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Tuesday, 09 July 2019 00:00

While proper foot care is important for everybody, senior citizens have the tendency to be more susceptible to certain foot conditions. The elderly should therefore be well informed about any problems that may arise and about what they can do to properly avoid or treat them.

Some of the most common foot problems seniors are susceptible to include foot ulcers, ingrown toenails, fallen arches, and fungal nails. A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot and can be a result of diabetes and decreased sensation in the feet. An ingrown toenail is defined as when the nail grows into the side of the toe. Fallen arches are indicated by the instep of the foot collapsing. A fungal nails is a condition that results in deformed and discolored toenails.

In order to avoid these conditions it is recommended that the feet be inspected by the patient on a regular basis. If these inspections are carried out routinely, there is a good likelihood that problems can be identified before they become severe, or can even be avoided altogether. If any abnormality is discovered, it is important that the individual consult a podiatrist for diagnosis and information on treatment options.

Proper foot hygiene is also important. Making sure that you always have clean, dry socks on can be a major deterrent to many different problems including bacterial infections, foot odor, and certain types of fungus. Wet feet are a major cause of many of these problems.  If your socks get wet, it is important to change them. Walking around in wet socks may not only lead to various infections, but can irritate the skin and result in a number of various complications. Clean, dry feet are less likely to be affected by fungal and other infections.

As people age, the fat present on your feet begins to deteriorate. The protective nature of this fat keeps the feet healthy by providing a barrier between your bones and the ground. This also aids in giving the skin on the feet a certain amount of elasticity. This is one factor that causes elderly people to develop some serious foot issues. Foot moisturizers can be helpful to avoid certain problems associated with this. However, water-based moisturizers do not work as well for elderly people as they do for the young. Instead, it is more effective to use an emollient instead. An emollient is effective because it binds the water in the foot, keeping it from becoming absorbed too readily which will result in dry skin. Emollients also have a special property called occlusion, which provides a layer of oil on the skin. This layer prevents the foot from drying up and can be very effective in treating dry skin disorders.  If you can keep the skin on your feet healthy, this will substantially reduce the number of foot problems you will encounter in old age.

Proper footwear is another way to keep feet healthy. Shoes that fit well and provide proper support help prevent ingrown toenails and fallen arches.

Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or poor blood circulation increase the risk for foot issues. For individuals with any of these conditions it is extremely important to conduct regular foot inspections to make sure that there are no sores or infections present.

Tuesday, 02 July 2019 00:00

A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the inward shifting of the bones in the big toe, toward the other toes of the foot. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.

Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. Existing bunions can be worsened by wearing improperly fitting shoes. Trying to cram your feet into high heels or running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet can exacerbate bunion development. High heels not only push the big toe inward, but shift one's body weight and center of gravity towards the edge of the feet and toes, expediting bone displacement.

A podiatrist knowledgeable in foot structure and biomechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates an enlargement of the joint near the base of the toe and a shifting toward the smaller toes, this is indicative of a bunion.

Wearing wider shoes can reduce pressure on the bunion and minimize pain, and high heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem; but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.

For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe. A surgeon may do this by taking out a section of bone or by rearranging the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help keep it properly aligned. It may be necessary even after surgery to wear more comfortable shoes that avoid placing pressure on the toe, as the big toe may move back to its former orientation toward the smaller toes.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019 00:00

Fungal infection of the toenail, or onychomycosis, typically appears as a gradual change in a toenail’s texture and color that involves brittleness and darkening.  The fungal infection itself occurs beneath the surface of the nail.  Aside from discoloration, other symptoms include the collection of debris beneath the nail plate, white marks on the nail plate, and a foul odor emanating from the nail.  If ignored, the infection can spread into other nails and the skin; in severe cases, it can hinder one’s ability to work or walk. 

The toenails are particularly vulnerable to contracting infection in moist environments where people are likely to be walking barefoot, such as around swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms.  Fungal infection may also be more likely to occur in nail beds that have been injured, and sufferers of chronic diseases such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immunodeficiency conditions are particularly prone to developing fungal nails. 

Fungal nails can be primarily prevented by practicing proper hygiene and regularly examining the feet and toes.  Carefully washing the feet with soap and water and thoroughly drying the feet afterwards are essential.  Other tips include wearing shower shoes in public areas, changing shoes and socks daily, keeping toenails clipped at a short length, wearing breathable shoes that fit properly, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and disinfecting home pedicure tools and instruments used to cut nails.

Fungal nail treatment may vary between patients and the severity of the condition.  Your podiatrist may suggest a daily routine of cleansing that spans over a period of time to ease mild infections.  Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal agents may also be prescribed, including topical and/or oral medications.  Debridement, or the removal of diseased nail matter and debris, may also be performed.  In more severe cases, surgical treatment may be needed.  In some instances, the temporary removal of the fungal nail allows for the direct application of a topical antifungal to the nail bed.  In other cases, a chronically painful fungal nail that has not responded to other treatments may be permanently removed; this allows the infection to be cured and avoids the growth of a deformed nail.  

Tuesday, 18 June 2019 00:00

Heel spurs are the result of calcium deposits that cause bony protrusions on the underside of the heel. Heel spurs are usually painless, but they have the potential to cause heel pain. Heel spurs tend to be associated with plantar fasciitis, which is a condition that causes inflammation of the band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. They most often occur to athletes whose sports involve a lot of running and jumping.

Some risk factors for developing heel spurs include running and jogging on hard surfaces, being obese, wearing poorly fitting shoes, or having walking gait abnormalities.

It is possible to have a heel spur without showing signs of any symptoms. However, if inflammation develops at the point of the spur’s formation, you may have pain while walking or running. In terms of diagnosis, sometimes all a doctor needs to know is that the patient is experiencing a sharp pain localized to the heel to diagnose a heel spur. Other times, an x-ray may be needed to confirm the presence of a heel spur.

Heel spurs can be prevented by wearing well-fitting shoes that have shock-absorbent soles. You should also be sure that you are choosing the right shoe for the activity you want to partake in; for example, do not wear walking shoes when you want to go on a run. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial toward preventing heel spurs, as it will prevent an excess amount of pressure being placed on the ligaments.

There are a variety of treatment options for people with heel spurs. Some of these include stretching exercises, physical therapy, shoe inserts, or taping and strapping to rest stressed muscles and tendons. If you have heel pain that lasts longer than a month, don’t hesitate to seek help from a podiatrist. Your doctor can help you determine which treatment option is best for you.

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