Listen up! What your feet are trying to tell you about your health
When a podiatrist has a holistic foot health viewpoint, they see the forest and the trees- meaning, they know that many conditions first reveal themselves in the feet, and that feet are a key indicator of overall health. ‘The feet are good indicators of what is going on in the rest of the body,’ says podiatrist Anthony Weinert DPM. ‘A slow pulse can signify poor circulation and, for example, rolling ankles – a condition where ankles roll inwards – can show incorrect posture which can lead to severe back pain.’
Our feet are composed of twenty six major bones and joints. The way we walk depends on how these bones and joints move in relation to each other and the other bones in our bodies. Because of this, flat feet can indicate curvature of the spine and distorted toes can signify rheumatoid-arthritis later in life.
The shape, texture and colour of your feet can also provide tell-tale signs of other underlying disorders such as poor circulation and the early signs of diabetes.
Here, is a guide to common conditions revealed by your feet and how to treat them
A podiatrist can detect circulatory problems by looking at the colour of the feet. A bluish colour indicates poor circulation, sometimes caused by the side-effects of smoking. This is because the effects of nicotine can severely narrow the arteries in the legs and feet. This means not enough blood and oxygen reaches the tissues in the leg which can turn the feet blue.
Treatment: Apart from giving up smoking, regular exercise improves muscle function and encourages oxygen flow to the foot muscles. Doctors may prescribe a drug designed to improve oxygen delivery to the arteries.
Damaged nails can provide important clues to what is actually going on inside your body.
Ridged or pitted nails can signify eczema or psoriasis – a skin disease marked by red scaly patches. Raised strips running across the nail can indicate Raynaud’s condition – a circulatory problem which causes small arteries in the toes to go into spasms – which can make your toes feel cold.
Raynaud’s disease itself can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis and nerve disorders. Around sixty per cent of Raynaud’s sufferers are young women.
Treatment: Depending on the cause of your problem, your podiatrist or doctor will prescribe the best course of action.
Hairless Feet and Toes
Hair can disappear from the feet due to poor circulation caused by vascular disease. When the heart loses the ability to pump enough blood to the extremities because of arteriosclerosis (commonly known as hardening of the arteries), the body has to prioritize its use. Hairy toes are, well, low on the totem pole.
The reduced blood supply also makes it hard to feel a pulse in the feet. (Check the top of the foot or the inside of the ankle.) When you stand, your feet may be bright red or dusky; when elevated, they immediately pale. The skin is shiny. People with poor circulation tend to already know they have a cardiovascular condition (such as heart disease or a carotid artery) yet may not realize they have circulation trouble.
Treatment: Treating the underlying vascular issues can improve circulation. Toe hair seldom returns, but nobody complains much.
Frequent foot cramping (Charley horses)
The sudden stab of a foot cramp — basically, the hard contraction of a muscle– can be triggered by fleeting circumstances such as exercise or dehydration. But if it happens often, your diet may lack sufficient calcium, potassium, or magnesium. Pregnant women in the third trimester are especially vulnerable thanks to increased blood volume and reduced circulation to the feet.
Charley horses tend to rear up out of nowhere, often while you’re just lying there. They can be a single sharp muscle spasm or come in waves. Either way, soreness can linger long afterward.
Treatment: Try to flex the foot and massage the painful area. You may also be able to relax the muscle by applying a cold pack or rubbing alcohol. To prevent cramps, stretch your feet before you go to bed. Then drink a glass of warm milk (for the calcium).
A sore that won’t heal on the bottom of the foot
This is a major clue to diabetes. Elevated blood glucose levels lead to nerve damage in the feet — which means that minor scrapes, cuts, or irritations caused by pressure or friction often go unnoticed, especially by someone who’s unaware he has the disease. Untreated, these ulcers can lead to infection, even amputation.
Oozing, foul-smelling cuts are especially suspect because they’ve probably been there awhile. Other symptoms of diabetes include persistent thirst, frequent urination, increased fatigue, blurry vision, extreme hunger, and weight loss.
Treatment: Get the ulcer treated immediately and see a doctor for a diabetes evaluation. Diabetics need to inspect their feet daily (older people or the obese should have someone do this for them) and see a healthcare professional every three months.
What it means: Women, especially, report cold feet (or more precisely, their bedmates complain about them). It may be nothing — or it may indicate a thyroid issue. Women over 40 who have cold feet often have an malfunctioning thyroid, the gland that regulates temperature and metabolism. Poor circulation (in either gender) is another possible cause.
Hypothyroidism’s symptoms are pretty subtle and appear in many disorders (fatigue, depression, weight gain, dry skin).
Treatment: Insulating layers of natural materials work best for warmth. (Think wool socks and lined boots). If you also have other nagging health complaints, mention the cold feet to your doctor. Unfortunately, however, aside from treatment with medication in the event of a thyroid condition, this tends to be a symptom that’s neither easily nor sexily resolved.
If you’re interested in holistic foot health, request a copy of Dr. Weinert’s free book here, or contact Dr. Weinert at 248-362-3338 (Troy) or 586-751-3338 (Warren) for more information on foot pain, or visit the ACFAS Web site, FootHealthFacts.org. You can also visit Dr Weinerts office website at:www.stopfeetpainfast.com