In old age, patients are increasingly complaining to doctors about pain in the foot area, joints, and problems with mobility. To maintain the health of the legs for as long as possible, it is important to monitor the condition of the skin and underlying tissues, to fully care for the lower extremities. This will help reduce the risk of arthritis, bursitis, and bone deformities.
Foot health is important
The foot is a complex part of the body, containing 26 bones in the foot region alone, plus the bones of the lower leg and thigh. This complexity of the structure and the high load that the legs can withstand for many years can provoke serious health problems with age if the legs are not properly taken care of.
Each bone should be in a certain place, but with age, the structure of the body is constantly changing and, as a rule, not for the better. One aspect of this process is that the cells retain less water, which affects the structure of collagen, the elasticity of the tendons and the strength of the ligaments in the legs. The tendons become tighter, and the ligaments more loose and stretched. When muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones shift, it can lead to pain and deformity of the bones, joint damage, and osteoarthritis.
The role of age in foot problems
Age brings with it other troubles. In addition to a decrease in the amount of water in the cells, vascular tone is disturbed, pressure rises, the blood circulation of organs and tissues suffers, and less oxygen and nutrients are supplied to them. Therefore, age inhibits the ability of tissues to regenerate, restore their integrity, which makes older people more prone to skin infections, injuries and other foot health problems. As people live longer, chronic overuse and joint injuries in the legs are also becoming more common, and overall health suffers.
Throughout life, the legs carry out support and transfer of their weight — this affects their condition. Poorly fitting, uncomfortable shoes, overweight, prolonged exposure to uncomfortable positions throughout life — the impact of these factors negatively affects the health of the feet. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that many older people have problems with their feet — pain, joint deformities, arthritis. In addition, the skin on the feet and legs also suffers, especially in the presence of trophic disorders in certain pathologies.
Thumb deformity: pain and discomfort
Hallux valgus, also called hallux valgus, is characterized by bony bumps that develop on the outside of the big toe joint and cause pain when walking. They tend to develop slowly over time as pressure on the thumb joint pushes the finger inward, towards the second toe. This effect is often exacerbated by tight shoes or high heels, and over time, the bone structure changes, resulting in bone growth. There is pain and a problem with the selection of shoes.
Calluses, corns and dry skin
Calluses and corns are thickened areas of damaged skin that form to protect more sensitive areas. They may develop in response to constant rubbing from the wrong pair of shoes or other regular irritation. Often they are accompanied by very dry skin, which also increases the degree of damage, soreness, and leads to the formation of cracks in the skin (especially in the heel area), forming a tendency to infection.
Finger deformities, arthritis, tendinitis
The term «hammertoe» (hammertoe deformity) refers to a toe that is deformed at the terminal phalanx. This is a deformity that occurs when one of the muscles in the toe becomes weak and does not put the right amount of pressure on the tendons and joints of the toe. Uneven pressure causes the toe to deform, the joint suffers, and an anomaly of the structure occurs. Against the background of such changes, pain occurs when walking, a problem with the selection of shoes that presses and rubs.
As you age, the thick fat pads on your feet thin out, which can lead to pain with every step, as well as a decrease in shock-absorbing arch support. Achilles tendonitis and nerve compression can also develop with aging.
Because the foot has many joints (33 in total), arthritis can be a major source of pain and limited mobility for the elderly. Both large joints can suffer — arthritis of the knee or hip joints, and small ones, on the foot.
What other problems are possible in old age?
Pain in the back of the foot can be due to heel spurs, bony growths that develop on the heel bone, or plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot. Both can make standing and walking very painful.
Changes in general health can also affect the condition of the feet and lower extremities. In particular, diabetics have a higher incidence of vascular disease, skin trophism and sensitivity, which can lead to serious foot problems that may eventually require amputation. Therefore, diabetics should carefully monitor the health of the foot.
Fungal infections, ingrown toenails, and other nail problems are not uncommon in old age. Many different types of bacteria and fungi live on the body, and in most cases they do not harm the body, being held back by the protective forces of the immune system. But the overgrowth of fungus, which can occur when feet are constantly wet, can lead to painful and unsightly infections of the toenails and between the toes. Toenails can also grow at abnormal angles, resulting in ingrown toenails, which can be extremely painful and require surgery to remove them. Dry and brittle nails are also more common in older people as blood flow to the lower extremities is reduced.