RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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Foot pain and disability in older persons: an epidemiologic survey.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the prevalence of foot pain in older people and its association with pathological conditions of the feet and with disability in basic and instrumental activities of daily living.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey of a community-dwelling older population.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 459 subjects, 73% of the population aged 65 years and older living in Dicomano, Florence, Italy.

MEASUREMENTS: A standardized medical examination was performed by a geriatrician to collect information on the presence of pain, specific problems of the feet, gait, and several indicators of physical health status. Disability in basic and instrumental activities of daily living was evaluated by self-report.

RESULTS: The prevalence of foot pain was very high, especially in subjects affected by calluses or corns, hallux deformities, hammer toes, pes planus, and edema and among those who complained of difficulty in looking after the basic needs of the feet. Patients with foot pain needed a greater number of steps and longer time to walk the same distance. Foot pain was associated with a higher prevalence of disability in instrumental activities of daily living, particularly those related to standing and ambulation capacities, but it was not related to higher prevalence of disability in basic activities of daily living.

CONCLUSIONS: Foot pain is associated with specific conditions of the feet and disability in instrumental activities of daily living. Adequate assessment and treatment of foot problems may prevent foot pain and potentially reduce risk of disability. This hypothesis needs to be tested in longitudinal studies and specific intervention trials.

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