Good Foot & Ankle Care Helps Seniors Stay Independent & Head-to-Toe Healthy

As we get older, it becomes even more important to take care of our feet. Issues that start at your feet and ankles can lead to problems with your knees, hips, back and even your neck. That’s one of the many reasons to get any aches, pains, injuries, unusual feelings or numbness looked at by a foot and ankle physician.

Seniors are prone to certain kinds of foot and ankle ailments and injuries that just come with age.

“With our patients who are 50 or so and up, we see a lot of needs related to toenails and calluses. A lot of older people who have mobility issues have a hard time bending over to trim their nails themselves. If nails aren’t cared for regularly, they can easily start to be a problem, so regular trimmings are important,” said Dr. John Thometz, a podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon with Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists. He’s based out of the Arlington Heights location and also sees patients in Cary, Lake in the Hills and Elgin.

Bunions are also a common ailment, especially with older women, and they can be cared for with several kinds of treatment options. Hammer toes are the second most structural-related issue the doctors see with their senior patients, and can be treated several different ways depending on the severity of the hammertoe. Both bunions and hammer toes may also be treated with minimally-invasive surgery.

While the doctors will be able to tell you what treatment option is best for your condition, they always encourage patients to see a podiatrist for anything that’s impacting their feet or ankles and not assume that they need an emergency room doctor for a broken foot bone, or an orthopedic surgeon for a replacement or fusion. Their call center operates 24 hours a day. One of the most common misconceptions about podiatrists is that they don’t do surgery or complicated procedures. In fact, most of them do, and have even more specialized training that are helpful to aging patients who may need unique care. At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, all of our doctors are surgeons and can handle a diverse range of conditions affecting the foot and ankle.

“In addition to the common ailments that come with getting older, we also see a lot of injuries that affect seniors because their bones get weaker over time. We see patients who have low vitamin D levels, which leads to less bone density, so we see stress fractures, broken bones from slips and falls, and injuries from balance issues,” said Dr. Joseph Wilson, a foot and ankle surgeon based at the practice’s new Hoffman Estates location on Higgins Road, but sees patients in Crystal Lake and Elgin.

“Neuropathy is another common condition I see in my older patients, especially in diabetics. This means experiencing numbness, burning, tingling and there are a few ways we can treat those symptoms. We have NeuroRx supplements, prescribe Gabapentin and can offer a lot of other treatment options to help patients suffering from neuropathy,” said Dr. Thometz.

Imbalance issues, combined with weaker bones, make injuries from falls very common, especially around this time of year when the first frost appears. Both Dr. Wilson and Dr. Thometz said that doing everything they can to help prevent a fall is crucial, because once a fall happens and there’s a break, or a significant foot or ankle injury, it can severely impact your mobility, quality of life and the health of the rest of your body. As you age, getting enough physical activity has a positive ripple effect from head to toe.

“If you can’t work, or keep up your exercise routine, it'll be harder to rebound to where you were before a foot or ankle injury, so talk to one of us if you have any concerns about your balance, if you’re prone to falling or believe you have an injury that hasn’t healed with rest and ice,” said Dr. Wilson. “There are a number of things we can do to help you, like balance bracing, gait assessments, fall risk tests, and a general evaluation to pin-point what’s going on with your feet and ankles. We can do all of this to avoid you having to see us because of broken bone due to a fall.”

“Prioritizing the health of your feet and ankles is key to maintaining your independence and current, active lifestyle. Ageing is unavoidable for all of us, but how you take care of yourself, whether it’s your eyes, skin, heart or feet, is up to you,” said Dr. Thometz.

The foot and ankles doctors at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists are there for you to make sure you keep that spring in your step for as long as possible. With 14 Chicagoland locations, we’re close enough to also be your neighbor.

Call us to make an appointment at 847.639.5800 or visit us at