Your Feet Reflect Your Health
Your feet carry you through your day, but did you know that they can also provide information about your overall health? We identify foot symptoms that can signal a medical problem.
Body awareness is critical to maintaining health. One way to check the state of your health is through a quick review of your feet. Together, the feet contain about a quarter of your bones, 33 of your joints, 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and an array of nerves and blood vessels linking your feet to your heart, spine, and brain. A regular peek at your feet can help you to identify small problems before they develop into serious health issues. Here are some symptoms to look for:
- Numbness and tingling in the feet. Although standing for long periods of time can cause foot pain, if your pain is out of proportion to your activity level, it could be a signal of peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the brain and spinal cord have trouble transmitting information to the rest of the body. Causes vary, and can include diabetes, alcohol abuse, and chemotherapy.
- Hairless toes or feet. If the hair disappears from your feet, it could be a sign of poor circulation caused by vascular disease and reduced blood supply to your extremities. Shiny skin is another indication that you may have circulation trouble.
- Frequent foot cramps. Intense exercise or dehydration can trigger muscle contractions in your feet, but if you experience cramps often—and especially if they strike out of nowhere with lingering soreness afterward—they may signal a diet that lacks sufficient calcium, potassium, or magnesium.
- Pain in the joints of the feet. Pain that begins in your toes and later moves through the feet and ankles can be a signal of rheumatoid arthritis or an undiagnosed stress fracture.
- A swollen big toe. Intense, occasional pain in the big toe is a symptom of gout, a type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body. Needlelike deposits of uric acid collect first in joints with a low body temperature. Your big toe is the farthest from your heart, and therefore the coolest, so it is typically the first joint to signal this problem.
- Inability to raise your heel. “Foot drop,” or the inability to raise your foot upward from your heel, signals nerve or muscle damage that may originate in your leg, spine, or neck.
If you are experiencing symptoms that don’t seem to be connected to your daily activities, consult an orthopedic foot specialist. The earlier a problem is caught and corrected, the sooner you can reclaim a healthy, pain-free lifestyle.
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