Foot Health for Seniors
The health of your feet is crucial to maintaining your balance and overall comfort, and that doesn’t end as you get older. A lifetime of pressure can cause a break-down in joint cartilage, but every podiatrist offers ways of preventing or reversing harm. With knowledge of what to look out for and some lifestyle adjustments, seniors can remain active and happy with their feet’s condition.
The foot is a complex system of bones, joints, and soft tissues that gets jostled and subjected to an impact with each step. Over the course of a person’s life, the padding of the heels and balls of their feet will deteriorate. As a result, their joints become stiffer and the feet become wider. It is also possible to acquire flatfeet late in life, as the posterior tibial tendon becomes inflamed or breaks down. This tendon holds up the arch of the foot, and as it weakens, the bones collapse, pushing the heel bone out of place and putting pressure on the ankle bones. The big toe is another common victim of degenerative diseases, as the joint at its base stiffens from loss of cartilage. This can cause the ends of the toe bone to rub together and develop bony overgrowths, in a condition known as hallux rigidus. Deformities could also be the result of small fractures in bones that have been weakened by osteoporosis.
Orthotics can be used to brace up fallen arches. Anti-inflammatory medications, delivered orally or through a syringe, can reduce symptoms of hallux rigidus and other kinds of arthritis. It is also possible to remove bony overgrowths or to surgically fuse toe bones together, eliminating painful rubbing. For some older patients, joint replacements may be recommended. Lastly, improved nutrition and more sunlight can slow osteoporosis’s progression.
Partly due to changes in the shapes of their feet, it is common for older people to not wear properly fitted shoes. Putting excessive pressure on the foot bones could cause them to become deformed, but skin conditions will likely develop first. Corns and calluses will develop where skin gets rubbed, and a person who struggles to bend over or lift their feet may have difficulty removing them safely. That’s why we recommend seeking professional podiatric assistance. People who have trouble reaching their feet may also struggle to dry their toes, putting them at risk of developing fungal infections.
Older people can prevent skin conditions by adopting some of the hygiene and maintenance routines use by people with diabetes. Regularly changing socks helps to keep the feet dry and blood circulating. Toenails that are cut short are less likely to become injured, and cutting them straight across reduces the risk of an ingrown toenail, as does wearing shoes with sufficient room in the toe box. Shorter baths and milder soap will make skin less likely to dry out. Quitting smoking will help keep blood vessels from narrowing. People without diabetes may also try wearing sandals, provided that they have orthotic support, to keep their toes free from dampness and pressure.