Are your foot problems telling you something?
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Our feet are literally passports to our destinations. They serve as the foundation of our bodies, responsible for supporting the many mechanics that make walking, running, jumping and the lion’s share of our mobility possible. All of which means we should treat them as valuable as our eyes and hands.
Your feet also serve as an alarm system to warns you about your overall health. Paying close attention to what happens to your feet, even if they aren’t hurting, can help you better care for overall health and well-being. This list of 15 things your feet say about your health is a basic checklist designed to create awareness of how important the condition of your feet are in relation to overall health.
We depend on our feet every day, and sometimes we take them for granted. Proper hygiene is not enough—a healthy lifestyle and a positive approach to being physically and mentally fit also plays a vital role in the upkeep of a healthy body.
If your feet are giving you warning signs, never ignore it! Inspecting your feet at least once a week is advised, as it can inform you of subtle changes in your health and help you avoid further complications if there are any. Get yourself checked by a medical professional if anything is unusual or concerning. Here are 15 signs you must be on the look-out for.
15 Things Your Feet Say About Your Health
1. Foot cramps
Cramps happen when muscles involuntarily contract. They can happen anytime, whether you’re out and about or having a good night’s sleep. The pain from foot cramps also varies from mild to intense.
Overstraining your muscles is the most common cause of foot cramps. Too much exertion and force by the muscles can make them spasm and contract more. Foot cramps can also be symptoms of other medical problems, namely dehydration and potassium insufficiency. The lack of water affects the functions of tissues and other organs. Potassium is an electrolyte that controls essential functions, specifically muscle movement, and maintenance.
There are also more serious health risks linked to foot cramps. It could mean that you have poor blood circulation. Because of the narrowed arteries, blood supply doesn’t get to the feet, causing them to cramp. Frequent and intense foot cramps can also lead to nerve damage.
There are some simple ways to prevent foot cramps. Stretching can make a significant difference. It can warm up your muscles before any activity. Stretching is particularly important before and after exercising. Also, make sure you are getting enough water and minerals, specifically potassium. Coconuts and bananas are a great source of potassium.
2. Sores that do not heal
Sores and wounds just seem like a painful and irritating thing to have on your skin. But foot ulcers, open wounds that don’t heal or keep returning, could have a more serious source.
People with diabetes are prone to having foot ulcers. Nerve damage from diabetes causes diabetic neuropathic ulcers. This happens because of an irregular blood sugar level. These ulcers are usually found on the sole of the feet, and because people with diabetes typically lose feeling, cuts and scrapes can go unnoticed and become infected. This infection should be treated immediately.
To avoid infections from open wounds on the foot, wear protective but comfortable footwear. Also, occasionally check your feet if they are injured.
3. Cold feet
Cold feet can be irritating. Getting cold feet is a natural response by your body as it prioritizes vital organs over extremities. In cold temperatures, blood vessels constrict and reduce blood flow to extremities; this means that body heat is also lowered.
There is a danger to prolonged exposure to extreme cold. Since blood circulation is reduced, and so is oxygen delivery. In this case, your feet will change in color (bluish-violet); fortunately, however, the color will return once it’s warm again.
Cold feet can be a symptom of significant health issues, specifically anemia, wherein your body has an inadequate or low supply of red blood cells.
Cold feet might also be a sign of hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid gland means that the production of the thyroid hormone is not sufficient. This underproduction can negatively affect your metabolism. People whose metabolism is affected may encounter various problems in their blood flow, heartbeat, and even temperature.
4. Stiff and painful feet
Common causes of aching feet include injury, overuse, and strained muscles. However, there are underlying medical issues connected to this. Bunions are protruding bones or tissues around a joint. This can happen when shoes are too tight, or may even be hereditary. For severe foot pain, surgery may be required.
Stiff and painful feet might also mean you have Morton neuroma, an accumulation of noncancerous tissue in the nerves between the long bones of the foot. These bones squeeze the nerve in between when rubbed together. Standing or walking for too long can cause this to happen. To treat this, simply wear comfortable and appropriate footwear for walking. It’s also important to take breaks so that your feet can rest.
5. Heel pain
Injuries cause heel pain; however, major medical issues may have a hand in it too. Plantar fasciitis can cause severe pain to your heel; this is when too much pressure causes the band of tissue from the heel to your toes to become inflamed. Heel pain is typical for people with troubled foot arches, or flat-footed persons.
Heel pain could also mean posterior calcaneal exostosis. It is where the back of the heel produces a bony growth; this is linked to long-term bursitis. Bursitis occurs when the bursa, a sac that lines joints and allows smooth movement from tendons and muscle becomes inflamed.
6. Pain in the big toe
Severe pain in the big toe might be part of a bigger picture. This could be a symptom of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage of your joints wears down. A deteriorated cartilage is no longer capable of protecting your bones. So, if they rub against each other, pain and inflammation are expected. Also, bone spurs are also produced. What are these? Bone spurs are bony protrusions that cause hallux rigidus, which limits the movement of the big toe.
