Foot problems are often neglected and overlooked by people of all ages, even-though most of us will experience foot issues at some point in our life. In fact, a study showed 3 out of 4 people will develop some sort of foot issues as they age(1). Foot problems in seniors are very common as it contributes to pain and injury, and can lead to the loss of mobility and independence. The dangers of neglecting your feet can directly impact your balance and gait, increase your risk of falls, develop diseases and infections, and ultimately reduce your quality of life.
Here are of the most common foot problems in seniors:
Toenail problems are one of the most common foot issues in seniors. It ranges from the inability to reach to their feet to trim their nails to infections such as fungal toenails. Fungal toenails become more prevalent with the increase in age with about 50% occurrence rate in people who are 70 years or older(2). Fungal toenails cause nails to become thick and brittle, which can lead to pain with pressure from walking and wearing shoes. Often times, these issues are further complicated with ingrown nails, which can cause pain and infection on its own. It is important to recognize these changes and abnormalities in your own feet and to acknowledge that these are medical problems that can be properly treated.
Gait and balance issues in seniors are directly linked to increase risk of falls. Each year, about one third of Canadian seniors are hurt in falls(1). In order to decrease your risk of falls, your gait and balance play a crucial role to keep you safe and healthy. Often times, multiple factors affect your gait and balance including previous injuries, pre-existing medical conditions, biomechanical abnormalities, and inappropriate footwear. It is the utmost importance to seek medical help when you notice problems or pain with walking and standing before any serious injuries occur.
Foot complications of diabetes and arthritis are a common issue due to the high prevalence of seniors living with those conditions. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians age 65 and over now has diabetes3. People with diabetes are at risk of nerve damage (neuropathy) and problems with blood supply to their feet (ischemia). Both can result in serious complications such as infection, ulceration, and amputation. Arthritis can cause pain and swelling in some or all joints which greatly affects a person’s mobility and independence. More specifically, arthritis in the feet can lead to problems such as hammertoes, bunions, calluses, and corns. In these cases, it is especially important to see your chiropodist (foot specialist) to identify the problems and work to manage them appropriately.
What is a chiropodist? Chiropodists are primary health care providers and are regulated health professionals in Ontario. We are foot specialists providing assessment and treatment of disorders and disease of the foot. We treat problems such as the ones mentioned in this article as well many others relating to the foot!
Chen Xu is a registered chiropodist and owner at Woodbine Foot Clinic. She works with people of all ages and lifestyles, focusing on providing quality care in a timely manner to allow you to return to your activities pain-free. For more information or questions, please visit http://www.woodbinefootclinic.com
1. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2015). Foot care info sheet for seniors. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/H30-11-8-8E.pdf
2.Thomas, J et al. (2010). Toenail onychomycosis: an important global disease burden. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics 35, 497-519.
3.Public Health Agency of Canada. (2011). Diabetes in Canada: Facts and figures from a public health perspective. Ottawa, Ont.: Public Health Agency of Canada. Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/publications/diabetes-diabete/facts-figures-faits-chiffres-2011/pdf/facts-figures-faits-chiffres-eng.pdf