Proper foot care helps ensure overall good health
By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Consistent foot care is often overlooked until it’s too late. However decisions you make about your overall health can impact your feet. Diabetes complications can include nerve damage and poor blood circulation that can affect the area and lead to amputations if not properly handled.
“Any visit to a podiatrist for vascular compromised feet would include a proper vascular work up, monitoring for pressure sites to prevent ulcerations and recommendations for the most appropriate footwear based on individual patient assessment,” said John Ellie, a board-certified podiatrist at St. Ann’s Podiatry Place in Rochester.
Ellie offers five essential thoughts about foot care.
1. Vascular diseases impact the feet
Peripheral vascular disease is a very common illness that unfortunately affects many middle-aged and elderly adults. This disease can be due to many other conditions such as diabetes, poor diet, smoking and some genetic disorders.
Peripheral vascular disease in itself or as a component of other diseases can impact the feet.
“Absence of hair growth, pain, skin and nail changes, as well as slow healing are all signs of a compromised vasculature to the feet. Probably the most important impact on the feet is pain,” said Ellie.
In addition, peripheral artery diseases affect the circulatory system where narrow arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. When developing peripheral artery disease, your legs fail to receive enough blood flow to keep up with needed demand for your body. It can cause leg pain when walking.
2. Watch for symptoms
Your feet can serve as an impactful litmus test for your overall health. Dry skin can be an indication of thyroid conditions, foot numbness can be a sign of early diabetic issues and black spots could be the first signs of melanoma. Even sore feet may be an indication of heart disease.
“You will see warning signs of vascular disease including pain at rest, calf pain while walking, skin and nail changes and slow wound healing,” said Ellie.
3. Preventive steps help
While random foot accidents and injuries can’t be prevented, there are myriad ways to make sure you are doing the best you can to keep your feet strong.
Podiatrists suggest running regular checks on your feet. Any loss of sensation should be a warning. Also washing and drying your feet properly is key because moisture can stay trapped and lead to sores. Wearing comfortable footwear that cushions your soles or padding if necessary can lighten the impact of walking or running.
“You have to self-monitor to ensure that changes in hair growth to the lower extremity and nail changes are noticed early on. You must do routine podiatry visits for patients with any changes to lower extremity skin and nail changes,” said Ellie.
4. Avoiding falling prey to myths
When it comes to foot care information, myths abound. There are some who believe if you can walk on your foot that means it is impossible for a broken bone to exist.
“There are many myths that I would like to dispel when it comes to overall foot care such as many home remedies for thick fungal nails are ineffective, the idea that pain is normal with aging and treating your broken toe at home,” said Ellie.
Another myth is people who say their feet don’t change once they become an adult.
“Most people find their feet changing after skeletal maturity due to lifestyle changes and exercise,” said Ellie. “Tendons and ligaments weaken, as do bony structures. When tendons weaken, people can see a major change in foot structure and size. Arthritis also plays a major role in reshaping bones. These changes can lead to foot deformities, causing pressure, which can eventually lead to skin breakdown and non-healing ulcers.”
5. Barefoot is not ideal
Ellie said there are some mistakes that people make routinely when it comes to taking care of their feet. One of them is going barefoot around the home or outside, which can cause an injury that patients are unaware of or an injury that does not heal.
“I would absolutely agree with anyone who asks me if walking barefoot is bad for you,” added Ellie. “Barefoot walking or running has been a hot topic for many years. Most current literature agrees that less support causes more foot problems. Barefoot walking and running puts patients at very high risk for pain, injury and possible ulceration.”