What Your Feet Tell You About Your Health

28 May

foot health

Seems to us that every general physician should ask you to take your socks off. Even if you’ve gone to see your doctor complaining of a chest cold, an inspection of your feet might inform them of the early symptoms of many conditions.

Our feet are farthest from our hearts and spine, so in many cases they’re the first area to indicate problems with the nerves or circulatory disorders. The brain and internal organs receive blood before our toes and feet do, so our appendages are the first to suffer.

Nine health problems which first show up in your feet

1.Always cold feet could be a sign of hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid gland is underperforming. Most common as we approach middle age, hypothyroidism can also cause hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, and depression. A simple blood test ordered by your doctor can confirm this condition, and daily oral medication can get your thyroid gland functioning properly.

2. Suddenly hairless toes and feet could be a sign of a circulatory disorder, as your feet may not be receiving enough blood flow to sustain hair growth. Your doctor should check for a pulse in your feet, and if she has any doubts, should order a thorough cardiovascular screen.

3. Foot cramps that won’t quit may indicate a nutritional deficiency or dehydration. Sure, everybody’s feet cramp up now and then, but what matters is how often and how severe. If you exercise a lot, make sure you drink plenty of water to hydrate your muscles. You also should eat a balanced diet with plenty of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as a lack of these nutrients can also cause cramping (good sources are nuts, leafy greens, and dairy). To relieve cramps in your feet, stretch your toes up, not down. If the cramping in your feet just won’t let up, see your podiatrist so that he or she can test for circulation issues or nerve damage.

4. Yellowing toenails is a sign of aging, but may also indicate a fungal infection. Yellowing can also occur when you wear nail polish for months without a break. If your toenails are flaky or brittle, you probably have a fungal infection and should see a podiatrist for treatment.

5. Flaky, itchy, or peeling skin between your toes is a sure sign of athlete’s foot. Even if you’re not an athlete, it’s easy to pick up a case of athlete’s foot if your feet are crammed in shoes all day or you walk barefoot in common areas like a sauna or swimming pool. Use an over the counter creme to relieve the symptoms, but if your flaking, itching, or peeling continues, you may have psoriasis or eczema. Your podiatrist can determine which is which and suggest a course of treatment.

6. Your big toe suddenly becomes swollen and painful. This is an almost sure sign that you have gout, a condition that inflames the joint. But it might also indicate inflammatory arthritis or infection. If it’s due to trauma, like someone landing on your foot after a jump shot, well, you’ll probably figure that one out.

7. A sore on your foot that won’t heal is a common side effect of diabetes, skin cancer, or circulatory disorders. In the case of diabetes, blood glucose levels that have raged out of control for long periods lead to nerve damage and small blood vessel damage, which in many cases appears first in your feet.  If the sore gets infected, it can lead to an amputation. But a sore on your foot – even between your toes – can also indicate certain kinds of skin cancer, so be sure to have it checked out by your podiatrist as soon as you discover it.

8. A slowly enlarging “growth” aside your big toe is probably a bunion. Faulty, inherited foot structure leads to this common foot deformity, which can be exacerbated by poor choices in footwear like high heels and flip flops. Unfortunately, bunions rarely stop growing, so that small, slightly sore bump today may be quite large and painful years from now. The only sure way to correct a bunion is with surgery. Splints, toe separators, and the like are temporary measures which will relieve symptoms, but won’t stop the deformity from becoming worse.

9. Pain in your heel may indicate plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue which connects your heel to your arch. If you have a sharp pain in your heel when you get out of bed in the morning, which slowly subsides as you move around, you probably have PF. There are many causes of plantar fasciitis, but primarily poor footwear, obesity, or working out too aggressively are to blame. To relieve minor symptoms of plantar fasciitis, ease up on your exercise program, lose weight, or wear shoes which support your feet properly. If symptoms persist, see your podiatrist for treatment.

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