Monday, April 10, 2006

Did you Know? There are more than 300 types of foot ailments

There are more than 300 types of foot ailment, with some resulting from genetic factors. However, for the elderly, most such ailments are caused by habitual neglect or accumulated damage. With just a little effort, people can avoid much harm. But if you are in pain, be sure to get medical treatment without delay.

Arthritis and gout:

Arthritis commonly occurs in persons over 50. The major cause is damage to soft tissues between bones. Because the foot (including all the parts below the ankle) contains 33 joints, this part of the body is more prone to arthritis than are others.

The cause of gout is an excessive level of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is one of the body's waste products, and forms crystalline deposits in joints. The symptoms of gout are similar to those of arthritis, with the joints becoming painful and swollen, and tending to feel stiff on getting up in the morning.

Modification of the shoes can usually ease symptoms, as pain is caused when the shoes press against bone spurs. If the pressure on the joints is better distributed, pain can be reduced. Modifying the sole of the shoes is one approach. The curvature of the sole below the front and middle of the foot can be altered to better brace the foot and minimize stress on the joints.

Flat feet and high arches:

Regular shoes are designed to fit normally arched feet. However, because the soles of flat feet are insufficiently arched, making it difficult to maintain a solid footing, it is best for people with flat feet to add an arch support when exercising, as this will reduce the chance of soreness. On the other hand, for people with the opposite of flat feet-overly arched soles-smaller areas of the foot must bear the same weight, entailing the use of softer shoe soles to more evenly distribute the pressure exerted on the foot. If one does not know what type of feet one has, this can be determined by wetting the feet , stepping onto a white sheet of paper and then examining the footprint made. Regardless of whether a person has flat feet or high arches, athletic shoes with a wide instep, that provide support for the foot, are more comfortable to wear than dress shoes.

Heel pain:

Heel fasciitis is the heel ailment most frequently seen at clinics. Fashion-conscious women who wear high heels should be especially cautious. The heel fascia is a fan-shaped structure located on the bottom of the foot. Just behind it is the inside of the heel bone, while just five bones lie in front. When walking or running, the foot must bear the body's weight, and as a result, this fan-shaped structure is stretched to provide some torque and flexibility, as well as to absorb shocks from impacts with the ground. Over time, stretching of the fascia may lead to inflammation.

The approach for treatment is to place a heel pad with good impact damping inside the shoe; walking little to reduce the burden on the affected foot; and selecting a foot pad with appropriate arch support, or soles that are softer or more pliant.


The big toe on a normal foot should point outward (away from the midline of the body) at an angle of ten to 15 degrees. If this angle is greater than 15 degrees, the condition is called a bunion. In addition to genetic factors, the condition may be caused by poor choice of shoes, with high heels and pointed-toed shoes being especially likely to cause trouble. The "witches' shoes" that have been popular in recent years are one of the major culprits in toe problems. One treatment is the use of toe separators. These can be purchased at any medical supplies store.


Diabetes patients often suffer from hardening of blood vessels in the foot. Sensory nerves may be numbed so that even when both feet are placed in hot water, the patient may not sense that they are being scalded. If the skin is cut, burned, blistered, or suffers from insect bites, the foot may easily become inflamed or infected.

1. Please be sure to take special care in the following situations: When clipping the nails, do not use pointed scissors, cut the nails too short, cut into the non-extruded portion of the nail, or otherwise cause injury or bleeding. Do not use a razor blade to cut calluses or corns. Do not apply strong medications or alcohol to wounds. If you find that a wound is healing very slowly, quickly seek treatment from a doctor.

2. Examine both feet: Every day, use a mild, non-irritating soap to wash the feet (first use the inside of your wrist to check the temperature of the water). Pay special attention to whether there are calluses on the areas on the sole of the foot that are subject to pressure. Use pumice to rub away calluses. Ask family members to assist in examining whether there are ruptures between the toes. If there is evidence of fungal infection, or if the toes have blackened or turned gray, seek medical attention immediately.

3. Shoes and socks: Shoes should not have uneven areas, nor have seams. Overly tight shoes should not be worn, but rather, well-fitting shoes made of soft, breathable material should be chosen instead. Before wearing shoes, use the hands to examine whether there are any pebbles inside the shoe. It is best to choose socks made from cotton or wool. Each day, shoes and socks should be changed to prevent the occurrence of athlete's foot (tinea pedis). Avoid walking barefoot (even at home).

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