Sunday, December 18, 2011

More advice on old feet - dealing with "foot funk"

The older we get the more likely we are to develop "foot funk" - it's my generic term for athlete's foot, toe fungus and generally dry scaly appearance.   With my Mom's feet, there are dry patches on her heels and calouses and then there are overly moist hard-to-keep dry areas between her toes.  I also notice that the area between her does almost looked "spongy" at times - the skin was white on top with small holes.  When I spread her toes it would stretch and tear, revealing dark pink skin underneath.  The top layers of skin would very easily peel or rub off and the skin below could split and become painful.  When I first began watching her feet, this happened a lot but over a few weeks time - with diligent attention and a some new practices - we healed up the worst spots and all she suffered was some itching now and then - a huge improvement over the keep cracks and odors.

Poor circulation means that Mom wants socks and shoes on all the time but that means the area between her toes don't get "aired out" and remain moist.   When Mom was home I soaked her feet in a mix of water and white vinegar (4 to 1 dilution), water and listerine (2 to 1 dilution) and tried an occasional massage with tea tree oil after cleaning and drying her feet well. Be warned, I used the tea tree oil ONLY after the cracks on her skin were healed.  DO NOT USE TEA TREE OIL ON OPEN WOUNDS!    The water and white vinegar once a week seemed to work best.   She had a couple of spots between her two most outer toes that were stubborn and it took a long time to see improvement in the skin. For these I used anti-fungal cream for a couple of months.  When I was not there, she was able to put the cream between her toes herself everyday.  This helped it to heal so that a mild vinegar soak was able to keep the fungus at bay.    I didn't want to soak her feet until these areas where improved because I thought the vinegar might burn or sting raw open spots between those toes.

I don't think you can ever get rid of this stuff once it's there;  it's a matter of keeping it under control.   I've read that there are dietary changes that also help - it's basically reducing sugar intake. Sugar is fungus' favorite food so if you eat a lot of it or if you're diabetic and your body can't process sugar, you might have more problems with athlete's foot - and fungus in other spots like jock itch or vagina yeast infections....but - our focus here is FEET so please read on......

Here are some of the things that worked for my mom's feet:  Remember that we had to be diligent about this, it became part of her regular daily routine:
Socks:  always use cotton, wool or some of the new materials that wick moisture AWAY from the skin. change socks daily and wash socks alone in small loads. Use hot water and put at least one cup of white vinegar, 2 cups is probably best,  in the wash water to help kill fungus.  I got the "wicking" socks at REI in the hiking section.  If it was especially cold, I'd put those on first then a 2nd pair of wool socks.
Shoes: if possible, let them go without shoes, this permits air to circulate around the feet.   Often shoes for our elders are made of vinyl or other man-made products that don't permit air circulation.  My mom used to complain of her feet feeling cold and wet when she wore cheap sneakers - they were, she had poor circulation but her feel still sweated and it stayed there in her poly-canvas shoes.  EEE..UUUuuuuu
Powder:  We used a spray athlete's foot powder, medicated foot powder, corn starch and baking soda combined - they all helped if used regularly - meaning EVERYDAY.  The generic store brands of spray powder and anti-fungal cream from Target were just as effective as the more spendy brands.  I recommend avoiding powers with talc; talc seemed to make the deepest problems worse.  Be sure to wipe it off with dry tissues at least once a day and re-apply.

DIABETIC readers:  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE - don't just take my advice here, see a doctor about your feet and how to best take care of your feet.    If cracks in your skin do not seem to heal, you might need more than over-the-counter medication. 

For my original ideas on care of old feet, see this blog post from 2009
2009 article Old feet have special needs

How do i take care of diabetic feet? How do i clean up grandmas feet? how do i trim grandpas toe nails.  Old feet have special needs.