Take a Step Closer to Preventing Foot Problems
With age, there is a natural build-up of stress and overall wear on the feet causing foot problems to increase. Think of it this way: People are now living on an average of 30 years longer than 100 years ago, so that is 30 more years of mileage on your feet!
And although people are more conscious about their overall health and how to stay healthy these days, they often neglect their feet. This is despite the fact that having healthy feet means you inevitably can be more mobile and active.
This article addresses common foot problems, their effects primarily on the elderly population, and the practice of better foot care.
Common foot problems
It is hard to believe that there are more than 300 different foot ailments! Most of these are not determined to be a result of hereditary, but rather they stem from age and the cumulative effect of years of neglect or abuse.
Let’s look at some of these common problems.
A bunion occurs when there is a misaligned or abnormal bony growth that forms at the bottom of the big toe. The affected bone is tender and painful to touch.
- Calluses and corns
Both are thick, rough areas of the skin. There is a hardened, raised bump that is painful and tender under the skin. There also may be waxy, dry, or flaky skin as well. Corns develop on the tops and sides of the toes or between the toes; they may appear in weight-bearing areas, too. Callouses most often appear on the soles of your feet, mostly under the balls or the heels. Calluses are usually larger than corns.
Hammertoe is an abnormality when the toe joints begin to curl up or under like a claw. The joint can become permanently dislocated. This condition is often associated with pain.
- Heel pain
The most common causes of heel pain are plantar fasciitis (the bottom of the heel) and Achilles tendinitis (the back of the heel). Heel pain is usually not a symptom of a serious condition; however, the discomfort can impact normal activities especially exercise.
- Ingrown toenails
This results when the corner or side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh. Usually, it is the big toe. Ingrown toenails are associated with swelling, redness, pain, tenderness, and sometimes an infection along one or both sides of the nail.
The effects of foot problems
- Increased foot pain. Many elderly adults (at least one out of every three people over the age of 65) struggle with aches and pains in their feet. Diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease can make foot pain, stiffness, and aching feet feel even worse.
- Difficulty with performing normal tasks. With limited mobility because of the increased feet-related pain and soreness, it is hard to move and complete routine tasks.
- Restricted independence. This feet-related pain and discomfort often lead to a very sedentary lifestyle. In fact, recent studies conducted in the US show that one out of four nursing home patients can’t walk independently and another one-sixth can walk only with assistance. The use of a wheelchair and other motorized devices become common.
Difficulty with foot care
As people age, it is often more difficult to take care of their feet and nails. However, it is very important to continue to look for any discoloration or brittleness in the feet or toenails, wounds or sores that may not be healing, excessively dry skin, burning or tingling sensations in the feet, or feelings of cold or numbness. Any additional foot pain should also be monitored.
If the above-mentioned symptoms persist, it is important to see a medical professional to help determine the cause of the problem. Your regular doctor is a good choice. However, you may want to see a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in foot care. They will first assess the situation and any complications. Many of these symptoms can be controlled with proper medication.
Serious conditions such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis can cause the feet to become deformed, thus contributing to overall foot pain when you are mobile. Whereas, diabetes can cause circulation issues to the feet and even inhibit feeling in the feet. Ulcers that are difficult to heal may form on the feet.
After a thorough diagnosis is made, and hopefully, the serious problems ruled out, there are several steps that you can take to ensure proper foot care.
Simple steps to proper foot care
- Keep feet dry. Always dry off your feet completely after a bath, shower, swimming activity, etc.
- Elevate the feet. Get in the habit of using a footstool or chair to elevate your feet throughout the day. Every time you sit down to eat, watch television, or relax are good times to practice this healthy habit.
- Proper shoes. Ensure that shoes fit appropriately. When people age, their feet tend to spread and the fatty pads that cushion the soles of their feet become thinner. In addition, weight gain can impact the ligament and bone structures of the feet. This is why older people should have their feet measured for proper shoe size as their feet sizes often change over the years. Supportive shoes are designed to alleviate foot problems. You can talk to a podiatrist about specialized footwear or consider getting fit for an orthopedic shoe. Sole inserts may be helpful in providing better support as well.
- Proper socks. Ensure that socks fit appropriately. Avoid cotton socks; synthetic or wool socks will help reduce moisture accumulating (on your feet) as you move. This, in turn, will reduce the incident level of blisters, fungal infections, and excessive rubbing.
- Trimmed toenails. Keep the toenails trimmed on a regular basis as improperly trimmed nails can lead to infection or ingrown toenails. It is suggested to cut toenails in a well-lit area. It may also be easier to cut the nails after a shower or bath as the nails tend to be softer. Visiting nurse services, some local senior centers, and podiatrists offer foot care services to make this task more convenient for your loved one.
- Lotion. Use lotion daily on the feet to help increase the skin’s firmness and elasticity. Your feet and skin will feel rejuvenated!
- Medical help. If you notice a foot problem, limit the time spent on your feet. If a few days of rest does not remedy the problem, then seek professional attention.
Preventive foot health care is beneficial to your overall health. Your feet will be more comfortable, you will reduce the chances for additional medical problems, and you will be able to remain active and independent longer. These are all key factors that impact your overall quality of life.
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