Sunday, May 3, 2015

Senior Foot Care and Maintenance

     Foot maintenance is important for everyone.  But for seniors, foot care is critical.  Lack of proper maintenance can result in conditions that can only be helped by a physician or a podiatrist.

     Foot problems are more common in the elderly than in the general population.  Conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, corns, ingrown toenails, fungus, arthritis, diabetes, and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) take years to develop.

     Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis resulting from the chronic wear of bones and joints.

     Bunions are characterized by a large accumulation of extra bone behind the big toe on the inside border of the foot.

     Hammertoes result from the “bucking up” of the small joints of the toes.  A thickening of these joints often results at the knuckles and can cause corns to form.  As the top of the toe rubs against the top of the shoe, it irritates the side and stimulates the growth of a corn.  Soaking the feet in warm water and Epsom salts is an effective method of alleviating discomfort.  Lavender and grape-seed oil warm wax treatments are also good for easing the pain associated with these conditions.

     Ingrown toenails are sometimes due to a genetic tendency. But more often, ingrown toenails are caused by improperly fitting footwear and improper nail trimming.  Toenails should be trimmed straight across and the corners rounded and smoothed.  The corners of the nails should not have any sharp edges.

      Ingrown toenails can become infected when the nail plate grows into the flesh of the toe and acts like a foreign body.  Signs of infection of ingrown toenails are pain, redness, swelling and yellow or white drainage.  If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor or podiatrist as soon as possible to get the infection treated.

     Dry skin increases the chances of developing a foot infection.  As we age, oil-producing glands slow down production, causing skin to become thin and dry.  Dry skin also has less strength than moist skin, so it runs an increased risk of cracking.  Keeping the skin moisturized on the feet requires regular home maintenance.  Seniors should apply a Vitamin E & Aloe lotion to their feet everyday.

     Unlike skin, the nails thicken with age.  Fungal infections, decreased circulation, or accumulated trauma to the nails can all cause thickening.  Thickened nails are unattractive and may cause shoe-fitting problems.  Pain may result when the thickened nail presses against the top of the shoes.

     Seniors should have their toenails professionally trimmed monthly to minimize foot difficulties.  If fungus is the cause of toenail thickening then a topical Thymol liquid fungus killer should be applied twice daily.  Simple maintenance at home and monthly visits to a professional licensed nail technician can help ensure that senior foot conditions and ailments do not get worse.

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