One of the ironies of life is that as we get older we develop more foot problems—just at the time when our changing bodies make it harder to take care of them! Poorer eyesight makes it harder to see sores or calluses, decreasing flexibility makes it more difficult to bend down and care for them, and various health conditions can hamper our ability to heal any damage that has occurred. It is said that aging is not for sissies. It takes fortitude and persistence to deal with foot issues as you get older, but the payoff is worth it.
Just Skin and Bones
Aging, with its hormonal changes, can cause your skin to become drier. Calluses and corns are dry, dead skin that builds up in areas where your foot is irritated by pressure or rubbing against your shoes. The heel is especially vulnerable, and if the condition gets too bad, the skin can actually crack open. These fissures can be very painful and expose your feet to infection. It is important to keep your feet clean and moisturize them daily to keep the skin as supple as possible. If you notice any sores, skin changes or lesions, have them examined to make sure they are not cancerous and find ways of relieving any itching or pain.
While your hips or your stomach may get fatter as you age, your feet often lose their padding. Loss of cushioning under your feet means your bones and tissues are not protected as well from the impact of your steps. This stresses the bones and ligaments—especially in your heel and forefoot—and they can become inflamed and painful.
Yes, Toenails Get Old, Too!
As you age, your toenails often grow thicker and can become brittle. It can be harder to bend over and cut your nails, and improper trimming can lead to ingrown toenails. Fungal nails are also more of a problem because decreased circulation makes it harder for your body to fight off the fungi that cause it. We can recommend antifungal creams and medications and also offer laser nail treatments to get rid of the infection and attack the problem at its root.
Everything Sags—Even Your Bones
Your ligaments and tendons weaken with age, so joints become less stable and your arch can deteriorate. Fallen arches lead to other problems such as toe deformities (hammertoe, bunions), inflamed or torn tendons, or balance issues.
Other conditions such as arthritis can develop in the joints of your feet. Over the years, the cartilage between your joints can deteriorate from the wear and tear of your movements. This can also result from a past injury, especially if it never healed properly.
Your Blood Slows Down as You Do
Aging often brings on poorer circulation. It can be a vicious cycle: you are ill or develop a physical problem that limits your exercise, and your circulation decreases. This makes it harder to fight off illness or heal from injuries, which means you can’t exercise as you should, which means it’s even harder to keep your blood moving. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is common among older adults, and in later stages can make it very painful to walk even short distances. It also means longer healing times for any injuries or sores in your extremities. If you notice swelling in your legs or feet, be sure to come in to our Winnipeg clinic and have us evaluate the problem. Treatments are available for many of these conditions.
Stay Ahead of the Game
You can do many things to head off foot problems due to aging: keep your feet clean and moisturized, exercise proper toenail care, wear properly-fitted shoes, eat a healthy diet, and get as much exercise as you can. If you have changes in your toenails, sores on your feet, or pain when walking, it’s time to let Podiatrist Iain Palmer take a look. Call Palmer Foot Clinic, at (204) 697-0649. We want you—and your feet—to grow old gracefully and free of pain!