Health Warnings from Your Feet

Health Warnings from Your Feet

Your feet do much more than support you and move you from here to there. They also give warning signs for several health conditions. What are your feet telling you?

1. Dry, Flaking Feet: If your feet are often dry and flaky, especially if moisturizer doesn’t help, it could signal problems with the thyroid gland, whose hormones impact blood pressure, metabolic rate, tissue growth and development of both the skeletal and nervous systems. Brittle toenails can also be a sign of thyroid issues. See your doctor to have your thyroid checked.

2. Balding Toes: Losing the hair on your toes can indicate poor blood circulation caused by peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a buildup of plaque in the legs that impacts about 8 million Americans. In addition to decreased hair growth, PAD can be indicated by purplish toes and thin or shiny skin.

3. Numb Feet: Foot numbness can also be caused by PAD. It’s also a common symptom of peripheral neuropathy which is related to type 2 diabetes. If you experience foot numbness not related to sitting too long in one position, see a doctor. Also watch out for cuts or wounds that don’t heal and mention those to your doctor as well.

4. Discoloration under Your Toenails: If you see black or brown lines or spots under your toenail and haven’t injured that toe, have your doctor check it right away for a hidden melanoma. If the toenail itself is discolored, you might have a fungal infection. Tiny red lines under your toenail could signal broken blood vessels or splinter hemorrhages from small blood clots which be caused by endocarditis, a heart infection that can lead to heart failure if left untreated. Always check your toes and toenails closely!

5. Waking Up with Foot Pain: Pay attention if you feel burning or shooting foot pain after getting out of bed. You could have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammation that can cause pain in the small foot joints. Or you could be suffering from plantar fasciitis, in which the thick band of tissue that connects your heels to your toes becomes inflamed.

6. Enlarged, Painful Big Toe: If you wake up with your big toe hard, red, painful and swollen, you might be suffering from gout—a form of arthritis that usually affects the big toe joint. This is often caused by a diet high in purine, which is found in red meats, fish and some alcohols.

7. A “Clubbed” Appearance: If your toes (or fingers) appear to be rounder and wider, you might need to be checked for lung cancer, heart disease or intestinal disease.

8. Spooned Nails: An indentation in your toenail that is deep enough to hold a drop of water can signal either too much or not enough iron in your system, as well as Raynaud’s disease (which affects blood supply to the fingers and toes) and sometimes indicates lupus, an autoimmune disease.

9. A Sudden High Arch: If your arch is suddenly higher, you could be experiencing nerve damage, including Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), a hereditary condition that damages the peripheral nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. CMT can also lead to changes in gait, foot numbness, difficulty balancing, muscles loss in the lower legs, and similar symptoms in the arms and hands.