Listen to Your Toes

Our bodies send blood to internal organs and the brain before the extremities. If our feet are showing signs of superficial or mechanical changes, it can indicate that something else has been brewing for some time. If there are nerve issues, our feet are the first body parts to be affected because they are farther from our heart, spine and brain.


If you’re wondering which foot issues are markers for health disorders, toes might not be top-of-mind.  In fact, our toes can reveal a great deal about what’s going on in our body. Here are some of the telltale symptoms we can find in our toes, and their causes:


Baldness – We may not love the hair on our toenails and feet, but not seeing it can indicate a problem. Bald feet and toes could mean that they are not getting enough blood flow. You could have a serious circulation problem caused by peripheral arterial disease (PAD). If a foot x-ray reveals hardening arteries, it’s likely to be happening in the rest of your body.

Tiny red lines on your toenails called splinter hemorrhages are caused by small blood clots damaging the capillaries under the nails. People with a heart condition, weakened immune system, or a pacemaker are more likely to develop this condition, which can suggest a serious heart infection called endocarditis. This requires immediate medical attention.

Ridges, holes or grooves in your toenails can be caused by nail psoriasis. Most but not all people who have psoriasis also have nail psoriasis. If you have not been diagnosed with psoriasis but your toenails show these signs, you should see your doctor.

Yellow toe nails – Your toe nails will turn yellow if you have a fungus or have been wearing toe nail polish too much of the time. If it’s fungal, your toe nails will be stiff or flaking. Thick, yellow nails also can indicate an underlying disease; psoriasis, lymphedema, rheumatoid arthritis, lung problems, or thyroid issues are among the possible causes.

Enlarged big toe – If your big toe suddenly becomes red, swollen, hot to the touch, and painful, you should seek medical attention right away. These symptoms can signal the onset of gout or another inflammatory disorder. Infection, trauma or arthritis also can cause this problem.

Plumper and wider toes reduce blood flow to the little arteries in the toenails. When the tissue swells, it causes “digital clubbing,” causing the rounder and broader appearance of the toes. This condition can be a sign of lung cancer, intestinal illness or a heart disorder.

Spoon-shaped toe nails (a deep enough dip to hold a water droplet) – This condition is known as koilonychias. It can indicate either an iron deficiency or iron over-production, and affects blood supply to the toes and fingers. Lupus also can be the cause.


Most of us don’t give our feet the attention they deserve. When you’re trimming your toe nails, applying sun screen or drying your feet after a bath, take a few extra minutes and thoroughly examine your toes and feet. If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, see Dr. O and her experienced team at Podiatry Associates P.C. right away. They’ll make sure you and your feet receive the best of care. Call 303-805-5156 for an appointment at our Cherry Creek, Aurora, Castle Pines, or Parker office, or visit us online:

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