Health problems can start to mount up for many older Australians. We can start to ache in places we didn’t know existed. Some things become impossible to do, many things become harder to do. Most things we just put up with but podiatrist Rudo Makuyana says there is one area of our body that we really need to take care of – our feet.
Ms Makuyana makes a good point when she says: “Without our feet, mobility becomes a huge problem. And not being able to get around is one thing that can really impact your quality of life as you age.”
What can we do? She lists the five most common foot problems affecting older Australian and advises what we can do about them.
1. Dry skin
Dry skin may not sound like the end of the world, but it’s the stepping stone to further foot problems, such as cracked heels.
What to do: Keep your feet soft by moisturising them regularly. If the skin is very dry, use a foot scrub or pumice stone to gently remove the dead skin before moisturising.
Arthritis affects many older people across many areas of the body, including the feet. Symptoms can present as pain, stiffness, swelling or changes in your foot appearance. Pain can range from mild to severe and vary from season to season.
What to do: Treatment options include pain medication such as anti-inflammatories, analgesics and steroids, as well as surgical treatment, depending on the underlying cause of the pain.
Hammertoe is often caused by poorly fitted shoes worn over long periods of time. It could also be a side-effect of a muscle imbalance in the foot.
In females, it’s often related to frequent wearing of high heels. This style of shoe often forces the toes to the front of the shoe and they can end up curling over into an unnatural shape.
What to do: Wear supportive shoes, and ones with a flat base, to help ease the pain associated with hammertoe. A podiatrist may recommend some foot and leg exercises as a starting point, but if the problem is severe, surgery may be required.
Although not strictly a foot problem affecting only older people, bunions are common in the 60-plus age group. They could be caused by arthritis in the feet, poor shoe choices over the years or merely a genetic pre-disposition.
What to do: Treatments could include custom-fitted shoes, orthotics and insoles, pain relief and, finally, surgery.
5. Plantar fasciitis
Often caused by heel spurs, plantar fasciitis can be extremely debilitating. This foot condition is usually caused by a calcium deposit that creates a bony protrusion underneath the heel bone.
What to do: Often affecting older women, rather than men, it can be treated in several ways. Pain and anti-inflammatory medicine could help, as could specific physical exercises (recommended by your podiatrist), or as a last resort, surgical treatment.
If you have any concerns about your feet, an appointment with a podiatrist could help you avoid any long-term problems. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Do you look after your feet? Do you suffer from any of the problem listed here?
Rudo Makuyana is a podiatrist at The Foot Hub in Sydney. She is passionate about foot health and treating patients holistically.
Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.