One health issue that can also be seen is gout, a form of arthritis that happens when the uric acid in the body builds up and crystallizes in the joints. Uric acid is a waste product that leaves the body as urine. Because symptoms generally start in the big toe, it could mean you have gout.
7. Burning pain
Burning pain in the feet could be a symptom of Grierson-Gopalan Syndrome or burning feet syndrome. Aside from a hot and burning sensation, symptoms include numbness, sharp pain, “pins and needles,” and a dull ache.
Other conditions cause nerve damage that can lead to burning feet syndrome. Peripheral neuropathy from diabetes damages peripheral sensory nerves in the spinal cord that cuts communication to extremities.
8. Ingrown toenails
Ingrown toenails happen when the nails grow into the flesh because of its excessive curve, and usually happens to the big toe. It makes the area painful, red, and swollen. Ingrown toenails that are not treated can lead to an infection, not only on the skin but more worrisome, in the bone. To prevent this from happening, you should consider wearing shoes that are more comfortable and dont squeeze your toes and nails.
Always trim your nails properly in a straight line and do not cut them too short. If the problem is already occurring, you can remove and treat the affected area yourself. However, having a professional, either a medical practitioner or a pedicurist, remove your ingrown toenail is much safer.
9. Numb toes
Numb toes are a sign of nerve damage or blood vessel issues. Having no connection between your brain and body parts can cause you to feel a tingling sensation.
Some medical conditions that include numb toes under their scope of symptoms include diabetic neuropathy (diabetes), multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injury.
10. Swollen feet
The simple explanation to swollen feet is that the veins expand to cool down the body in hot temperatures. A serious cause, however, is venous insufficiency; this entails problems with blood circulation, blood leakage down vessels and fluid retention due to damaged valves.
Swollen feet might also be a symptom of lymphedema. This disease occurs when lymphatic fluid, which helps rid the body of harmful substances, accumulates in the tissues because of lymph vessel problems.
A natural remedy for swollen feet: elevate your feet above your heart. By doing so, you will regulate your body’s blood flow. Also, to keep the blood flowing, avoid clothes that are too tight and restricting. Stretching and being active can also help. It’s also essential to maintain a healthy weight. Also, cutting down on salt helps in avoiding fluid accumulation.
11. Discolored toes
Discolored toes are a common effect of bruising from injuries. It could also mean your body is lacking oxygen in the blood.
Discolored toes might also be a symptom of lupus, an autoimmune condition where your immune system mistakingly attacks organs and tissues that are healthy. This could lead to vasculitis, where blood vessels are inflamed.
12. Clubbing of toenails
Clubbing of toenails happens when the nails become broader and rounder due to the tissues thickening under the nail plate.
Toenail clubbing is commonly associated with lung problems such as cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and bronchiectasis. Another adverse effect is asbestosis; it is wherein asbestos is inhaled and scars the lung tissue.
Top tip: quit smoking!
13. Itchy feet
Itchy feet are commonly associated with athlete’s foot, a fungal infection that occurs because of dirt and sweat. Itchiness may also be caused by allergies, pests, or dry skin. Whichever the cause, you should have those checked.
Itchy feet can also be associated with chronic medical problems. It could be a sign of kidney failure. Kidneys are responsible for removing wastes from the body. If the waste is not disposed of or expelled, then it will stay in the body and will cause itchiness. Another possible reason your feet are always itchy is thyroid gland disease, a disease that slows down the replacement of dead skin cells, leaving the skin dry and flaky.
Itchiness can also be a symptom of cancer, particularly liver or pancreatic.
Psoriasis is another potential culprit responsible for itchy feet. Psoriasis is a skin condition that occurs because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. Psoriasis speeds up the production of cells and creates a scaly red rash.
14. Dragging of feet
Drop foot or foot drop is when you have a hard time lifting the front part of your foot. When this happens, you would typically drag your feet when walking. Common in older people, drop foot is the result of muscle and bone degeneration.
Alternatively, when drop foot occurs in younger people, it could then be a symptom of a neurological, muscular, or anatomical problem.
From a neurological perspective, brain and spinal cord issues cause nerve damage that affects the transmission between the brain and feet, causing drop foot. Muscle problems linked to foot drop include muscular dystrophy, where it can be passed down through genes and cause progressive muscle weakness.
15. Yellowing of nails
The yellowing of nails may not usually spark great concern as it is commonly associated with the use of nail polish and aging. However, the yellowing of nails could be a symptom of something more serious. Infections from fungi might be a cause of the discoloration. When a nail comes in contact and is infected with fungi, it is called onychomycosis. Other medically related issues include psoriasis, tuberculosis, jaundice, and diabetes.
An Ounce of Prevention..
In addition to knowing these 15 things your feet say about your health, paying attention to our feet is important – our feet can provide a valuable look into our overall or general health. It is better to prevent a disease from happening or from letting it progress rather than waiting for signs and symptoms to occur.
Even so, be a keen observer and try to assess what is happening. Check your entire body, and if there are any signs and symptoms that show and persist within days and no remedies seem to work, then it might be best to consult a doctor.
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