Podiatry & the Elderly
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.
What to look out for
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.
Pain in bones and joints, such as arthritis, are common for people in this 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 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 you 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.
Another major concern for over 75’s suffering with arthritis is chronic pain, which has huge effects on your overall health as severe pain not only limits, movement, but can disturb sleep and lead to problems with mental well-being and depression.
Exercises specifically designed for this age group can keep the joints moving which will help to relieve stiffness and pain and greatly improve quality of life and general comfort and mobility.
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.