Most people pay little attention to their feet, but they can reveal a lot about the health of the body. Did you know your feet can give clues about your health? Next time you bend down to trim your toenails or paint them, you may need to pay attention.
People Often Take Their Feet for Granted
The foot is one of the most complex structures in the human body. There are 26 bones and 33 joints that allow the foot to flex and bend while walking.
Many people take their feet for granted, never thinking much about their function until a significant injury occurs. Because the feet bear the body weight and take on a lot of abuse, it is essential to understand how they can offer clues about health.
What Are Your Feet Trying to Say?
Before delving into the signs of health issues seen in the feet, it is crucial to note that most can be benign. Just because you notice a signal of problems from your feet does not mean there is reason to panic. It is essential to understand the signs of an underlying health issue so you can see your doctor.
Cold Toes & Feet
Are your toes and feet constantly chilled? Do you need extra socks, even outside of winter? If the temperature inside the room is warm, yet your feet stay freezing, there could be an underlying health issue to blame.
If your cold feet problem only occurs occasionally, putting on fuzzy slippers and socks can help. When cold feet occur consistently, they can be caused by poor circulation or a condition called PAD.
PAD stands for Peripheral Artery Disease. This disease constricts the vessels of the legs and prevents proper blood flow. Because the blood is not flowing adequately, your feet will stay cold.
You are at a greater risk of developing circulation issues if you have diabetes. Consistently high blood sugar readings will constrict the vessels in your body and prevent proper blood flow.
Burning Pains in the Feet
When your feet begin to burn, it can be disconcerting. Burning pain in the feet is often caused by nerve damage, a condition called neuropathy.
People who have PAD can also experience burning pain. Your feet may burn from inflammation or benign conditions like athlete’s foot. If the burning does not subside, see your doctor for a diagnosis.
Sudden Swelling and Pain
Waking up in the morning with a swollen and painful big toe or foot can cause great stress. It is challenging to walk when your foot is swollen and in pain.
Unfortunately, many health issues can cause swelling and pain in the big toe or foot, including injuries. You can also experience swelling and pain from being on your feet too long, wearing improperly fitted shoes, or being pregnant. The following are some health concerns that can cause swollen, painful feet.
- Renal disease
- Heart failure
- Neuropathic arthropathy
The above are serious conditions that need medical attention. Although you should not immediately panic with feet swelling, you should talk to a doctor.
Toenail Discoloration and Deformity
When your toenails begin to look strange, you likely wonder about the cause. Toenails can become thickened, yellow, smelly, and deformed. The number one cause of these symptoms is nail fungus, but there could be other culprits.
- Unknown injuries
- Ingrown toenail
- Improperly fitted shoes
- Immunosuppression while on chemo
When you notice pitting, white lines, flaking, or spoon shapes, you could have an underlying vitamin and mineral deficiency. Your doctor can run blood tests to determine your deficiencies.
Sores and Ulcers That Will Not Heal
Sores and ulcers on the feet that do not heal properly need to be checked by a doctor. These are often seen in diabetics because their immune systems are suppressed and their blood circulation is diminished.
If you notice a sore or ulcer on your foot is not healing within a reasonable time, there could be a circulation problem. Those who are diabetic need to conduct foot checks regularly, especially if they have neuropathy because injuries can go unnoticed until infections occur.
Always wear shoes to protect your feet and make sure they fit correctly. Ill-fitting shoes can cause pressure sores to develop. These ulcerations may be challenging to treat, especially in people with venous insufficiency. The following could be the reason for a foot sore that does not heal.
- Diabetic ulcer
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Malignant melanoma
Dark Lines Under the Toenail
Should you ever notice a dark line running underneath your toenail, do not wait to have it checked. Although it is rare, this is a primary symptom of melanoma, which is a deadly form of skin cancer. Melanoma requires immediate treatment to prevent it from spreading throughout the body.
Pain With Weight-Bearing
If you try to take a step and pain shoots through your foot, getting relief right away is essential. Most people know if they have injured their foot, but unknown injuries can sometimes occur.
There are a few possible reasons for experiencing pain with weight bearing.
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Diabetic arthropathy
- Plantar fasciitis
If pain occurs with every step, it is important to see a podiatrist to discover the underlying cause. You should not bear weight on your foot until you know what is causing the pain. A warm spa foot soak can ease the discomfort and allow you to relax.
When weight bearing produces pain after an injury, a sprain or fracture may be to blame. Use ice and elevation, and get to the doctor right away to rule out a broken bone.
Pins and Needles
You have likely sat down for long periods and felt one of your feet go numb. That pins and needles feeling is unmistakable. While everyone experiences their foot going to sleep from time to time, ongoing problems with numbness should not be ignored.
Several issues can cause your feet to go numb. If you are getting that pins and needles feeling often, the following could be to blame.
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Spinal stenosis
- Complications from chemo
- B-12 deficiency
Loss of Hair
Losing hair on your feet or legs should not be ignored. While men’s toes are usually hairier than women’s, women have fine hair on their toes.
If you notice a lack of hair on your feet or legs, PAD could be to blame. The symptoms of PAD could also signal other arterial problems in the body that need addressing.
Stiffness in the Toes
When you take off your shoes, do your toes feel overly stiff? Some people experience stiff toes when they get up in the morning. When stiffness occurs regularly, arthritic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis could be to blame.
This autoimmune disease generally affects the small joints of the hands and feet first. If your toes feel stiff and achy frequently, a trip to the doctor is warranted.
Problems Lifting the Front of Your Feet
Your feet are meant to flex easily, allowing you to walk, run, and climb. If you suddenly cannot lift the front part of your feet, you could be suffering from a neurological condition called foot drop.
Foot drop can be caused by a few disorders, including those below.
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cerebral palsy
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
If you cannot lift the front portion of your foot, check with your doctor right away to determine the cause. Neurological disorders require prompt treatment.
Red or Blue Toes
If your toes or fingers turn blue when exposed to the cold, you could have a condition called Raynaud’s disease. You can also experience these signs when under stress.
If you have Raynaud’s disease, the blood vessels that supply your skin become constricted. The lack of blood flow leads to blue toes or fingers. You may also experience redness.
Treatments can lessen the effect of Raynaud’s on the skin’s blood supply, including calcium channel blockers. See your doctor right away for a diagnosis.
Taking Care of and Monitoring Your Feet Is Essential
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but could the feet give their own clues about the health status of the body? Your feet can reveal a lot about your health. You should consider inspecting your feet regularly for any symptoms of health concerns like those above.
If you are a diabetic, check your feet daily for any signs of health issues. Report any sores or signs of problems to your doctor right away.
Your feet are put through a lot of abuse throughout the day. They bear much of the weight of the body and never seem to get enough rest. Be kind to your feet and pamper them whenever possible. Propping them up after a long day or putting them in a hot soak can relieve some minor problems that may develop.
If you have noticed any of the signs above, see your doctor. Keep an eye on your feet for clues about your health.