Our feet are pretty important, though chances are you don’t think about them much. Generally, when we contemplate them, it’s because there is itching or pain, or some other discomfort. However, sometimes even subtle changes in the feet could be indicators of something bigger. The parts of the bodies are all connected, so sometimes symptoms in one area of the body can be a sign of trouble elsewhere. The feet are no exception, as underlying symptoms can surface there. Keeping in mind that foot changes don’t necessarily guarantee a serious illness, consider these warning signs, and what they might mean.
Dry skin is a pretty common problem, not just on the feet. However, if the skin is really dry regardless of what you do to it (moisturizers, etc.), then it may be indicative of a thyroid problem. Essentially, dry skin in such a case would indicate that the thyroid gland, located at the base of the neck, was damaged or malfunctioning. The thyroid gland is very important for the body, because the hormones it produces regulate numerous processes, including significant ones such as blood pressure, nervous system development, and the growth of new tissue. Relentlessly dry skin? Call a doctor.
You may not think that the hair on your toes is a big deal, but if it’s there, and then gone, you may be suffering from arterial disease. Bald toes can result from poor blood circulation, which also tends to have numerous other symptoms. If hair loss on the toes is accompanied by thin and shiny skin, less hair on the rest of the feet and the ankles, or even changes in skin color (or if your toes regularly feel cold, even if the rest of your body doesn’t), then it may be time to seek out a medical professional.
Typically, this isn’t the type of symptom you’re going to ignore, and really, you’re right not to. If you develop ulcers on your feet that take a long time to heal, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from diabetes. Specifically, the ulcers are caused by out of control glucose levels; glucose can interfere with circulation, and therefore the healing rate of injuries. A disease like diabetes affects your entire body, however. This means that if you do have diabetes, the chances are good that there will be other signs to keep an eye out for. Blood sugar tests will tell.
If you have swollen toes, or otherwise large, painful lumps and bumps on your feet, there’s a possibility it could be gout. Gout is an illness that tends to affect the joints. It’s accompanied by rather obvious pain and swelling and generally results from the presence of purine. Purine is found in a number of meats and contributes to high levels of uric acid, which in turn leads to gout when too much uric acid begins to stockpile in the joints and damage the body. Fortunately, there are a number of natural remedies that can help treat gout at home.
Thin, reddish-brown lines under the toenails are generally splinter hemorrhages. The appearance of splinter hemorrhages is not always an indicator of a serious problem, because they can, in fact, appear if the nails have been injured, but sometimes they are. Splinter hemorrhages are potentially the result of damaged blood vessels, generally from clots, and can reveal serious problems with the heart. Specifically, they can indicate endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart’s lining; generally, endocarditis results from other heart conditions, or other heart-related issues. If you suspect you have heart problems, you need to see a doctor immediately.
If your toes, or fingers for that matter, start out thin and then balloon into large spherical shapes, you have clubbed digits. While this condition can appear somewhat comical, it could also reveal the presence of a serious illness, namely lung cancer or other lung problems. Problems with the lungs affect the digits because when the lungs are unwell, vascular resistance is decreased, which leads to a massive increase in blood flow to the extremities. this results in the swelling of tissue. This is an obvious symptom of illness, making it easy to know that it’s time to see a doctor.
Do you have irregular depressions in your toenails? Is this accompanied by strange discoloration? These may be indicative of psoriasis. Psoriasis may affect the skin or the nails; generally, it affects the skin primarily, but it is possible to have a nail specific infection- though rare. If you find that there are strange patches of white on your nails, this may be another indication. This is also true if your nails become tender and painful. Generally, good nail care such as appropriate trimming and cleaning can treat nail psoriasis, as can the same medication that is used for skin psoriasis.
If you have strange, spoon-shaped nails, otherwise known as koilonychia, you may have an illness. Koilonychia describes a nail that is concave, such that the entire nail is rounded and bent upward, much like a spoon. The most common cause for the formation of such nails is iron deficiency. Fortunately, this is an easy fix with proper dieting and supplements. However, there are other causes as well, including interestingly enough, a surplus of iron in the body, as well as lupus. Want the exact cause? Talk to your medical professional and get a blood test to narrow it down.
If you have straight lines under your nails and you’ve already ruled out splinter hemorrhages, you may have to consider melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be characterized by a long dark streak under the nail stretching from the base to the very tip. Generally, it will be both longer and thicker than splinter hemorrhage lines, and will be solitary, as compared to numerous thinner, shorter lines of splinter hemorrhages. While melanoma is relatively rare, it is the most serious form of skin cancer, tends to affect people of color more, and warrants seeking immediate treatment.
If you find your arches are higher than they used to be, it could be a result of nerve damage. One possibility is the neurological condition known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) . It’s a hereditary disorder that can result in damage to the peripheral nerves. Since the nerves connect to every part of the body, this can lead to problems in the feet, including numbness, muscle loss, and trouble with balance. These problems tend not to be limited to just the feet, however. Victims of CMT have been known to eventually experience similar issues in their arms and hands as well.