While our eyes are believed to be the windows to our souls, could our feet be the windows to our overall health?
“The foot is a complicated body part, but something we often take for granted,” said Joseph Dobrusin, a podiatrist at Banner Health Center. “While we usually don’t get concerned about our feet until we’ve bruised, sprained or broken something, our feet can tell us a great deal about our overall health.”
Dr. Dobrusin shares eight things your feet could be telling you about your health. As you read these symptoms, don’t freak out just yet and rush to the doctor to have your feet checked. Most likely, you are just fine. Dr. Dobrusin has this sage advice:
“Look, common things are common, and rare things are rare,” he said. “The likelihood is that you are perfectly fine. Most likely your symptoms are benign, but it is important to be aware of anything that could be an underlying health condition.”
1. Cold Feet and Toes…
Possible medical issue: vascular disorders due to familial tendencies, diabetes, smoking and other factors, peripheral artery disorder (PAD) or circulation problems due to diabetes
While you may just need to bundle up and sit by the fire for a bit, having cold feet may point to a vascular disorder or circulatory problem. Restricted blood flow from PAD can cause your feet or toes to feel colder than the rest of your body. Conditions associated with PAD may be occlusive (when an artery becomes blocked) or spastic (when an artery constricts due to a spasm). An example of occlusive is peripheral arterial occlusion, and an example of spastic is Reynaud’s disease.
Your cold feet may also be due to poor circulation as a result of diabetes, smoking, and other familial contributary factors. Frequent high blood sugar levels can narrow the arteries and reduce blood supply to tissues, which can leave your feet feeling cold.
2. Burning Pain…
Possible medical issues: neuropathy, PAD, peripheral neuropathy due to diabetes or other factors
Although most burning pain in feet is due to nerve damage in the legs, called neuropathy, inflammation of the feet, such as athlete’s foot, and those with PAD can cause burning pain in the feet as well.
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3. Discolored or Deformed Toenails…
Possible issue: nail fungus, overuse (microtrauma) injury (common in bowling, tennis, hiking, running), psoriasis, anemia, immunosuppression from chemotherapy, melanoma
When your toes are “funky” there could be many culprits. Some of the common things are nail fungus and overuse injuries from repetitive trauma, starting and stopping, kicking and other athletic endeavors. If you notice your toenails have changed in color, have little holes (pits), white lines, look sunken or spoon-shaped, these could indicate other underlying medical conditions listed above.
4. Dark Line or Bruise Under Your Toenail…
Possible issue: melanoma, subungual hematoma
Although very, very rare, the discolored spot underneath your toenail could be a sign of melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer. It usually appears like a brown or black streak or looks similar to a bruise. It also could be due to an injury or trauma to the nail, which can cause a subungual hematoma (bleeding under the nail).
5. Numbness or Tingling In Feet and Toes…
Possible issue: peripheral neuropathy, b12 deficiency, spinal stenosis, and other neurological conditions, diabetes, chemotherapy
Everyone’s limbs fall asleep now and then, but if you notice that your feet and toes are regularly tingling for longer than a few minutes, check in with your primary care physician as it could be a sign of something more serious.
While most likely your symptoms will reveal something benign, it’s good to keep an eye on your feet. Be kind to those hard-working body parts. They just might have something important to tell you.