the United States.

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