Tag Archives: Early Detection

6 Steps to Proper Foot Care for Senior Citizens as a Caregiver

The older you get the harder it becomes to take care of your feet. Vision and mobility decline. Your skin becomes thinner, but toenails often thicken. Diabetic patients may even loose feeling in their feet which eliminates pain as an early warning symptom for infection and injury.

The best foundation for proper toenail care for senior citizens as a caregiver is an environment of trust. Your Senior, whether she/he is a family member or not, will eventually have to admit they cannot cut their own toenails anymore or take care of their feet in other ways. Caretakers need to treat the feet just like hands or other body parts to reduce the stigma around “smelly” feet. Only then can generations care for each other without shame and hesitation. We recommend the following steps as part of a regular foot health routine for Seniors or other individuals who require external care.

Step 1: Set Expectations and a Welcoming Environment
Every caretaker may have a unique routine when caring for their loved ones. It is generally advised to set expectations by guiding the person through the process before it starts. This will ease the tension and reduce potential conflicts during the care process.
You may even adapt the term “pedicure” and incorporate wellness elements in the routine, especially when you already know the person. Suggest a warm foot bath to support circulation, offer a foot massage and/or paint the toenails afterwards. Play some music or light a candle. This way you are not only taking care of your loved one’s physical health, but you are providing a pleasant experience with the potential to organically bond. Schedule a regular wellness routine every couple of weeks. The senior’s podiatrist may even propose certain wellness elements to help with chronic conditions or prevention.

Step 2: Visual Evaluation
Wash your hands and take a general look at the feet before cleaning them. Wear disposable gloves if the person has a history of toenail fungus and other spreadable conditions. Caretakers of at-risk individuals may be advised to create a log to note any bone deformities, lesions, bleeds and signs of infection. Also look out for discoloration of the skin and nails before starting the pedicure.

Step 3: Cut the Toenails
Use sanitized nail clippers to cut the toenails and a file to smooth the curves. Make sure not to share any files with others. Do not rush and look out for damaged skin and splintered nails in the process. Always make sure you are aware of any pre-existing conditions like ingrown toenails which may require a more nuance treatment per your Doctor’s advice. Serious cases may require a professional to get involved.

Step 4: Moisturize.
After the nails are filed, wash up the nail dust and moisturize the entire foot with lotion. We recommend lotions without scents and fragrances to minimize the risk of allergic reactions. Ask your podiatrist for a recommendation, especially if the person is already using any prescribed lotion.

Step 5: Dress
Help them put on new clean and dry socks and make sure they fit well to avoid cutting off circulation. Make sure the shoes are cleaned on a regular basis and still fit, because feet may change their form with age. Shoes that do not fit may lead to ingrown toenails and injuries. Bring up the topic of orthotics if necessary.

Step 6: Evaluate Routines
Find out how often socks are being washed and whether they are being stored in a dry location. Also make sure they are stored in an accessible location to avoid issues with deteriorating mobility. Schedule periodic appointments with a podiatrist and note any physical changes or pain in your log. Review the routine and products used with the podiatrist to aid in preventative care and with any existing conditions. Help your Senior follow the routine which is also helpful for patients with deteriorating memory. You may even consider creating a physical checklist.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to Dr. Smith with any questions. Every person has unique needs and preferences, so customizing these steps will yield the best results in the long-term. We also would like to express our gratitude to all the caregivers out there who make the Quad Cities community a better place!

Bunions – Identification & Diagnosis

Bunions are one of the more common foot ailments – more than 20% of 18 to 65-year-olds and more than 30% of seniors are affected. Research suggests individuals have a genetic predisposition for developing bunions, meaning you are more likely to develop them if your parents or grandparents had them.

Bunions are much more than just a bump; they are a serious and often painful deformity created by the big toe being bent towards the other toes instead of facing straight forward. Wearing tight shoes, injuries, and the above-mentioned genetic disposition are prime culprits. Other potential causes include:

  • Hypermobility and laxity within the foot
  • One leg being shorter than the other
  • Loose joints
  • Low arches
  • Arthritis
  • Flat feet

Identifying Bunions seems to be easy, but they can easily be confused with the following conditions:

  • Bursitis: painful and similar appearance; mostly temporary
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: painful and similar appearance; chronic
  • Gout: painful and similar appearance; temporary or chronic

Bunions develop slowly and become more difficult to treat over the years. Early detention might prevent surgery, so please don’t wait to contact your podiatrist if you identify a bunion-like swelling that won’t disappear.

Plantar Warts – Identification & Prevention

What are Plantar Warts?

