Dr. Kathleen Jones
What Are Your Feet Telling You?
Did you know your feet can tell you a lot about your health? Unless you routinely have pedicures, you probably don’t give your feet a lot of thought, but if you pay close attention, they could be one of the first things to alert you to a potential health issue. Here are some common signs and symptoms to watch out for:
Abnormally high arch
If you notice the arch of your foot is oddly higher than it used to be, there is a chance you could have an untreated neuromuscular issue. In some cases, a high arch is caused by Charcot-Marie-Tooth, or CMT, a chronic condition where the lower-leg muscles deteriorate, numbness develops in the feet and legs, and gait and balance are interrupted. CMT can be managed with pain medication, braces, and physical therapy.
Sudden hair loss on your toes or feet could be a sign of peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, caused by decreased blood flow in the legs. Bald toes and feet may be more noticeable in men than women, so monitor carefully.
Cold feet and toes
Cold feet isn’t unheard of (especially this time of year!) but perpetually cold feet can be another symptom of PAD, other circulation issues, or thyroid disease. Get yourself some warm comfy socks and if the issues persists, consider looking deeper into the issue to make sure there is nothing else going on.
“Clubbing” is a condition where the toes become wider and more rounded in appearance because of swelling and limited oxygen supply. This is a symptom to be especially vigilant about, as clubbing is often associated with serious heart or lung problems.
Extremely dry feet
Dry skin is usually more annoying than harmful, but it can sometimes be the result of a deeper issue, like a thyroid problem. Having your thyroid tested to make sure it is working properly is never a bad idea, especially if lotion doesn't help your foot dryness or if the skin appears as if it is cracking open.
"Foot drop" is the inability to raise the front part of your foot. Foot drop can sometimes be caused by several serious disorders, among them multiple sclerosis and strokes. If you haven’t recently sprained your foot and suddenly can’t raise it, it’s a good idea to get it checked out.
Pitted toenails are usually caused by psoriasis, known for causing chronic patches of irritated skin. Small holes in the nail or white patches are also common psoriasis symptoms. There is no cure for psoriasis, but there are plenty of helpful treatments. If you have psoriasis, using a medicated cream and scheduling regular manicures/pedicures can help keep your skin and nails feeling and looking their best.
Swollen big toe
If your big toe looks like you recently stubbed it, but you don’t remember doing any such thing, there’s a possibility you have gout, a form of arthritis caused by excess uric acid. A chemical found in red meat, fish, and several types of alcohol can raise your chances of developing gout, so enjoy these in moderation to lower your risk.
Small red lines beneath toenails
Small red lines under the toenails are the visual result of tiny broken blood vessels. Culprits can include trauma to the nail, fungal infections, psoriasis, and in some cases, these lines are one of the first signs of a heart infection.
This is one to get checked out right away. If you notice your toenails look sunken-in or severely indented, it’s often a sign of malnutrition, thyroid problems, or iron deficiency (anemia). In rare cases, it may be a sign of lupus.
Straight dark line beneath toenails
A straight, dark line extending from the base of the nail to the edge of the nail is an indication that you may have a type of melanoma (skin cancer). If you do see a dark line, don’t panic - certain fungal infections can cause similar symptoms and are often simple to treat.
Ulcers that won’t heal
This is probably the most recognizable symptom on the list. Ulcers and other sores that won’t heal on their own are a telltale sign of diabetes: roughly 15% of diabetics develop them. Catching this symptom as early as possible is key to a better outcome.
As a naturopathic doctor, one of my passions is empowering my patients to make informed decisions about their own health. I see you as an individual, not just a number on a chart. If you do notice one of the symptoms on this list, there’s no need to panic! When it comes to your wellbeing, it’s always best to have as much information as possible. Call the office today at 614-985-1435 to talk over your concerns and discuss options for diagnosis and treatment.