What Your Feet Say About Your Health
HealthCentral Editorial Team Jul 31, 2013 (updated Oct 16, 2013)
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Believe it or not, your feet are a good barometer of your overall health. From a pesky foot pain to more serious symptoms like numbness, your feet often show symptoms of disease before any other part of your body.
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No hair on your feet or toes
"Bald" feet can be a sign of poor circulation as a result of vascular disease. What can you do? Although the hair may never return (which isn't necessarily a terrible thing!), you'll want to see a doctor about improving your circulation and getting your vascular health in check.
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A persistent sore on your foot
If you have a wound on your foot that just won't heal, you could be at risk for diabetes. Elevated blood glucose levels over time can lead to nerve damage in the feet, and so you may not feel an ulcer on your the bottom of your foot. Left untreated, this can lead to serious consequences, even to amputation.
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For women, cold feet may indicate an "underfunctioning" thyroid problem, which is the gland that regulates temperature and metabolism. Poor circulation is another possible cause for both men and women. The solution: Aside from potential thyroid medications, there's not much you can do other than bundle up your feet in thick wool socks and slippers to keep warm.
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Thick, yellow toenails
If one or more of your toenails starts to thicken, change color, and separate from the skin, it probably means you have a fungal infection living beneath the toenail. People with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other immune deficiencies may be more susceptible than others in contracting toenail fungus.The solution: See a podiatrist or internist for care and treatment.
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An enlarged big toe
If your big toe suddenly blows up, you may be experiencing gout. This medieval sounding disease is actually a form of arthritis and is caused by the build up of the natural substance, uric acid. Why the big toe? The excess uric acid forms in the body part with the lowest temperature, which just happens to be your big toe.
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Numbness in both feet
Having a persistent "pins and needles" feeling in your feet, or actual loss of feeling, can be a sign of peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy means there's been some damage to your peripheral nervous system and can be caused by several things, but the most common are diabetes and alcohol abuse. The solution: See your doctor and explain your symptoms.
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The skin condition psoriasis can also manifest itself in your toenails. Affecting up to half of those living with psoriasis may find their toenails (and fingernails) to have many tiny holes. People with the related joint condition, psoriatic arthritis, also may experience this issue.The solution: There are currently several medications on the market to treat the symptoms associated with psoriasis and psoriatic psoriasis.
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Shooting pain in the heel
A shooting pain in your heel may be a sign of plantar fasciitis, which means the band of connective tissue running along the bottom of your foot is inflamed. The pain is usually concentrated in the heel and gets worse throughout the day.The solution: If you have persistant pain, see a podiatrist and avoid high heeled shoes.