Elderly Foot & Nail Care Tips from Top Milwaukee Podiatrists
Proper Foot Care for Senior Feet Prevents Further Injury and Protects Health
Regular foot care with a podiatrist helps older adults keep enjoying the activities they love.
The older we get, the more important it is to take good care of our feet. For many reasons, foot health tends to decline in seniors.
Reasons why senior citizens experience common foot problems include:
- Years of walking, working and healing from injuries
- Low quality, too small or uncomfortable footwear
- Poor circulation
- Increased risk of diabetes, gout, heart disease and other diseases causing foot problems
- Difficulty properly trimming toenails due to impaired vision or mobility
Left untreated, common elderly foot symptoms can quickly worsen and lead to more dangerous issues like falls and infections.
Jump to a section:
- How aging changes your feet
- Common foot problems in older adults
- Elderly diabetic foot care
- Toenail care for seniors
- Tips for maintaining foot health
Contact us online or call for a foot assessment and personalized preventative care recommendations.
How Aging Changes Your Feet
It’s important to understand the most common changes in aging feet, and what abnormal changes require medical attention from a podiatrist.
Your feet can get bigger
Our feet grow along with the rest of our bodies when we’re young. When we get older, feet grow for a different reason: the wear and tear of supporting our entire body weight causes feet to flatten out and become both wider and longer.
One reason this happens because the tendons and ligaments in the foot become less elastic. This leads to the foot arch lowering and the foot becoming flatter.
When the tendon running along the sole of the foot gets longer it can also contribute to bunions.
Another reason for foot growth in older adults is the fat pads on the bottom of the feet get thinner. Less cushioning can lead to soreness, corns or calluses.
You can lose range of motion
Many older adults notice more stiffness and less flexibility in the feet and ankles as the years pass.
Even if advancing years and other health conditions limit the amount and type of exercise you can do, it’s important to do what you can to maintain foot and ankle mobility and strength.
We’ve all heard “use it or lose it” – our podiatrists can instruct older patients in basic exercises and stretches suitable for your age and health to help improve flexibility and strength in the feet and ankles.
Keeping your feet and ankles strong and healthy is especially important as we get older, to improve balance and reduce the risk of falls.
Feet & ankles can be more prone to swelling
Your podiatrist can recommend exercises & stretches to improve foot health in seniors.
It’s very common for older adults to experience swelling in the feet, ankles and lower legs.
There are many possible causes for swollen feet in older adults, including:
- Problems with circulation and leg veins
- Hormonal changes
- Heart disease
- Some medications
- Reduced activity
If you notice swelling in one or both feet or ankles and it’s not associated with an injury, schedule an appointment with a foot doctor for diagnosis and a customized treatment plan.
Dry and itchy feet
As we age our skin has less turnover of skin cells and produces less collagen. This can lead to dry skin and (on the feet) more calluses, cracked heels or a rash.
Toenails can get thicker
Toenail growth tends to get slower as we age, mainly caused by age-related hormonal changes.
Slower growth leads to thicker, more brittle nails which can be difficult to cut.
Hypothyroidism and peripheral artery disease can also cause thicker nails, as can toenail fungus.
When you notice changes in your toenails’ appearance and texture, get an evaluation from an experienced podiatrist to rule out more serious problems and get ahead of any problems with a recommended treatment plan.
Increased pain in the feet and ankles
There are many reasons why people experience more pain in their feet and ankles later in life.
Arthritis is a common cause of pain in the joints of the ankle and big toe. Arthritis in the big toe joint can also make bunion or hammertoe symptoms worse.
Foot and ankle pain caused by arthritis can have a “trickle up” effect as pain changes your gait and affects the knees, hips and back.
It can also work the other way – arthritis in the knees or hips can cause alignment changes and lead to foot pain, especially on the inner and other parts of the foot.
Reduced bone density in the feet also puts older adults at a greater risk for fractures and other injuries.
Common geriatric foot problems include:
Curled toes, brittle nails & dry skin are common changes in aging feet.
- Diabetic ulcers
- Arthritis pain
- Gout pain
- Curled toes
- Flat feet
- Corns & calluses
- Ingrown toenails
- Fungal infections (Athlete’s foot)
Many of these symptoms can be mitigated with proper foot care. Decreased circulation may mean an elderly patient doesn’t always feel uncomfortable symptoms in their feet, so it’s important to establish a routine of healthy foot maintenance.
Diagnosing foot disorders in older patients
It’s important to address any foot issue early, as foot pain can often be an early warning sign of a more serious health condition such as arthritis, circulatory disease, gout or diabetes.
Seniors or caretakers should seek professional advice for:
- Brittle or discolored toenails
- Burning or tingling in feet or toes
- Discoloration or cold/numb feet
- Chronic or acute pain in feet and ankles
- Blisters or cracked skin
- Sores or wounds
Even when elderly foot pain isn’t a sign of a more serious problem, it can still cause pain in the knees, hips or back and lead to decreased activity. Aging skin becomes thinner and less elastic, which makes blisters and corns more common.
Tips for maintaining elderly foot health:
- Inspect feet and nails regularly
- Use mild soap to wash feet, and always dry thoroughly
- Use lotion as needed to prevent dry, itchy or cracked skin
- Wear properly fitting shoes and clean cotton socks
- Elevate feet using a footstool or cushion when seated
- Don’t sit with legs crossed
- Trim toenails regularly
Elderly individuals unable to care for their own feet are encouraged to contact a podiatrist for periodic foot care appointments.
As feet change, footwear should change too. Properly fitting footwear is important for circulation, stability & comfort.
Elderly Diabetic Foot Care
Seniors with diabetes must be even more vigilant about foot care. Diabetes often damages blood vessels in feet. As a result, wounds heal more slowly and may develop gangrene. A small issue like a corn or blister can develop into a serious infection and may even lead to amputation.
Diabetic seniors are urged to learn and practice good foot care habits. In addition to the tips listed above, it’s important to:
- Visually check feet every single day
- Always wear socks and shoes, even indoors
- Carefully wash feet daily
- If possible, safely increase activity level to promote circulation
- Do not smoke
Diabetic Foot Care for Elderly Hispanic Population
Research shows Latino seniors have lower self-monitoring of blood sugar (glucose) and suffer from worse glycemic control. Studies further suggest diabetic elderly Hispanic patients may have a greater risk of renal disease, which can also contribute to foot pain.
It is crucial for all diabetic individuals of any age or ethnicity to practice good self-care focusing on foot health.
Toenail Care for the Elderly
Toenails should be carefully trimmed on a regular basis and kept clean and short. Long nails are more likely to snag, break or accidentally scratch the skin. When trimming, check the area around the nail for signs of an ingrown nail, hangnail or fungus.
Proper toenail trimming procedure:
- Cut nails after a shower or bath, or use a foot soak to soften toenails
- Sanitize nail clippers by boiling or cleaning with rubbing alcohol
- Wash your hands before and after cutting your toenails
- Trim nail straight across without curving down at the ends
- Never cut calluses on the feet or nail bed
Elderly patients often struggle with proper toenail care for various reasons including failing eyesight, reduced flexibility or arthritis in hands making it difficult to use toenail trimmers.
Elderly Foot Care Services from Caring Milwaukee Foot Doctors
Many senior citizens feel embarrassed when they’re unable to trim their own toenails. We urge all elderly patients struggling with foot care to contact our compassionate foot doctors for an appointment.
We strive every day to put the care back into patient care. Our expert podiatrists will handle any foot issue or question you may have while making you feel comfortable.