Far too often, people think foot issues are normal or simply a matter of becoming older, and are not worth worrying about. In reality, a problem with a foot or ankle is an issue needing to be addressed, especially as we get older. Of course, the best plan is to prevent a condition from developing in the first place with strategic steps, and a key component of effective senior foot care is prevention. When issues cannot be prevented, it is important to treat them at their earliest stages.
Common Senior Foot Care Issues
Feet are complicated structures and face tremendous amounts of pressure and physical stress, so there are many foot and ankle conditions that can develop. Some conditions, though, we tend to see more often among our older patients, including:
- Arthritis – To clear up a popular misconception, there are actually several variations of arthritis. The type people generally associate with arthritis is osteoarthritis. This commonly seen in older individuals and is caused by natural “wear and tear” over time. Gout and rheumatoid arthritis are other arthritic conditions which can cause issues in the lower limbs.
- Athlete’s foot – As we age, the body has a decreased capacity for effectively fighting off infections. This means fungal infections like athlete’s foot are more commonly seen in senior patients. Anti-fungal products (sprays, powders) are usually quite effective for treating mild-to-moderate cases and can even be used to prevent the condition from developing.
- Dry skin – As the body ages, it doesn’t keep skin as moist as it did during younger years. Dryness might not seem like a big deal, but excessively dry skin can develop fissures and cracks, which are openings for microorganisms. You can lower your infection risk by using moisturizing lotion or cream daily.
- Fungal toenail infections – Whereas athlete’s foot affects the skin, some fungal infections take place in the toenails. These fungal infections cause discolored, thickened, and crumbly nails, with the offensive fungus often being contracted from locker room floors or pool decks (warm, damp environments that are ideal for fungal growth).
- Toe deformities – Muscular imbalances in the toes can build up over time and cause deformities like hammertoes, mallet toes, and claw toes. Bunions are another issue that can develop due to imbalance the joint found at the base of the big toe.
Prevention Tips for Senior Foot Care
The best practice is always to take steps that will decrease the risk for those conditions, especially as you become older. Fortunately, preventative foot care doesn’t have to be particularly complicated. Some of the best practices include:
- Keep your feet dry. This is a key component to avoiding fungal infections. If your feet are going to become wet or sweaty, have a spare set of socks to change into afterwards. Make sure your socks wick moisture away. Choose shoes that are made from breathable material. Air out your feet when possible by wearing sandals or open-toed shoes.
- Get regular exercise. We cannot stress the importance of this for your overall health, but it will also keep your feet safe by providing better circulation, injury prevention, and stronger muscles to retain functionality.
- Watch what you eat. Your body needs proper nutrients to keep the bones, muscles, skin, and nail tissue of your feet nourished.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you adhere to the previous two practices, this will come naturally, which is important for reducing the stress and pressure feet face from excess weight.
- Keep your nails trimmed. Maintain your nails by keeping them trimmed even with the edge of your toe (so they aren’t too long or too short) and in a straight line. Avoid the temptation to round off your nails, since that can possibly lead to ingrown nails.
- Wear shoes that fit well. Too many foot and ankle issues arise from footwear that does not fit properly. Choose pairs that cradle the heel, allow your toes to wiggle, and have a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the front.
Our office can help with senior foot care services in two different ways: treatment and information. Yuko Miyazaki, DPM will provide the care you need for any existing foot or ankle problem that is causing pain or interfering with your (or a loved one’s) ability to perform regular tasks. Additionally, Dr. Miyazaki can help you create a foot care plan to decrease the risk of having issues arise.
Whether you need treatment or help with prevention, Yuko Miyazaki, DPM is here for you. Simply give our Berkeley, CA office a call at (510) 647-3744 and schedule your appointment today.