However, deciding not to seek treatment for foot pain can lead to serious consequences, including injury to other parts of the body and even loss of the ability to walk.
Factors such as activity level and previous medical history are both contributors to potential foot injuries. Gender also is significant, as doctors have found that women of all ages are four times more likely to suffer from foot ailments than men. However, the most significant factor is age. The elderly population is extremely susceptible to suffering from foot conditions. Studies have shown that only one in six patients in nursing homes is able to walk with assistance, while one in four is unable to walk at all. Loss of mobility leads to a loss of independence and the quality of life.
There are more than 300 different types of foot disorders. Some are due to hereditary conditions while others are simply a result of years of abuse and neglect. Even conditions stemming from years of wear often can be successfully diagnosed and treated.
As we age, our feet, like the rest of our body, begin to change. It is common for the feet to spread, the skin to become dry and the nails to become more brittle. In addition, the fatty pads of the feet deteriorate, leading to an increased risk of damage to the bone and ligaments.
While foot pain is debilitating in its own right, it also can lead to pain and injury in other parts of the body. Hip, neck and back pain all are potential problem areas that also can result in impaired mobility. Foot pain also can be an indicator of a more serious medical condition. Doctors of podiatric medicine, or foot doctors, often are the first to identify conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and circulatory disease during a physical exam.
Medical professionals are taking important steps to help prevent foot-related ailments from affecting their patients. More frequent physical activity, such as walking, helps to keep the blood flowing to the feet and keeps the leg muscles strong. In addition, early diagnosis and treatment of infection resulting from diabetes reduces the need for surgery, including amputations.
The following steps should be taken to maintain healthy feet:
• Wearing properly fitted shoes, socks and hosiery.
• Choosing shoes that offer proper arch support.
• Keeping the feet moving by walking on a regular basis.
• Washing and moisturizing the feet daily.
• Tending to the toenails by cutting and filing them straight across.
• Refraining from treating foot ailments at home.
• Having twice yearly exams with a doctor of podiatric medicine.
Proper care of your feet helps to prolong mobility, eliminate pain and maintain independence. Ignoring pain or discomfort can lead to serious injury and life changing consequences.
Dr. Joseph Knedgen is a doctor of podiatric medicine affiliated with Sierra Podiatry Associates. Sierra Podiatry Associates offers podiatric care by trained professionals utilizing state of the art equipment. To schedule an appointment, call 826-9559.