According to Statistics Canada, nearly 1.7 million falls occur in Canada every year for people aged 12 and above. The report also states that falls account for nearly 40% of all reported injuries in Canada and adults over the age of 60 are the most susceptible to fatal fall injuries. It is safe to say then, that falls are serious. Can certain foot problems further increase the risk of falls in seniors?
Foot problems such as blisters, sprains, athlete’s foot, bunions, ingrown toenails, corns, heel spurs, and more can cause pain, swelling, numbness, redness, and tingling sensations that can affect your balance and the way you walk. These foot problems can greatly increase the risk of falling, especially in seniors that already struggle with weaker bone and muscle strength.
Your feet, like all other parts of your body, go through wear and tear as you age. Joints and ankles become stiffer and less flexible, bone strength decreases and muscles become weaker. Even these naturally occurring changes can cause pain resulting in an increased risk of falls. Add to that other associated foot problems and you have a serious issue on your hands.
In this article, we will look at what foot problems can increase the risk of falls and what measures and precautions to take to reduce the risk of falls and resulting injuries in seniors.
5 Common Foot Problems That Increase The Risk Of Falls In Seniors
Our feet go through a lot of abuse daily as we use them to stand, walk, run, jump, and climb when needed. As a result, our feet are no strangers to different types of foot problems. From pain and injuries to inflammation and tingling sensations, here are 5 common foot problems that can increase the risk of falls.
Unfortunately, blisters are far too common and we all have likely experienced them at some point in our lives. Blisters can occur as a result of sweaty feet or while walking with the wrong type of footwear. These fluid-filled pimple-like anomalies typically grow on the hands and feet and can be extremely painful. Walking with blisters on your feet is excruciating and can easily make someone more susceptible to falling just from the pain itself.
This type of fungal infection is usually found between one’s toes and can cause significant discomfort, itching, and even pain should the infection be allowed to spread. This type of foot problem usually occurs when wearing damp footwear or walking around bare feet in humid, damp or wet areas such as around a pool or gym. Athlete’s foot can cause the feet to itch, crack, blister, and peel causing even further pain and discomfort. This common foot problem can also impair your ability to walk normally, increasing the risk of falling.
Another all too common foot problem is bunions which are essentially bumps that form on top of the large toe joint. This usually occurs as a result of wearing narrow footwear or tight shoes and is a common foot problem amongst women. Bunions cause inflammation and can become quite painful if not treated appropriately. The added discomfort can make maintaining balance a challenge resulting in an increased risk of falls.
While this foot problem isn’t as common as the others on this list it is perhaps the most painful of the lot. An ingrown toenail usually forms as a result of wearing narrow and tight footwear or cutting your toenails too short. This can cause the toenail to start growing into the nail groove itself which can be insanely painful. If you have an ingrown toenail, doing anything with that foot is going to be a challenge so getting it treated should be a top priority.
Diabetes is growing healthcare concern, especially in North America. It is estimated that nearly 9% of Canada’s population is diabetic and this percentage is growing by 3% every year. Changes in blood sugar levels over time can have damaging impacts on the body’s nervous system, especially on the feet. Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in the legs or feet that can easily result in an unexpected fall and potentially serious injury.
Measures & Precautions That Help Reduce The Risk Of Falls & Associated Injuries
The reality is that accidental falls are likely inevitable regardless of how many precautions you take. This is why it is essential to not only take necessary precautions to avoid falls but also protect against serious injury if a fall does occur. Here are some of our top recommendations for fall prevention.
Remove Any Clutter & Clear Away Things That Can Be Tripped Over
For seniors that live at home, the interior and exterior of their homes must be kept tidy and clutter-free. Hallways and walking paths should also be clear of any obstacles that can be bumped or tripped over including furniture, rugs, and other decorative items.
Wear The Right Type Of Indoor & Outdoor Shoes
The main cause of many of the most common foot problems can be directly traced back to the shoes you wear. Footwear is more important than you would think. The right footwear can offer improved ankle support, prevent slipping and sliding, and even ease pain and provide comfort to your feet. Our article ‘Best Shoes For Aging Feet’ covers this topic in further detail.
Take Measures To Make The Home Fall Proof
There are many things one can do to make a home safer to live in for seniors and prevent potential accidental falls. This includes ensuring adequate lighting in all areas of the home, removing any loose carpeting, rugs, and mats, and having handrails and grab bars installed to make getting around easier.
Always Wear A Fall Detection Device Wherever You Go!
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes a fall is something that is simply inevitable. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all individuals prone to falling, especially seniors, always wear medical alert systems for seniors with fall detection. Such devices can be life savers and simply must-haves for seniors that live at home.
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