The foot is a complicated body part – home to 26 bones, says Dr. Ariel Lepoff, a podiatrist at The Medical Group of South Florida in Jupiter, Florida. This complexity and the heavy-duty wear-and-tear they endure over the years places a lot of stress and strain on our feet causing problems.
After a lifetime of supporting and carrying your weight – while quite possibly encased in ill-fitting shoes – it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that many older adults develop foot problems. Among the most common issues older adults may experience with their feet are:
- Bunions are painful, bony bumps that develop on the outside of the big toe joint. They tend to develop slowly over time, as pressure on the big toe joint pushes the toe inward, toward the second toe. This effect is often exacerbated by tight footwear or high heels, and over time, the bone structure changes leading to a bunion.
- Corns, callouses, and dry skin. Corns and callouses are thickened patches of dead skin that form to protect more sensitive areas and may develop in response to constant rubbing from an ill-fitting pair of shoes or other regular irritation. They’re often accompanied by dry skin, which can also be painful and lead to cracked skin that’s prone to infection.
- Hammertoes refers to a toe that points upward, rather than lying flat. The condition is actually a deformity that happens when one of the toe muscles becomes weak and puts pressure on the toe’s tendons and joints. This pressure forces the toe to become misshapen and stick up at the joint.
- Structural changes. As we age, the fat pads on the bottom of our feet thin, which can lead to pain with each step as well as less support for the arch. Achilles tendonitis and pinched nerves can also develop as the foot ages.
- Arthritis. Because the foot has so many joints – 33 in total – osteoarthritis can be a major source of pain and limited mobility for older adults.
- Heel pain. Pain at the back of the foot may result from heel spurs – bony growths that develop along the heel bone – or plantar fasciitis – inflammation of the ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot. Both can make standing and walking very painful.
- Diabetes-related foot problems. Changes in your overall health can also take a toll on your feet and lower extremities. Specifically, diabetics have a higher rate of vascular issues that can lead to major foot problems that may eventually require amputation, and thus diabetics need to carefully monitor foot health.
- Fungal infections, ingrown toenails, and other toenail issues. Overgrowth of fungus may occur when the feet are constantly damp, can lead to painful and unsightly infections of the toenails and between the toes. Toenails can also grow at odd angles, leading to ingrown toenails that can be extremely painful and require surgery to correct. Dry and brittle nails are also more common among older adults, as blood flow to the lower extremities weakens.
- Pain and soreness may accompany any of the other problems cited and can be a problem in and of itself that can prevent you from comfortably standing or walking for longer periods of time.
As with anything, no two people are going to have the same experience of aging and foot health. Depending on what shoes you’ve worn your whole life, how active you’ve been and your genetics, you may develop one or more of these problems, or none of them.
Any and all of these conditions may lead you to seek the assistance of a podiatrist, a specialist doctor who focuses on foot health. Generally, The Medical Group of South Florida sees two subsets of older patients in our practice, including the active elderly patient, which we’re seeing more of as the general population ages. These older adults are still active and healthy and may develop overuse injuries. Keeping their feet healthy will enable them to continue being as active as they want, with less pain.
On the other hand, sedentary older adults may also often experience foot problems. These adults are not in the workforce or active and they’re more prone to things like diabetes and vascular disease because the blood flow isn’t running as well. They’re not maintaining overall health, and they can develop things like pressure wounds, callouses, and other foot problems.
There are a number of causes for podiatric issues, please contact us today so we can identify the cause and solution for your particular problem. To book an appointment with Dr. Ariel Lepoff, please call 561-622-6111 or complete this request form.