The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

What Your Feet Know About Your Health

Posted by on Thursday, September 6th, 2012

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If someone says “foot doctor,” you would think they meant a podiatrist, right? That’s probably what our someone did mean. However, your feet are actually kind of like doctors–the way they look and feel can reveal some pretty sharp diagnoses about your overall health.

Here are some warning signs from your feet about the rest of your body:

  • Cold Feet – No, this doesn’t mean that you are nervous about a commitment. Cold feet may be a sign of a blood circulation problem, possibly due to high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes.
  • Blue, white, or red toes – This does not mean your toes are patriotic; rather, it could mean you have Raynaud’s disease, a rare circulatory problem that affects the fingers and toes.
  • Hairless feet – I’m usually unhappy about the little black hairs on my toes, but now I’m not–if your feet have no hair on them at all, that may be another sign of a circulation problem.
  • Sores that won’t heal – This could be due to diabetes as well. Diabetes is a very serious illness that has a great affect on a person’s feet. If you have diabetes, you should be seeing a podiatrist as well as a regular doctor.
  • Foot cramps – Foot cramps strike suddenly and really, really hurt. They may also be your body’s way of telling you that you’re not getting enough calcium, magnesium, or potassium in your diet. Try these methods for immediate pain relief, then go eat a potassium rich banana!
  • Itchiness – You may have athlete’s foot or another fungal infection. Try these home remedies for athlete’s foot to start.
  • Spots – Pay attention to any dark spots that appear on your feet or under your toenails. These might be a sign of skin cancer, and should be checked out.
  • Pale toenails and toenails with an indentation – If this is what your toenails look like, you may have anemia.
  • Thick yellowed toenails -If your toenails look like this, then you may have a nasty infection under your toenails. See a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) for a prescription to take care of the infection; some hopelessly infected areas may need to be removed as well (don’t try this yourself, let the pros do it)Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) can finish off particularly stubborn infections.
  • Red, painfully swollen big toe – This makes sense if you just dropped a table on your toe; if not, you may have gout, a disease that can affect joints all over your body, but typically shows up in the big toe. See a doctor to find out how to cut down on flare ups of this disease.
  • Numbness or pins and needles – If you frequently feel numbness in both your feet, you may have peripheral neuropathy, a condition that’s a result of damage to your nervous system. Diabetes and alcoholism may be the causes.
  • Sore toe joints – These may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Foot pain while walking or standing – If you have been walking or standing a long time, no big deal. If you’re  a younger person, this may be a sign of a stress fracture. If you’re an older person, particularly a women, this may mean you have osteoporosis.

Wow, feet are veritable encyclopedias of information! Sadly, though, as you can see from this list, our feet are often warning us of very serious conditions. You don’t have to keep your feet constantly under rigorous surveillance, but pay attention to them. If you notice any of these signs on your feet, or see anything else out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate–see your doctor or a podiatrist. Your feet want to tell you something and you’d hate to ignore them, wouldn’t you?

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.