Common Foot Problems for Those Over 60
We use and abuse our feet over our lifetime, so it’s not surprising that many people develop foot problems as they age. Some foot problems are more common than others– learning about the symptoms and causes of these conditions can help you avoid doing more harm to your feet as you get older.
Here are five common age-related foot problems and how to treat them.
Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is pain at the bottom of the foot, around the arch and on the heel. It’s due to an inflammation of the plantar fascia—a thick, fibrous band that connects the heel to the toes. The inflammation can come from overuse or from not being supported correctly, and the pain can be debilitating. Often the first sign of the condition is pain in the heel or mid-foot when you put weight on it, or when you’re doing physical activity.
Often plantar fasciitis responds to simple, basic treatments: your doctor may advise you to ice your foot regularly to reduce inflammation, elevate and rest your foot, and tape and wear orthotics to help relieve muscle tension and take the pressure off the painful bottom of your foot. At Triad Foot & Ankle Center we also offer a state-of-the-art non-invasive treatment call Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT®). This FDA-approved technology uses acoustic pressure waves to stimulate cell metabolism, enhance blood flow and have proven to help accelerate the healing process of the plant fascia ligament.
Bunions: A bunion forms when the joint of your big toe moves out of place because of pressure, causing the toe to develop a bulging, bony bump. Although they are most common on the big toe joint small bunions—called bunionettes—can form on the fifth toe. If you have a bunion you’ll know it: not only will your foot have changed shape, you may also see (and feel!) swelling, redness or soreness around your big toe joint, thickening skin underneath your big toe, and calluses on your second toe because of overlapping and persistent foot pain. Short-term you can use treatments such as over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories, bunion pads and splints, and comfortable shoes, but ultimately the only way to get rid of bunions is with surgery. The good news is that the surgery is very effective, and bunions rarely come back.
Corns & Calluses: Corns and calluses—the most common problems your foot will encounter– often get lumped together, but there is a slight difference between the two. A corn is a circle of thick skin that forms on the toes, between the toes, and on the tips of the toes. A callus is a hard and rough patch of skin that is usually yellow in color and forms on the balls of the feet or the back of the heel.
Corns and calluses are most often caused by improperly fitting shoes. Shoes that are too small can pinch; shoes that are too big can cause rubbing and some designs, especially high heels, can cause extra pressure in certain parts of the foot. Over-the-counter creams and products can help to soften the skin but if they aren’t effective, see your podiatrist who can safely remove a corn or callus (no, don’t try to shave it off yourself!).
Osteoarthritis: Sometimes called “wear and tear arthritis”, osteoarthritis—the erosion of the cartilage at joints–is the most common form of arthritis. It can appear at any age, but it is seen more often in women and in people over forty, or those who have had severe joint injuries. Osteoarthritis symptoms include swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joint and difficulty walking or bending the joint. Anti-inflammatory drugs are the first-line treatment but sometimes custom orthotics (shoe inserts) and physical therapy are needed. In advanced cases, you may need surgery.
Achilles Tendinitis: This inflammatory condition triggers severe pain behind the heel in the tendon that connects the heel to the calf and is most commonly due to overuse of the leg muscles. Symptoms include discomfort or swelling in the back of your heel, tight calf muscles, and difficulty walking.
Fortunately, Achilles tendinitis is fairly easy to treat using non-surgical methods such as anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and avoiding activities that aggravate the injury. If the pain is not better after six months, it may be worth considering surgery to repair the tendon and perhaps lengthen the calf muscle.
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