Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Feet Problems with the Elderly

Foot pain and other disorders are common among the elderly. But this does not mean that they have to accept the discomfort or live with an inability to continue with their normal lives. Old age does not mean pain and unsteadiness of the feet leading to an increased danger of falling down. Foot problems are not limited to the elderly. Research shows that up to 87% of the population of this country has experienced foot pain at some stage of their lives. But the volume and types of problems do increase with age and one third of the people over age of 65 suffer from foot conditions.

The Causes of Foot Problems in the Elderly

There are three main reasons for foot problems in the elderly. The first is wearing of ill-fitting shoes, especially at a younger age. This can cause damage to the feet that only becomes apparent after years have passed. The second is medical conditions. Problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, knee, hip or back pain all affect the feet and can cause a variety of foot conditions to appear. The third cause is simple wear and tear over time. Each foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints and over 120 nerves, ligaments and muscles which all work together to enable easy foot movement. An average person spends about 4 hours a day on his or her feet and takes about 10,000 steps. The small feet have to bear the weight of the body through all this. In time the natural cushioning of the feet under the heel and ball is worn away. The arches lose their flexibility and the feet and ankle joints become stiffer. The years of carrying weight also cause the foot to get wider and longer.

All these contribute to a myriad of foot pain issues and other medical conditions affecting the feet. Foot care, exercise and maintaining overall good health can reduce the impact of age on the feet, but the wear and tear that they suffer can never be totally negated.

The Main Foot Problems in the Elderly

The most common foot problems faced by the elderly include:
Ø  Calluses and Corns – the development of dead, thick painful skin on the feet
Ø  Bunions – a bony growth at the base of the big toe (and possibly other toes) that over time causes misalignment of the toe
Ø  Heel pain – a pain that is present from the rear of the arch to the heel of the foot
Ø  Plantar Fasciitis – A painful inflamed ligament along the sole of the foot
Ø  Hammertoes – toes joints that curl unnaturally leading to dislocation over time
Ø  Arthritis – this can cause a range of pain and discomfort symptoms in the feet
Ø  Diabetes – this can cause circulation problems, loss of feeling and ulcers that are very slow to heal.
Ø  Arch pain – caused by fallen arches (flat feet) or unusually high arches
Ø  Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – a pain caused by pinched nerves
Ø  Morton’s Neuroma – a benign growth the develops between the third and fourth toes
Ø  Achilles tendon – inflammation and pain in the tendon at the rear of the foot that connects to the calf muscle.

The feet, like the rest of the body, will weaken with age. And misuse and lack of proper foot care when young will exacerbate the problems in old age. But common sense foot care, proper hygiene, the use of well-fitting shoes and regular visits to the foot specialist will all help to reduce the impact and allow for fewer and perhaps even no foot problems in old age.

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