Foot and Ankle
High Blood Pressure
On-the-Job Foot Health
Rear Foot Surgery
Foot Health and Aging
The health sciences have progressed so rapidly
since 1900 that life expectancy of the average American has increased by
about 27 years. Older persons have become an increasingly significant
proportion of our total population - and their numbers are growing
rapidly. In 1900, for example, there were three million Americans aged
65 or older. In 1995 this figure exceeded 33 million.
If older people are to live useful, satisfying
lives, they must be able to move about. Mobility is a vital ingredient
of the independence that older people cherish, and foot ailments make it
difficult or impossible for them to work or to participate in social
According to the US National Center for Health
Statistics, impairment of the lower extremities is a leading cause of
activity limitation in older people. As if foot problems weren't enough
of a nuisance, they can also lead to knee, hip, and lower back pain that
undermine mobility just as effectively. The NCHS says one-fourth of all
nursing home patients cannot walk at all and another one-sixth can walk
only with assistance.
Mirror of Health
The human foot has been called the mirror of
health. Foot doctors, or doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs), are often
the first doctors to see signs of such systemic conditions as diabetes,
arthritis, and circulatory disease in the foot. Among these signs are
dry skin, brittle nails, burning and tingling sensations, feelings of
cold, numbness, and discoloration. Always seek professional care when
these signs appear.
Foot Problems Can Be Prevented
For reasons that are difficult to fathom, many
people, including a lot of older people, believe that it is normal for
the feet to hurt, and simply resign themselves to enduring foot problems
which could be treated.
There are more than 300 different foot ailments. Some can be traced to
heredity, but for older people, most of them stem from the cumulative
impact of years of neglect or abuse. However, even among people in their
retirement years, many foot problems can be treated successfully, and
the pain of foot ailments relieved.
Whether neglect or abuse are present, the
normal wear and tear of the years causes changes in feet. As persons
age, their feet tend to spread, and lose the fatty pads that cushion the
bottom of the feet. Additional weight can affect the bone and ligament
structure. Older people consequently should have their feet measured for
shoe sizes more frequently, rather than presuming that their shoe sizes
remain constant. Dry skin and brittle nails are other conditions older
people commonly face. Finally, it's a fact that women, young and old,
have four times as many foot problems as men, and high heels are often
Observing preventive foot health care has many
benefits. Chief among them are that it can increase comfort, limit the
possibility of additional medical problems, reduce the chances of
hospitalization because of infection, and lessen requirements for other
Keep Them Walking
Studies show that care for a bedridden patient
costs much more than care for an ambulatory patient. In their private
practices and in foot clinics, podiatric physicians are providing
services designed to keep older people on their feet, and they serve in
hospitals and nursing homes across the country.
Records indicate that amputations and other
forms of surgery due to infections of the feet, many brought about by
diabetes, have been significantly reduced in recent years because of
early diagnosis and treatment. Further reduction in this area is a goal
of Healthy People 2000, a US Department of Health and Human Services
campaign endorsed by podiatrists, to encourage understanding and
application of preventive medical practices.
Foot Health Tips
- Properly fitted shoes are essential; an astonishing
number of people wear shoes that don't fit right, and cause serious
- A shoe with a firm sole and soft upper is best for
- Walking is the best exercise for your feet.
- Pantyhose or stockings should be of the correct
size and preferably free of seams.
- Except at the beach, avoid going barefoot, even in
your own home.
- Do not wear constricting garters or tie your
stockings in knots.
- Never cut corns and calluses with a razor, pocket
knife, or other such instrument; use over-the-counter foot products
only with the advice of a podiatrist.
- Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm (not hot) water,
using a mild soap, preferably one containing moisturizers, or use a
- Trim or file your toenails straight across.
- Inspect your feet every day or have someone do this
for you. If you notice any redness, swelling, cracks in the skin, or
sores, consult your podiatrist.
- Have your feet examined by a DPM at least twice a