Feet are complicated: 28 bones, all subject to stress fractures, some that can cripple us if left unattended, others so small we may not notice there’s a problem until it has become activity limiting. Most of us take our healthy feet for granted, until they’re not. Whether or not you’re experiencing foot Issues, it’s important to know that underlying health disorders often make themselves known in our feet before we are aware of a problem elsewhere.
Here are some foot problems that can signal general health issues, some minor and others that would require immediate medical attention:
Cold feet can be a sign of poor circulation, disorders of the nervous system, or a thyroid condition (too much or too little). Other conditions that can cause cold feet include arteriosclerosis, vascular disease, diabetes, and neuropathy.
Foot cramping is fairly common. It usually indicates that you are dehydrated and might also have nutritional deficiencies. Health authorities recommend adults drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Potassium, calcium and magnesium not only help manage blood pressure; they are essential in preventing foot and leg cramps. Stretching with your toes pointing toward your nose helps.
Foot drop – Inability to lift the front part of your foot is caused by muscle weakness or paralysis. Possible underlying disorders are neurodegenerative disorders, multiple sclerosis, stroke, cerebral palsy, polio, ALS or other nerve or muscle conditions like neuropathy.
Foot sore/ulcer – A foot sore that won’t heal can signal high glucose levels. Uncontrolled glucose levels in your blood often lead to nerve damage in the feet, which reduces sensitivity, resulting in wounds that cause ulcers.
Heel pain – Heel spurs can be a painful consequence of plantar fasciitis. Calcium deposits can build up and form sharp lumps that dig into the fatty pad of the heel. Heel pain also can signal that you have bursitis in the heel, tarsal tunnel syndrome, Haglund’s Deformity (a “pump bump”), posterior tibial tendonitis, or a rare bone infection called osteomyelitis.
Very high arches – If you have thinning of the arch muscles in your foot, it could signal a serious neurological disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. CMT damages the peripheral nerves and causes changes in gait, numbness in the feet, balance difficulties, and muscle loss in the lower legs.
Pigmented patches of skin – If you notice a light patch of skin discoloration or a pigmented or colored lesion on the upper surface of your foot, it could be a melanoma. Another indicator of this potentially deadly form of skin cancer is a dark, vertical line underneath the toe nail. Between 3 and 15 percent of melanomas occur on the foot. Melanomas also can develop on the soles of your feet and between toes. Suspicion of melanoma warrants immediate medical attention.
Peeling, itchy skin can indicate an allergy, a fungal infection or a thyroid imbalance. Keep your feet cool and dry. A simple blood test will confirm whether or not you have a thyroid disorder.
See your podiatrist whenever you notice changes in the appearance or function of your feet. They might be telling you that you have a health condition that needs to be treated. You and your feet are in the best hands with Dr. O and her experienced team at Podiatry Associates, P.C. Visit footdoctorscolorado.com or call 303-805-5156 for an appointment at our Aurora, Parker, Castle Pines, or Cherry Creek office.