Tag Archives: arthritis

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.

Advertisements

Psoriatic Arthritis In The Feet and Ankles: Symptoms and Treatment

25 Feb

Psoriatic arthritis, sometimes misdiagnosed as osteoarthritis, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis, is a form of arthritis accompanied by psoriasis, a condition which causes scaly red and white patches on your skin. This form of arthritis can cause swelling in your toes, frequently described as making them look like sausages.

Psoriatic arthritis feet and toes

Psoriatic arthritis causes toes to swell like sausages, a condition called dactylitis. In this patient, the toenails have been affected by the psoriasis, which is often misdiagnosed as a fungal infection.

Psoriasis is a condition in which the body’s immune system goes into overdrive and attacks healthy tissue in the skin, creating an overproduction of skin cells. In psoriatic arthritis, the immune system also attacks your joints, causing persistent, painful inflammation, in addition to the skin condition. It typically affects the larger joints in your feet or ankles, but may affect the smallest joints in the toes as well. Swelling of the joints in the toes can be quite extreme, taking on the appearance of sausages, a condition called dactylitis.

Psoriatic arthritis can also cause discoloration and “pitting” in your toenails – depressions or separation from the nail bed. As these symptoms appear similar to a fungal infection, it’s often misdiagnosed. In later stages, toenails may crumble or suffer other damage.

Why the immune system turns on healthy tissue is still somewhat of a mystery, but it appears that genetic and environmental factors are at play. Many patients who suffer with psoriatic arthritis have a family history of the disease, or a family history of psoriasis. In others, physical trauma, or a viral or bacterial infection may trigger psoriatic arthritis.

One of the characteristics of psoriatic arthritis is Enthesitis – pain in the heel or the sole, where ligaments and tendons join the bone. In some cases, this is the cause of plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis. Research suggests that the continual inflammation from psoriatic arthritis causes significant joint damage, so early diagnosis and treatment is important.

If you’re experiencing heel pain, arch pain, or joint pain in your ankles or feet, and you suffer from psoriasis, please inform your podiatrist, as your treatment plan may vary.

Just as with rheumatoid arthritis, the pain and stiffness in joints affected by psoriatic arthritis is progressive, which means it will worsen over time. The pain and stiffness may at times subside and vary in intensity. Additionally, some patients also experience mood changes, fatigue, muscle weakness, and anemia.

Osteoarthritis may accompany psoriatic arthritis, and bones in the feet, ankle, or toes may deteriorate. Your podiatrist can use ultrasound imaging to determine this even before other symptoms occur.

Unfortunately, psoriatic arthritis becomes extremely painful as the condition progresses. Toes and feet may become swollen and tender, and they may no longer fit into your shoes. Your podiatrist may recommend special footwear in this case.

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis in the foot and ankle

  • Joint pain. Joints may also be swollen or warm to the touch
  • Joints in the toes may develop dactylitis, a unique type of swelling. Dactylitis sometimes develops before pain or stiffness occurs.
  • Toes may become deformed and nails become discolored or pitted
  • Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis may develop
  • Unlike other forms of arthritis, psoriatic arthritis is more likely to cause pain in the tendons of your feet

Who is most likely to develop psoriatic arthritis?

  • People with a family history of the disease. Men and women are equally affected.
  • People with psoriasis, especially those who have psoriasis lesions on their toenails
  • Those between the ages of 30-50, but it may also occur in children

Treatment for psoriatic arthritis

  • Mild exercise like walking, biking, or swimming keeps joints flexible and reduces pain
  • Stretching exercises
  • Custom orthotics (shoe inserts) to relieve pressure on painful areas
  • Wear comfortable footwear like athletic shoes,or if severe, diabetic shoes
  • Over the counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), or naproxen (Aleve)
  • Cortocisteroid injections from your podiatrist to reduce joint swelling
  • Prescription medicines used to treat Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Podiatric surgery to replace or repair damaged joints

Is there a link between diabetes and arthritis?

16 Oct

OsteoarthritisIt’s long been known by doctors that people with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to suffer with osteoarthritis.  Osteo is the most common kind of arthritis, which occurs when the cartilage that provides a cushion between bones wears away, causing inflammation, stiffness and pain in joints.

Doctors have also recognized for years that diabetes affects connective tissue in many ways and causes musculoskeletal changes in the body. This can lead to stiff and painful joints; stiff hands; swollen joints; nodules under the skin, especially in fingers; carpal tunnel syndrome; shoulder pain; and severely affected feet.

It was previously thought that the diabetes / arthritis relationship was of the mechanical, wear and tear kind. Overweight people with diabetes developed arthritis in their lower extremities due to stress on their weight-bearing joints, primarily hips and knees. But new research has shown that even diabetics who are not overweight are twice as likely as non diabetics to suffer problems with their weight-bearing and non weight-bearing joints.

Over a 20-year period, researchers in Europe followed a group of diabetic and non-diabetic patients. As would be expected , a portion of the group eventually required total knee joint replacement surgery. What surprised the researchers is that when they factored in age and body mass index, the patients with type 2 diabetes were twice as likely to require joint replacement surgery than those without diabetes. That means along with body mass index and age, diabetes has now been shown to be an independent risk factor in developing osteoarthritis in anyone with the disease – regardless of age or weight.

“I think it is a very important study because it clearly establishes that severe osteoarthritis is a component of diabetes complications,” says George King, MD, research director of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “This has been talked about before – that arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems are increased in diabetics. But… this is a population-based study that clearly establishes a link.”

While the study points out the statistical link, it doesn’t answer why this is the case. The study authors have suggested that osteoarthritis may be just one symptom of metabolic syndrome – a group of risk factors, such as obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, that raise the chances of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The authors suggest that high blood sugar levels may contribute to the deterioration of collagen, one of the main components of cartilage. Or it might stimulate the production of inflammatory substances that damage the joint.

When diagnosed with diabetes, it’s critical that you manage your disease properly to avoid or delay complications like osteoarthritis. Follow your physician’s advice on diet and exercise, and take medicine to control your blood sugar as directed.

%d bloggers like this: