Ok so I'm exaggerating, but the health of your feet is often a good indicator of your overall health so when something seems wrong with your feet, it may have started elsewhere. Let’s look at a few signs our feet may tell us and what they may mean for our overall health:
- Skin and nails
Many people have dry feet and we just put up with it as a side effect of our feet being feet, but dryness in not normal. If you have dry feet no matter how much you moisturize, have your thyroid checked. A misbehaving thyroid can cause extreme skin dryness and even cracking of the toenails. Check your nails too. Do you see small pits or curves in your nails? These could be signs of psoriasis, anemia, or even lupus. But don’t jump to conclusions, only a podiatrist or other physician can definitively diagnose these conditions.
Do you have bald toes? Are your feet cold all of the time? These could be indications of poor circulation. Most people know when they have a serious vascular disease (PAD, arteriosclerosis, etc), but if you once had hairy toes and now they are smooth, this could indicate that your circulation is declining. Cold feet can also be another indicator of a pesky thyroid.
Did you wake up with a bright red, hot, and painful big toe? That would be gout, an inflammatory disease that’s a cousin to arthritis. How about sudden clubbing – swelling of the digits creating a ‘rounded’ look to feet and toes? This could indicate a serious lung infection, intestinal disease (like Crohns), or even lung cancer. Watch the tips of your toes specifically and if you see swelling that just won’t go away, see your podiatrist. Just like vascular diseases though, most people know they have a greater health issue before they see these symptoms.
- Persistent sores or numbness
Both of these are strong indicators of diabetes. If you see sores or injuries on your feet (particularly the bottom) that just wont seem to heal or you suddenly start experiencing pins and needles sensations in your feet, have your blood sugar checked. Don’t put this one off either, when left untreated (meaning managing your diabetes) a foot ulcer can worsen over time creating infection. In fact, 6% of people with chronic ulcers end up hospitalized from complications.
I say it over and over again, but pain is never normal! If you experience pain of any sort in your feet, go get it checked. Having pain around your joints? Could be an early indication of arthritis. Constantly cramping up? Could be dehydration or a mineral insufficiency of potassium, calcium, magnesium, or sodium. If your feet hurt all the time and become very painful to walk on you could be losing bone density, an early indication of osteoporosis.
There are all sorts of incredible things your feet can tell you (even if they aren’t really predicting the future) so pay attention to them. Examine your skin and nails for abnormalities, watch for sores or discolorations, and remember that pain in your feet is not normal! Start by seeing your podiatrist to rule out a directly related foot injury or disease then see your primary care physician to continue routine health monitoring. Your feet can tell you a lot if you just stop and listen.