Why is foot care important to senior health?

By John Ellie, DMP

Feet are the unsung heroes you count on every day to carry your weight, act as shock absorbers, help you walk and maintain your balance. To keep your feet in excellent condition as you age, regular visits to a podiatrist for a foot, toe and ankle exam should be part of your healthcare regimen.

Athlete’s foot, corns, ulcers, a fungal infection of the nails, blisters, redness or calluses may be the first sign of more serious medical conditions like arthritis, diabetes, or nerve and circulatory disorders. Accurate diagnosis and treatment by a podiatrist are necessary to prevent infection and maintain good health. Ignoring the signs or avoiding treatment may lead to the amputation of a toe, foot or leg.

Five steps to better foot health

At the Podiatry Clinic at St. Ann’s Community in Irondequoit, we recommend that seniors with diabetes have at least three foot check-ups a year; those without chronic medical conditions should have an annual check-up.

In between visits, these daily foot-care practices will help keep your feet healthy and happy:

1. Wash and dry every day. Washing with soap and drying in between your toes reduces the risk of athlete’s foot fungus and nail thickening and discoloration. It also helps prevent bacteria that can cause infections.

2. Perform daily checks. Examining your feet for any abnormalities, pain, injury or changes is important; many situations seen by podiatrists are easily treatable in the early stages. If you’re unable to look at your feet, ask a family member, friend, or health care provider to check them for you.

3. Keep toenails trimmed. Clip your toenails straight across — never down into the corners or down to the flesh — and file them. If you have painful ingrown toenails, have your podiatrist trim them using sterile instruments; this will help deter infections and accidental trauma to your skin.

4. Wear good shoes with support. Invest in comfortable footwear correctly sized and fitted for your foot. A stiff-soled sneaker or shoe will support your arch and foot better than flip-flops or walking barefoot. Without adequate support, your arches could collapse, leading to worsening of arthritis, heel pain, and other abnormalities.

If you need inserts, the team at St. Ann’s Podiatry Clinic can evaluate your foot and create prescription orthotics for a fraction of the cost of store-made custom shoe inserts.

5. Walk more! Going for a walk not only gives your feet a workout but it also increases your blood flow, exercises your heart and promotes weight loss, mental health and longevity. Afterward, put your feet up when you sit down and be sure to stretch your feet when you stand up.

Every ounce of TLC you give your feet will help them—and you — stay healthy and happy, so you can stand on your own two feet for years to come.

John Ellie is a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) at the Podiatry Clinic at St. Ann’s Community, an outpatient program serving the greater Rochester community. Contact him at jellie@MyStAnns.com or 585-642-6100, or visit www.stannscommunity.com.

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