Things Your Feet Are Telling You About Your Overall Health

feet_bed.jpg

**Please note that this article is intended to informative, not diagnostic. A diagnosis can only be made once we’ve had the chance to inspect and observe your feet in person. If you’ve noticed any of these changes in your feet, please make an appointment to discuss your concern with a physician in one of our locations throughout West Michigan.**

You should never forget about your feet. Not only do your feet support you day-in and day-out, but they can also act as a window into your overall health.

Early warning signs of health issues can show up on your feet first. For example, nerve issues affect the feet first because they’re farthest from our heart and spines. Similarly, our bodies send blood to internal organs and the brain before the extremities, so our feet are readily jeopardized when our bodies experience danger or threats. 

Therefore, paying attention to changes in your feet can help you catch serious problems before they manifest elsewhere.

The following symptoms could be signs of larger concerns:

Dry, flaking, itchy, or peeling skin

Dry, flaking, itchy, or peeling skin may be a sign of a thyroid condition or a fungal infection. Dry, cracked or flaky skin around the heel or on the ball of the foot could signal a thyroid condition. Other symptoms associated with thyroid conditions are weight gain, numbness in the hands, and vision problems. Itchiness and peeling are signs of athlete’s foot, though they could also be symptoms of eczema or psoriasis.  

Balding or hairless feet and toes

Balding or hairless feet and toes may be a sign of circulation problems such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). While men tend to have more toe hair than women, we all tend to have fine hairs on our toes and feet. Losing this hair could be a sign of poor blood flow, and one cause of this is PAD. Leg pain and cold lower legs are also symptoms of PAD.

Foot numbness

Foot numbness may be a sign of circulation problems like PAD, peripheral neuropathy associated with type 2 diabetes, other neurological problems, arthritis, or long-standing alcoholism. If you experience foot numbness regularly, especially while you’re active, you shouldn’t ignore it.

Neuropathy is a complication of nerves that is caused by diabetes. It damages the skin and causes loss of sensation in the feet.

Toenail discoloration

Toenail discoloration may be a sign of malignancy, injury, a fungal infection, or too many pedicures.

Black spots or lines under your toenails

Always check your feet for suspicious moles, as you would your body and face. Melanoma specifically can show up as dark spots beneath the toenails. If you’ve recently dropped something on your toe or had another injury that could cause dried blood to pool under the toenail, that could also create a similar discoloration. However, blood under the nail will grow out; skin cancer won’t.

Yellow toenails

Yellow toenails could be a sign of a fungal infection like athlete’s foot, especially if accompanied by brittleness or flaking. They could also mean that you’ve been wearing toenail polish for months in a row, without a break. As mentioned in our recent skin care tips blog post, some nail polishes contain formaldehyde, which can turn your nails yellow. 

Yellowness can also occur naturally with age.

Morning foot or heel pain

Foot or heel pain upon standing or rising in the morning may be a sign of arthritis, plantar fasciitis. If you pain occurs with the first steps out of bed, it could be related to one of these conditions.  

Foot cramping

Frequent foot cramping may be a sign of dehydration, nutrient deficiency, circulation issues, or nerve damage. Foot pain can come from cramps caused by dehydration or a lack of calcium, potassium, and magnesium in your diet. If you’re drinking enough water, especially when you exercise, and eating a healthy diet, you should make an appointment to determine if there is a more significant issue.  

Sores or Wound

A sore that won’t heal may be a sign of diabetes or skin cancer. Nerve damage from diabetes can lead to sores that you don’t feel and that can become worse or infected. Another cause of non-healing wound could be a form of malignancy. 

Cold feet

Feet that are always cold may be a sign of hypothyroidism, poor circulation (PAD), or Raynaud’s disease. Hypothyroidism is also associated with hair loss, fatigue, unexplained weight gain, and depression. If your toes are cold and turn colors (white, blue, or red), it could be due to Raynaud’s disease. This is a common condition in which blood vessels spasm and constrict when experiencing cold temperatures. 

Enlarged big toe

Suddenly enlarged big toe may be a sign of gout, inflammatory arthritis, infection, or trauma. The toe joint may be red, hot, swollen, and painful.

Increasing foot pain

Foot pain that gets worse throughout the day may be a sign of arthritis. Progressive foot pain could also be due to stress injury or fracture. Pain from fractures usually abates with rest and intensifies when bearing weight.

Changes in your gait

Changes in your gait may be a sign of neurological problems like a stroke or multiple sclerosis or a herniated disc in your back. Whenever your gait is causing you to be unstable or to experience pain, you should consult us immediately.

Swelling

Swelling could be a sign of many problems such as a stress fracture or tendon tear; circulation issues; thyroid problems; a reaction to a medication; or congestive heart failure. Swollen feet are common after standing for a long time, or a small or more substantial injury may cause it. However, excessive swelling not due to an injury should be assessed.

**Please note that this article is intended to informative, not diagnostic. A diagnosis can only be made once we’ve had the chance to inspect and observe your feet in person. If you’ve noticed any of these changes in your feet, please make an appointment to discuss your concern with a physician in one of our locations throughout West Michigan.**