Older, wiser and at risk - Why you need a podiatrist as you age
By the age of 80, the average person will have walked around 150,000 kilometers. That’s a fair bit of wear and tear on the feet! Foot problems are a huge concern for the elderly and injuries or complications with the feet and legs can have serious implications for people in this age group. After the age of 75, small cuts or blisters can easily become serious infections; minor bone abnormalities can develop into serious deformities and foot problems increase the likelihood of falls resulting in major injury. Proper foot care is fundamental to good overall health for elderly patients, and regular visits to a podiatrist are recommended so that minor problems can be assessed and treated before they become serious.
With age, the skin becomes increasingly fragile. Feet are more prone to injury from changed gait, unstable walking patterns and ill-fitting shoes, all of which place extra pressure on easily broken skin. Once the skin is injured, Elderly patients are more likely to suffer with and have a harder time recovering from infection – the immune system is slower to respond therefore infection can quickly get out of control, with the ability to turn a small blister into a dangerous abscess.
Nail care also becomes a major concern that can have a huge impact on foot health. Difficulties bending can make trimming nails tricky and as nails thicken with age, they are also harder and require more strength to cut. Poor eyesight can also make it troublesome to cut the nails without accidentally causing injury.
A lot of elderly people will get their family to help although this can be risky due to the changes in circulation experienced as we age.
Pain in bones and joints, such as arthritis, are common for people in the older age group and can become more severe over time. Swollen joints and bony bunions can be very painful as well as seriously affect your ability to walk. Footwear and cushioning insoles can be made to help provide stability and lessen impact on the joints, which will in turn help reduce pain and decrease the risk of falls.
Arthritis in the feet can have far-reaching effects on other parts of the feet aside from the affected joints, as your ligaments, tendons and muscles are forced to work harder to maintain foot stability. This can cause overuse injuries including ankle sprains, torn ligaments and a greater likelihood to fall.
Complex health issues
Heart and lung disease, diabetes, arthritis and chronic pain can be a part of our lives as we age. All of these can affect the health of the feet and lower limbs and the medications needed to treat these conditions may also affect the feet by causing swelling, loss of feeling and preventing blood clotting so that bruising and bleeding can be a concern.
Something as simple as the wrong shoes can have far reaching effects. As we age, shoes get more difficult to put on and take off as our flexibility and strength decreases. The usual solution is to wear loose, ill fitting and unsupportive shoes, which has been proven to increase the likelihood of falls around the home. This means broken bones and weeks of rehabilitation along with a loss of confidence leading to a steady decline of activity, socialization and therefore health and quality of life.