Health Facts about Your Feet

Your feet are amazing diagnostic tools that can use as clues potentially pointing to a whole host of health problems. But you don’t need to be a doctor to understand what your feet are saying about your health — you just need to know what warning signs to look for. If you notice any of the following telltale signs or symptoms in your feet, you may want consult a healthcare practitioner:

Dry, Flaking Skin
Dry Cracked Feet 160x104If the skin around your heel or on the ball of your foot is dry, cracked, or flaky, it may be a warning sign of a thyroid condition. Your thyroid gland produces hormones that control your metabolic rate, blood pressure, tissue growth, and nervous system functions. Dry skin can signify a problem with your thyroid. Obviously, dry skin can also be the result of many less serious health issues, and sometimes your skin dries out simply because of changes in the weather. 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, visiting a healthcare practitioner may offer some wellness solutions.

Balding Toes
While toe hair is more common and visible in men, women generally have fine hairs on their toes as well. If you notice that your toes are losing a little bit of hair, or if they’ve gone completely bald, it could be a sign of poor blood flow. One cause of insufficient blood supply to the feet and toes is peripheral arterial disease, or PAD for short. When plaque builds up in the arteries of your legs, blood flow can be restricted and PAD can set in. If left untreated, PAD could lead to a heart attack or stroke, or even put you at risk for amputation. If you suspect PAD, see a healthcare practitioner. You can combat symptoms of PAD by giving up smoking, maintaining a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and managing other health conditions, like hypertension or diabetes that can contribute to the condition.

Foot Numbness
Numb Feet 160x127Like toe baldness, foot numbness due to a lack of blood flow in the area can be a sign of PAD. You’ve probably experienced numbness in your feet if you sat in one position for too long, or if you fell asleep at an awkward angle. But if it happens regularly or while you’re active, it’s a problem you shouldn’t ignore. Foot numbness is also one of the more common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy related to type 2 diabetes, which affects millions of people. Diabetes complicates blood flow to your feet, which means wounds or cuts may take a longer time to heal, leaving you susceptible to infection. If you have irregular bouts of foot numbness, and wounds on your feet just don’t seem to heal, talk to a healthcare practitioner. To promote healthy blood flow and help prevent type 2 diabetes, be sure to get Reflexology, regular exercise and start eating healthy foods.

Black Spots or Lines Under Your Toenails
Blackspot ToenailWhen someone steps on your toes or you drop a heavy object onto your foot, you’ll most likely have some toenail discoloration. Dark discoloration under your toenail isn’t typically concerning if you know what caused it. But if you notice discoloration — or black and brown lines — under a toenail and you don’t remember injuring your toe, you might want to talk to your doctor. Dark, vertical lines under a toenail could be a sign of a hidden melanoma. We’re getting better at fighting cancer every day, but hidden melanomas often go overlooked and untreated. Toenail discoloration could also be caused by a fungal infection, and while that’s much less severe than a potential cancer diagnosis, you should not ignore it. My advice is to check your toenails for discoloration every time you cut your nails.

Morning Foot Pain
Foot Pain 89x160A number of people have foot pain in the morning. Burning or shooting foot pain that happens when you take your first few steps out of bed can indicate of a number of potential issues. First, it could be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which inflames your joints and can cause pain even in the small joints of your feet. You can control foot pain and other of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms with alternative therapy and some conventional practices in addition to regular exercise. It’s also possible that your morning foot pain is caused by plantar fasciitis, a condition caused by inflammation in the thick band of tissue that connects your heel to your toes; the band remains in a contracted state while you sleep. When you take your first steps of the day, the tissues stretch. If you’re dealing with inflammation, you’ll notice pain. Some helpful tips are stretching your feet before you get out of bed, or doing foot-strengthening exercises, can help prevent the onset of plantar fasciitis. Lastly, morning foot pain could be caused by a muscle cramp. As with plantar fasciitis, you can avoid foot cramps by stretching your foot muscles before you get out of bed. But cramps may also be a sign of dehydration or a lack of certain nutrients in your diet. Cramps mean your body isn’t getting enough calcium, potassium, and magnesium. You can help prevent morning foot cramps by eating a balanced diet and drinking water before heading to bed.

Swollen Feet
Swollen Feet 160x85This is usually a temporary nuisance caused by standing too long, a long flight or not drinking enough water and sometimes when pregnant. In contrast, feet that stay swollen can be a sign of a serious medical condition. The cause may be poor circulation, a problem with the lymphatic system, or a blood clot. A kidney disorder or under active thyroid can also cause swelling. If you have persistent swelling of your feet, a Reflexology session is helpful along with a wellness program prepared by a healthcare practitioner.

Foot Spasms
Foot Spasms 160x71A sudden, sharp pain in the foot is the hallmark of a muscle spasm or cramp, which can last many minutes. Overwork and muscle fatigue are common causes. Other causes include poor circulation, dehydration, or imbalances in potassium, magnesium, calcium, or vitamin D levels in the body. The changing hormone levels of pregnancy or thyroid disorders may play a role. If spasms are frequent or severe see a healthcare practitioner. Reflexology and Strengthening exercises can help with muscle fatigue.

Yellow Toenails
Yellow Toenails 160x128Your toenails tell a lot about your overall health. A fungal infection often causes thickened yellow toenails. Thick, yellow nails also can be a sign of an underlying disease, including lymph-edema (swelling related to the lymphatic system), lung problems, psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Herbal and homeopathic remedies have been found to be helpful along with a wellness program by a healthcare practitioner.

White Nails
White Toenails 160x103Injury to the nail or illness anywhere in the body can cause white areas in the nails. If part or all of a nail separates from the nail bed it can appear white — and may be due to an injury, nail infection, or psoriasis. If the nail is intact and most of it is white, it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition including liver disease, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease. Talk with a healthcare practitioner to identify the cause and prepare a wellness plan.