By Anna Bird
While we may not think to regularly check and examine our feet, their health and appearance can provide a glimpse into our body’s overall health. Potentially serious health conditions can be caught and treated early with a simple foot self-examination.
While you may contact your podiatrist if you experience chronic, intense foot pain, here are some physical signs to look for that may or may not warrant a call to your podiatrist or doctor:
1. Dry, Flaking Skin
Dry, flaky, or even cracked skin on the heel and ball of the foot are often disregarded and attributed to the weather. Sometimes that is all it is; dry skin. The flaky, dry skin can also be a symptom of a problem with your thyroid, the gland that regulates your metabolism, heart rate, tissue growth, blood pressure and functioning of your nervous system.
But if you notice that the skin on your feet is dry, and you also have symptoms like weight gain, numbness in your hands, or vision problems, set up an appointment with your doctor.
2. Hair Loss on Toes
Yes, there is hair on the tops of your toes. While women’s toe hair is finer and can be harder to see, the loss of some or all the toe hair can be a sign of poor blood flow to the feet. In many cases, the cause of this insufficient blood flow is a peripheral arterial disease (PAD). If left untreated, PAD may lead to stroke, heart attack or foot amputation.
3. Black Spots on Feet or Toenails or Lines Under Your Toenails
It is natural for your toenail to become discolored when it experiences trauma, such as when a heavy object falls on it. However, black, lined toenails that don’t lose their discoloration can be a sign of a simple fungal infection or a serious melanoma prognosis.
Tiny black spots that look like moles on the surface of your feet can also be a sign of melanoma and requires prompt examination and treatment by a medical professional.
4. Red, White and Blue Toes
Toes that change color, mainly those that turn white, black, blue and purple may be disconcerting. However, this discoloration of the toes is the hallmark characteristic of Raynaud’s disease. This condition is not life-threatening, nor does it trigger additional health concerns. The discoloration of Raynaud’s disease is caused by the sudden, temporary narrowing of the arteries. This sudden narrowing of the arteries is often due to cold temperatures and stress.
5. Clubbed Toes
If you notice that your toenails are rounded and curve downward, they are clubbed. While clubbed toenails can be a hereditary deformity, it can also be a sign of more serious health conditions including heart disease, digestive disorders, liver disorders and infections.
6. Swollen Feet
Typically, you may notice your feet get swollen when it is injured, or when you’ve been standing or sitting too long. Swollen feet can also indicate poor circulation, a kidney disorder, a blood clot, an underactive thyroid or a problem with the lymphatic system.
7. Sores That Won’t Heal
Normally, if your body is healthy, it will heal itself from injury quickly. Foot injuries often heal themselves after a little time. Foot sores or injuries that don’t seem to heal can be a sign of diabetes. It can also be the result of poor circulation.
8. Claw Toes
Do your toes regularly curl downward and no matter what you do, you can’t get them to unbend? Claw toes is a foot deformity that has a variety of causes including small, tight shoes, nerve damage, alcoholism, diabetes and neurological issues.
9. Yellow Toenails
Thick, yellow toenails are common and are indicators of a fungal infection. Persistent fungal infection can be symptoms of psoriasis, lung problems, lymphedema, and rheumatoid arthritis.
10. Spoon-Shaped Toenails
Sometimes an injury to the nail or frequent exposure to petroleum-based solvents can create a concave, spoon-like shape. However, iron deficiency also can cause this unusual shape.
11. White Toenails
White toenails may be the result of an injury, a nail infection or psoriasis. In these cases, part or all a nail separates from the nail bed, giving it a white color. If your toenails are intact, however, it can be an indication of a more serious health concern, including kidney disease, liver disease, and congestive heart failure.
12. Pitted Toenails
Punctured, pitted toenails are common amongst people with psoriasis. The rough, pitted appearance is the result of the improper growth of the nail at the nail plate.
The appearance of your feet is just as important as how your feet feel when it comes to your overall health. Quick, daily foot self-exams are easy ways to stem off potentially serious health issues.
If you notice anything unusual about the appearance of your feet, contact your podiatrist or doctor.
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