Our feet are an extremely important part of our body, but most people ignore subtle symptoms until their feet are virtually screaming! We should also keep in mind, that our feet might be trying to warn us of other issues that affect your overall health. Many serious conditions can start out with symptoms in your feet.
Here are the top 8 things your feet are trying to tell you. Time to listen!
- Cold feet. Many times your feet are cold just because you are actually cold and need to put on some socks and shoes; but chronic cold feet especially in the summer can be a sign of PAD (peripheral arterial disease). This is another word for poor circulation. This is made even worse with smoking and some medications. Cold feet can also be a symptom of decreased heart function like in congestive heart failure or early heart block. There is also a condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon, which causes cold hands and feet. This may be an early sign of an auto-immune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. If you notice that your feet are chronically cold or numb, time to visit your favorite podiatrist for some circulation testing.
- Itchy feet. Itchy feet can be due to a fungal infection with the typical athlete’s foot fungus or can be a sign of contact dermatitis cause by being in contact with something you are allergic to. Neither of these are dangerous, but they can be extremely annoying and lead to secondary bacterial infections caused by the splitting and cracking of the skin on your feet. If you have chronically itchy feet or a rash, talk to your podiatrist about treatment for these annoying issues.
- Skin lesions. Many skin lesions are just from rubbing in your shoes or signs of a skin disorder like psoriasis; but it is important to have all skin lesions checked because they can be a skin cancer or an early infection, especially if you are diabetic.
- Clubbing of your toes. Changes in your toenails and the tips of your toes can be an early sign of heart and lung disease. Often the tips of your toes start to bulge and the toenails start to curve. If you notice skin and nail changes that look like a club or spoon, time to get them checked out since clubbing is usually from decreased oxygen in your blood and can be an early sign of lung cancer and heart disease.
- Swollen feet and ankles. Most people experience swollen feet and ankles from time to time caused by extensive standing, a long airplane flight or too much salt in your diet. If your swelling persists more than a day or so and is accompanied by pain, dizziness or difficulty breathing, it can be a sign of a much more serious medical condition like a deep venous thrombosis (blood clot in your leg) which can be life threatening. Chronic swelling can be a sign of congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic renal insufficiency or even a side effect of medications. Don’t ignore swelling in your feet and ankles that have no obvious explanation!
- Burning and numbness in your feet. Burning feet may just be from standing too long and having swollen feet, but also may be an early sign of diabetes or PAD (poor circulation). If you have burning sensations that become chronic or painful, then your podiatrist should evaluate you for neuropathy or PAD.
- Severe pain and swelling in your great toe. Pain in your big toe can simply be a sign of an ingrown toenail or minor trauma, but severe pain is usually due to gout or an infection. If your big toe joint is red, hot and swollen as well as severely painful, that’s usually gout. Gout can be a sign that your kidneys aren’t functioning correctly or that you need to adjust your diet. Don’t ignore severe pain and swelling!
- Yellow, thick toenails. Nails are not supposed to be yellow and chalky. This is usually a sign of a fungal infection. An itchy rash around the toes may also be present. This is usually not a dangerous condition, but in diabetics or people with other immune system compromising conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or renal failure, fungal toenails can lead to infections and gangrene. Don’t ignore toenail changes! Seek the advice of your podiatrist when you notice changes.
Let me reinforce that most people ignore subtle symptoms in their feet and can miss early warning signs of a more systemic problem. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or notice any chronic changes in your feet, time for a visit to your podiatrist!