Similar to other warts, plantar warts are caused by an infection of the skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).  Plantar warts usually appear on the heel or ball of your foot, anywhere where large amounts of friction and pressure are applied.  This virus enters your body through tiny cuts, lesions or breaks in the bottom of your feet. Although Plantar Warts can affect anyone, they are more common among children, teenagers and people with weakened immune systems. Plantar warts are not a serious health concern and go away untreated or with home remedy treatments. But, if they become painful, start bleeding, reoccur or multiply please see your Podiatrist.

How to Identify Plantar Warts?

Plantar Warts are small, rough and appear on the soles or heels of the feet. Plantar warts can be flat and commonly grow inward under a hard, thick layer of skin such as the calluses on your feet. They can be a single wart or grow in a cluster also known as mosaic warts. Additionally, plantar warts may appear to have tiny black pinpoints inside the wart, also known as wart seeds. Don’t worry, these are just clotted blood vessels. Plantar warts usually grow slowly, but are easily identifiable because they often cause pain or tenderness in the area of the foot affected when walking or standing.

How to Prevent Plantar Warts?

It is hard to say how each person’s immune system will react to encountering HPV, but the spread of plantar warts is usually caused by coming in contact with an infected surface. Since it thrives in warm, moist environments, avoid walking barefoot in locker rooms, swimming pools and public shower rooms. Use shower sandals, keep your feet dry, always wear clean shoes and socks and avoid sharing socks with other people. To avoid spreading plantar warts, avoid direct contact with people who have them.  If you have a wart, do not scratch them.  Scratching can help plantar warts spread quickly to other smaller cuts and lesions.  Last, always cover your warts in warm environments to avoid getting more and spreading to others.

Learn more about Plantar Warts here:

Diagnosing Toenail Fungus

According to the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society, up to 20% of Americans suffer from toenail fungus – also called onychomycosis or tinea unguium. The prevalence of fungi even increases by age, and people over 60 are especially affected.

Once fungi enter the surface of the nail, the following infection frequently causes the nail to become darker and thicker, displays white marks and can develop an odor. Other toes as well as fingernails can be affected quickly. Event walking might become an issue when a painful infection is accompanied by other bacterial or yeast infections. Read more about how to prevent toenail fungus here.

Treating toenail fungus is a tedious process and usually requires medication. Medication needs to be taken for several months as the infected toenails need to grow out. Stopping any treatment too early will negatively impact the healing process.  Unnecessarily prolonging a treatment is never advised due to the exposure of side effects. Side effects of affordable and effective antifungal drugs may include liver damage and other complications. Other drugs may not pose any risk to the liver, but their effectiveness is questionable and their price can be significantly higher.

Having your podiatrist analyze your feet to make a professional diagnosis is key to choosing an appropriate treatment plan, especially as conditions like psoriasis and the following only look like a fungal infection:

  • Green nails can be caused by pseudomonas bacteria and cause a similar odor.
  • Darkish red nails can be caused by hematoma.
  • Yellowish nails can be caused by onycholysis.
  • Other discolorations can be caused by trauma or paronychia.
  • Find more information on conditions mimicking toenail fungus here.

Treatment may additionally be impacted by factors like patients’ general health, age, existing conditions, and insurance coverage. Only a professional can diagnose toenail fungus and choose a treatment plan whose benefits truly outweighs the risk. In some cases, this plan might include minor surgery.  The fact is that an early diagnosis can drastically shorten the time necessary for treatment and consequently can minimize expenditures. Please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Smith and Dr. Buckrop at 309-762-7919 if you have any questions.

You can find additional information here:

Flat Feet

If the entire sole of your foot touches the ground when you stand, then you probably have Flat Feet. Flat Feet are characterized by underdeveloped arches that prevent the typical gap between the sole and the ground from forming. This condition usually develops during childhood and throughout old age, but it can also be caused by accidents or diseases severally impacting bones or tendons forming the arch. Typical consequences include:

  • Foot, hip, knee, and back pain caused by an uneven distribution of body weight
  • Misalignment of your legs
  • Numb and/or stiff feet
  • Swollen ankles
  • Prematurely worn out shoes

Individuals experiencing Flat Feet might not experience any of these symptoms; however, if you are plagued by pain and/or restrictions in body movements on a regular basis it is advised to contact a professional. Potential treatments include:

  • Stretching exercises for your lower legs to prevent feet from rolling over
  • Orthotics to align your feet and to balance weight more evenly
  • Switching to different kind of shoes
  • Pain remediation

Surgery is an option in extreme cases like abnormal bone development in your feet and can usually be prevented. Read more about Flat Feet here and don’t hesitate to contact your podiatrist if you have any questions: