Years of wear and tear take their toll on the aging body. For active people — and for the fashion-conscious woman — what gets more abuse than one’s feet?
Here are some common foot ailments in seniors, and what you can do about them:
Bunions: This is a painful enlargement at the major joint of the big toe that can result from ill-fitting shoes, genetic susceptibility to the condition, or for no particular reason at all. The skin over the joint becomes swollen and often tender. To relieve the pain, you need to wear shoes that do not put pressure on this area. To completely remove the bunion, surgery is often necessary.
Corns and calluses: These are caused by the body’s protective mechanism gone awry. The skin protects itself from pressure by growing more quickly, forming a thick outer layer. But when pressure is too high, this layer becomes extremely thick and is called a callus. A focus of pressure within the callus, causing a hard plug of skin to form, is called a corn. Treatment of this often-painful condition involves paring down the corn and callus to the layer of healthy skin. Your doctor may also recommend that you use a softening cream, wear better-fitting shoes, and use padding devices to relieve pressure over the spot. You may also need regular treatment for this condition, or surgery if your foot has a bony prominence that accentuates the development of corns and calluses.
Morton’s neuroma: A pinched nerve causes Morton’s neuroma, a build-up of extra tissue in the nerve that results in pain between the third and fourth toes. The condition is often caused by wearing shoes that are too tight, which squeezes the foot bones together. Treatment usually involves wearing wider shoes and taking oral medications to decrease the swelling around the nerve. A pad on the sole of the foot is also often helpful. Cortisone injections or surgery may be necessary if the other measures don’t relieve the pain.
In addition to these common foot problems, people with type II diabetes risk serious and disabling foot complications. Diabetes may affect the feet by reducing one’s sensitivity to pain and trauma; it also diminishes the blood supply to the feet. Under these circumstances, a minor foot problem can be hazardous. Therefore, it is important for people with diabetes to check their feet regularly for signs of problems, to avoid extremes of heat and cold, to wear appropriate footwear, and to get annual foot checks by a physician.
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