There are many subtle changes that occur to our bodies which can be early signs of forthcoming health problems.
For example, if an elderly relative starts to complain of swollen ankles, this could be a sign that they are starting to suffer from heart failure which, although sounding alarming, is a sure sign that their heart is not beating efficiently and is not pumping the blood around the arteries properly, particularly in the extremities such as the feet and ankles. This can cause tissue fluid to leak from the blood vessels causing the swelling that is so often seen in the very elderly.
The appearance and general health of an elderly persons’ feet can also provide clues that health problems are either present or forthcoming, as we discuss in this article.
Diabetes is a condition that can cause many health issues, but some of the most common are the damage caused to blood vessels and nerves in the extremities such as finger tips and toes.
Diabetic neuropathy results from diabetes and causes damage to nerve endings so that the diabetic can no longer differentiate between hot and cold stimuli or suffer numbness in their fingers. Some people experience severe sensitivity to touch which can be extremely painful.
Being at the extremities of the body, diabetic neuropathy can have a serious impact on foot health. Not only will a patient suffer from joint pain but they are likely to have ulcers and infections on their feet which are caused by damage to the capillaries within the foot.
So, if someone is seeking elderly foot care because they have ulcers on their feet, or present with a persistent foot infection, their healthcare professional should be considering the possibility of diabetes as an underlying condition, and therefore consider referring this elderly person to their doctor as a possible diabetic.
Foot pain caused by spinal problems
The transference of pain can initiate confusing symptoms that can be difficult to diagnose. For example, an elderly person may present with persistent foot pain which could be caused by diabetes, as we’ve discussed, or, more simply, by badly fitting shoes or an uneven gait that merely requires a shoe insert such as these https://www.orthera.com/pages/find-your-perfect-insert
This patient’s foot pain could also be indicating a number of spinal problems. Nerves flow from the lower spine along the legs and terminate in the feet, so if there is some form of compression to these nerves within the spinal column, pain is likely to be expressed at the nerve endings in the feet.
A herniated disc
Nerve compression can result from a number of spinal disorders such as a herniated disc in which the tough outer layer of a disc in the spinal column ruptures allowing the disc contents to spill and out compress nearby nerves.
Herniated discs can occur at any age but are usually caused by a specific injury although the outer layer of a disc may degenerate over time, particularly if the patient has familial disposition to this disc darkness.
Lumbar spinal stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs when the channels in the vertebrae that allows the passage of nerves in the spinal column gradually narrow.
This degenerative process is often seen in the over 60’s age group who experience early symptoms in the form of pains in the legs and feet as the lumber nerves become compressed by the narrowing of vertebral channels.
As we have discussed, foot pain in the elderly can be caused by a variety of problems some of which may be explained by gait problems or badly fitting shoes.
There are other more serious conditions, however, that may exhibit early symptoms via pain or ulcers in the feet such as diabetes and spinal problems. If these are suspected, then the patient should be referred for further diagnostic tests and investigations.