Obesity is a true epidemic. According to World Health Organization statistics, worldwide obesity incidence has tripled since 1975, with 1.9 billion people being overweight and 650 million being obese. In the USA, 36.5% of the population is obese, and it is expected that by 2030, the incidence will climb to 50%. More alarming is the fact that childhood obesity rates have increased from 4% in 1975 to 18% currently.
Overweight and obesity are associated with higher rates of foot and ankle problems that in normal weight individuals. Additionally, certain conditions are more common in overweight people. These include heel pain, plantar fasciitis, midfoot pain, acquired flatfoot, arthritis, as well as edema (swelling),vein problems (including varicose veins and thrombophlebitis), balance problems, gait problems, knee pain, hip pain, back pain, and poor foot function. Diabetes is also associated with obesity.
Overweight children are especially prone to foot problems, especially flatfoot deformity. These conditions, if untreated, can lead to more serious problems in adulthood.
Since the foot has to support the weight of the entire body, it makes sense that excess body weight puts additional stress on the foot. Controlling the foot’s motion and position are essential in the overweight patient.
Most painful foot and ankle conditions in the overweight patient can be managed with conservative care. This often starts with some type of in-shoe orthotic device. We can provide both over-the-counter and custom made devices for this purpose. Additionally, we can provide various types of braces that can be used for many conditions.
All overweight children should be evaluated by a podiatrist. Postural and gait abnormalities in these children , if not treated early, can lead to arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems in adulthood.
In summary, although many foot and ankle problems are seen in overweight and obese people, most can be treated regardless of weight. A thorough foot and ankle examination is recommended for all overweight and obese individuals, even if no symptoms are currently present.