How do you know if you have a health problem? It turns out, your feet might alert you to many of your problems.
Have you ever noticed dry, flaky feet? Tried everything to stop the peeling; even moisturizer won’t work? It might be a thyroid problem. When your thyroid stops working, it doesn’t produce the correct amount of hormones your body needs. This affects many things in your body, including tissue growth, blood pressure, and your nervous system development. If your dry skin has settled in around your feet, or if it’s worsened with cracks that won’t heal, it’s time for your doctor to check your thyroid and ensure it’s working properly.
Have your toes suddenly gone bald? It could signal poor blood circulation. Peripheral arterial disease – or PAD – is a buildup of plaque in the system. Its signs include thin or shiny toes, a decrease in hair on and around your feet and ankles.
Do you suddenly have numbness in your foot? It’s usually a sign of low blood flow. You’ve probably experienced this from time to time; it happens if you sit at a weird angle or sat in a position for too long. We often say our foot has gone to sleep. But if it happens regularly, don’t ignore it. It can be a sign of peripheral neuropathy that’s related to type 2 diabetes.
Do you have spots or lines under your toenails that never seem to go away? Your toenails often change color if you drop a heavy object onto your foot, or bump it while walking around. But if you don’t remember an incident, or it happens frequently and won’t go away, it could be caused by a fungal infection, or in some cases, a hidden melanoma. Catching it early is half the battle, so it’s important to bring up any problems with your doctor right away.
Have you ever had an enlarged big toe? While it might be painful, it might not be from bumping something while you walked. Instead, it could be the aftermath of gout. Foods high in purine – it’s a chemical found in things like red meats, fish, and certain alcohol – raise uric acid in the body. If it’s overproduced, it most commonly shows up in the big toe or ankle. Anti-inflammatory drugs are good for the short term; a low purine diet is best for long term prevention.
Are your feet particularly painful in the morning? A burning or shooting pain as you rise in the morning could be the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis. RA inflames your joints and can be especially painful to the small joints in your feet. It’s also possible it could be plantar fasciitis, a condition caused by a band of tissue that contracts while you sleep and remains contracted until you stretch out the tissue for the day. It can also be a sign of dehydration or a lack of proper nutrients. Calcium, potassium, and magnesium, plus drinking more water throughout the day can all help you rise with less pain.
If you’ve experienced pain in your feet and it continues for any length of time, your best course of action is to alert your doctor and solve the problem as quickly as possible.