We put a lot of pressure and strain on feet over the years. While each of the 26 bones in the foot has a specific position, some changes that accompany old age can displace a bone, causing further problems. When all these factors combine, you can develop foot pain and bony growths, among other foot problems. Foot specialists at Island Foot Clinics can help address such issues.
12 Top Foot Health Concerns for Seniors
Seniors often experience circulation problems, leading to prolonged healing time. This makes them more susceptible to infections and other health issues that affect feet. Here are some of the most common foot problems that affect seniors:
Also known as hallux valgus, bunions are bony bumps that develop on the joint at the base of the big toe. A bunion occurs when some of the bones in the foot move out of place, forcing the tip of the big toe to move towards the smaller toes. As this happens, the joint at the base of the big toe sticks out. The skin covering the bunion can turn red and become sore. Factors that can contribute to the formation of bunions include:
- Tight, narrow shoes
- The shape of your foot
- Foot deformity
- Some conditions, such as arthritis
2. Fat Pad Atrophy
While most seniors often experience increased body weight and fat, sometimes they lose padding in their feet. Natural foot pads act as cushions, protecting the tootsies whenever you walk. When the footpad starts wearing out, you may feel pain in the ball of your foot and heel.
A foot specialist can address this problem recommending shoes with cushions or custom-made foam inner soles known as orthotics. They can also recommend replacing the footpad with filler injections.
3. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of pain that is felt at the bottom of the heel. It occurs when there is an inflammation in the plantar fascia, a thick ligament that runs along the sole of the foot, supporting the arch and connecting the heel bone to the toes.
The stabbing pain and stiffness that is linked to plantar fasciitis occur with the first steps in the morning and after long periods of standing or sitting. Repeated stress suffered by runners increases the risk of developing the condition. Overweight people, those with high arches and those who wear shoes without proper support are also more susceptible.
4. Morton’s Neuroma
Morton’s neuroma is a common foot problem that affects about a third of all Americans. It is a benign but painful foot condition. According to many patients, it feels like a pebble in a shoe or a fold in a sock. The condition is more common older in women and those who wear shoes with a tight toe box or high heels.
Morton’s neuroma occurs when the tissue surrounding a toe nerve thickens because of irritation or compression. In mild cases, changing shoes, shoe pads and a foot massage can help relieve the foot pain. Severe cases, on the other hand, may require treatment with steroid shots or surgery.
5. Ingrown Toenails
An ingrown toenail can be described as a nail that grows into the skin. While people of all ages can have ingrown toenails, seniors are at an increased risk. Ingrown toenails can cause pain, swelling, and infection. People with diabetes, sweaty feet, and excess body weight are more vulnerable to ingrown toenails.
You can prevent an ingrown toenail by wearing well-fitting shoes. You should also avoid cutting your toenails too short. If an ingrown toenail becomes red, painful and produces pus, a foot specialist may have to remove part of the nail. If the problem persists, they may have to remove the nail along with the underlying tissue.
6. Achilles Tendinitis
The Achilles is the tendon that connects the heel bone to the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg. Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury that occurs over time. It can cause pain in the heel or the back of the ankle. Ice on the tendon, rest and medications can help reduce the swelling. In severe cases that lead to tendon tears, you may need surgery. The condition is more common among seniors who were runners, tennis, or basket players in their youth.
7. Corns, Calluses, and Dry Skin
Corns and calluses are thick layers of dead skin that develop as skin’s response to constant friction and pressure. They often develop on the toes and feet as a result of ill-fitting shoes and other sources of regular irritation. Corns and calluses are often accompanied by painful, dry skin. The dry skin can crack, exposing the affected area to infection.
8. Flat Foot
While many people are born with flat feet, an overwhelming majority outgrow them in early childhood. Seniors might develop flat feet because of excessive body weight, injury, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Flat feet in seniors occur when the tendons supporting the arch of the feet are damaged. Foot braces, physical therapy, orthotics, and surgery are some of the available treatment options.
9. Diabetic Foot Ulcer
Diabetes can damage the nerves in the foot, making you insensitive to small cuts and wounds. Some seniors with diabetes also report feeling numb, a tingle or jabbing pain in the foot. When left untreated, small foot ulcers can turn into big, infected wounds. In severe cases, treatment might include an amputation, especially in people with diabetes.
A hammertoe is a toe that points upwards. It occurs when one of the toe muscles becomes weak, putting extra pressure on the toe’s joints and tendons. The extra pressure forces the toe out of position, forcing it to stick up at the joint. Hammertoes are also known as mallet toes or claw toes. Painful corns often accompany them.
11. Bone Spurs
It is easy to mistake bone spurs for bunions. However, while bunions are bones that are out of place, bone spurs are smooth bony growths that develop at the edge of the bones. They often occur at heel, mid-foot, or the big toe. When bone spurs get bigger, they put pressure on nearby nerves and tissues, causing pain. Seniors with a strained tendon or ligament and those with osteoarthritis are at an increased risk of developing bone spurs.
12. Fungal Infections
Our bodies produce less collagen as we grow older. When collagen reduces, the skin becomes less elastic. Less elastic skin combines with weak immunity to create a conducive environment for fungal infections. Fungal infections may lead to the formation of scales on the sole of your foot and itchiness.
When left untreated, the infection can spread to the toenails. Fungal infections are treated with antifungal creams and pills. Since fungus is hard to kill, you should strictly follow the foot specialist’s guidelines on how to take the medication.
Foot Pain Treatment Specialists
Besides causing aesthetic concerns, health conditions that affect the foot can lower the quality of your life and affect your overall wellbeing. They can interfere with your mobility and other body functions. To access the services of a foot specialist, contact Island Foot Clinics.