Do not ignore foot pain
Foot pain is common. About 75% of people in the United States have experienced foot pain at some point in their lives. Foot pain can keep people from doing things they enjoy. It can also be a sign of injury or illness. Learn how to prevent foot pain and help people have healthy, happy feet.
Recognize and treat common foot problems
Foot pain may occur as a result of one of these common foot problems. A doctor should be consulted who will recommend the best treatment for each of these.
- Bunion: a bony bump that sticks out from the side of your foot at the base of the big toe. One in three older adults has a bunion. Bunions can cause pain, affect balance and increase the risk of falling, especially in older adults.
- Hammertoes: the middle toes curl downward like a claw.
- Calluses and corns: patches of thick, hard skin caused by constant pressure and rubbing. Moisturizing feet to keep them soft can help.
- Flat feet: the entire sole of the foot, including the arch, makes contact with the ground.
- Blister: a bump on the skin filled with fluid. DON’T pop it. Use antibiotic cream and a bandage. Using Vaseline can help protect against blisters.
Be aware of these and other signs and symptoms of foot injury or illness. Toes that are always too cold or too hot, thickening or discoloration of toenails, swollen feet, pain in the big toe, itchy feet, sudden or severe foot pain – these are all things that should be looked at by a doctor.
Prevent the spread of bacteria, viruses and fungus affecting the feet
Foot and nail fungus is a skin infection caused by mold-like germs. There are more than 80 types of fungi living on your feet. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get them. Fungi and warts are contagious. When using a public swimming pool or shower, make sure everyone wears water shoes or flip flops to protect feet from water that may carry these bacteria or fungi.
- Athlete’s foot: the most common type of foot fungus. Symptoms include burning, itching, redness, and peeling of feet.
- Nail fungus: can enter the toe nail through a crack or break and can cause nails to become brittle, thick, and discolored.
- Warts: rough, grainy growths on the skin caused by a virus.
Provide extra care and attention for diabetics
People with diabetes need to take special care to protect feet from injury. Diabetes may cause loss of feeling in the feet, making it hard to know if the person is injured. People with diabetes should take these additional steps to keep their feet happy and healthy.
- Check feet every day for blisters, cuts, scratches, or any break in the skin. Immediately treat any injury.
- Never take the risk of walking barefoot.
- Talk to the doctor about things to do to reduce risk. Make sure the doctor checks their feet at every visit. Sixty-six percent of adults with diabetes in California report receiving an annual foot exam.
Five steps to help support healthy, happy feet
- Keep feet clean. A part of personal care everyday should be washing feet in warm, soapy water. Wash under the feet and between the toes, using a mild bar soap with a moisturizer so as not to dry skin.
- Gently dry – don’t rub – feet. Whether independently or with support, individuals should dry their feet, especially between the toes. Moisture between the toes can cause an infection or Athlete’s foot.
- Emphasize the importance of keeping the skin soft to prevent calluses and cracks. After washing and drying feet, it’s helpful to apply a moisturizing skin cream by rubbing it gently into skin. Do not put cream between toes. Do not use perfumed lotions which can irritate skin.
- Change socks every day. Cotton or wool socks breathe and help keep feet dry. Dirty socks cause foot odor and other problems.
- Check toenails. Make sure they are trimmed straight across and not too short. Use a nail clipper, not scissors. Do not use a sharp pointed file or anything that might break the skin. If toenails need extra cleaning, a soft brush works well. Make sure staff are well trained in trimming or, if possible, make an appointment with a podiatrist.
Buy comfortable shoes
Wearing shoes that fit is a must. Make sure there is plenty of room for toes to move. Encourage individuals to choose comfort over style! Pointy shoes will likely cause calluses and pain. Do not get high heels. They are not safe and can create serious foot problems.
When staff are assisting someone who is shopping for shoes, make sure that feet are measured. A rule of thumb is to wear the socks that are usually worn with that type of shoe. Remember, feet swell as the day goes on. Shop at the end of the day for a better fit.
Encourage staff and individuals to buy shoes that are made of comfortable, supportive materials. Soft leather is good. Breathable tennis (athletic) shoes are good. Thick-soled shoes can help cushion feet when walking on a hard surface. Plastic shoes may cause blisters and other problems. Always go for comfort!
Protect feet and choose shoes with support or protection. Encourage staff and the individuals you support to stay away from wearing flip flops on a regular basis. Flip flops or sandals that make you curl your toes to keep them on may cause serious foot pain. Shoes without support or protection can mean misery!
Follow additional foot care tips
- Take calcium and vitamin D to help build strong bones.
- Participate in regular weight bearing exercise. Walk 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes.
- Take tai chi or do yoga.
- Work on balance to prevent falls. Falls can cause injury to feet, hips, and elsewhere.
Make foot care a priority every day!
Use this article and materials in the Happy Feet content package [http://ddssafety.net/health/foot-care/all-about-foot-care] to support pain-free feet - yours and the people you support.