Doctors often refer to feet to decode and reveal signs of certain diseases or conditions. Not only do feet bear the full weight of the body, they are also excellent diagnostic indicators. Now you can keep an eye on your feet for clues to your health. Here are some of the things that your feet say about your health that you may want to share with your doctor on your next visit.
Symptoms of the Feet that Reveal Other Illnesses
Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following make an appearance:
- If any part of the foot or toes has constant numb areas, the lack of feeling could be an early warning sign of peripheral neuropathy or worse, diabetes, as high sugar levels trigger a numbing response in the nerves of the legs and feet.
- Changing shape. If the toes (or fingers) are changing shape, gradually growing rounder and wider, the condition is known as “clubbing” and indicative of lung cancer or heart disease. Other diseases can cause clubbing, but if the change occurs later in life it is most likely a sign of illness and should be checked as soon as possible.
- Dry, flaking skin found on the feet and toes could be indicative of a thyroid issue. The thyroid controls the release of certain hormones, the metabolic rate, blood pressure, tissue growth and functions of the nervous system. If using lotion or a salve does not help, then seek a doctor’s assistance. If it isn’t simple athlete’s foot, it could be a sign of something much worse.
- Thinning hair on the toes. Hair grows from the top of the foot and on the toes. Balding of the toes could be a sign of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), during which plaque builds up in the arteries of the legs, restricting blood flow which could lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or amputation.
- A sore on the foot, predominantly the bottom, that doesn’t heal is a key indicator of diabetes. Raised levels of glucose lead to damage in the tissues of the foot. Some people may attribute the sore to bad shoes, pressure, or friction but it could be indicative of a serious health issue. But if the sore won’t go away or becomes infected and you are in fact diabetic, it could lead to greater health concerns.
- An enlarged (and painful) big toe. If you didn’t stub your toe or drop a weight on it at the gym, an enlarged and painful big toe could be indicative of gout. A form of arthritis, gout occurs when uric acid builds up, usually in the joint of the big toe or lower extremities. Gout attacks are often brought on by diets rich in purine (to include red meats, shellfish and certain alcoholic drinks). Gout is extremely painful and can be controlled through diet and medication.
Proper Foot Care
There are a few steps you should take daily to ensure the proper health of your feet and body.
- Wash and examine feet daily. Wash your feet in warm water daily and dry them off afterwards. Use a mirror to look at the bottoms as well. For a real treat, soak painful feet in an tub of warm water mixed with soothing Epsom salts.
- Keep skin smooth and soft. Use a moisturizer or a thin coat of lotion over the tops and bottoms of the feet each day. If they are especially dry, moisturize your feet before bed, then place them in socks to lock in moisture.
- Treat callouses and corns. Out-of-control, large callouses can be extremely painful; use a pumice stone to gently smooth out affected areas daily. Don’t forget to advise your doctor about those pesky plantar’s warts, which can take months to treat.
- Trim toenails weekly (or as needed). You can avoid painful ingrown toenails by maintaining and examining your feet daily. If you are diabetic, consider asking your doctor to trim your nails for you.
- Wear protective clothing. Clean, dry socks and properly fitting shoes protect your feet against the elements and injury. Going barefoot can lead to cuts, scrapes, athlete’s foot, rashes and plantar fasciitis. Why risk it?
- Maintain blood flow to the feet. This can be accomplished by raising the feet when sitting. If unable to elevate them where you are, wiggling your toes and rotating your ankles three times a day for 10-15 minutes will maintain proper blood flow to the feet.
Care by the Foot
Your feet tell a story, and the great doctors at Orthopedic Associates of West Jersey are listening. If you think your foot issues may be more, or you simply are experiencing any sort pain, give us a call. Maintaining proper foot care is just as crucial as any other part of the body, yet feet are often among overlooked. We are here to help. Call Orthopedic Associates of West Jersey today at (973) 989-0888 or, if you would rather schedule an appointment online, you may do so by clicking here.