Learn to interpret the signs on your feet that could indicate serious illnesses such as diabetes, thyroid conditions and heart disease before you even see a doctor.
1- You see that your feet are dry and scaly :
You may be suffering from thyroid problems, especially if a moisturizer does not correct the situation. When the thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck, becomes diseased, it produces less thyroid hormone, which regulates metabolism, blood pressure, tissue growth and the evolution of the osteomuscular and nervous systems. Thyroid problems cause dry skin. When we notice cracked skin on the feet or if a moisturizer does not remove the dryness within a few days, we suggest that patients see their doctor to make sure their thyroid gland is healthy. Broken nails can also signal thyroid problems.
2- Losing the hair on your toes:
You may have arterial disease. If you lose the hair on your toes suddenly, it could indicate poor circulation caused by peripheral arterial disease (PAD). “Signs of this include decreased hair growth on the feet and ankles, purplish toes and thin or shiny skin,” says Suzanne Fuchs, a podiatric surgeon at North Shore University Hospital in New York. PAD, a build-up of plaque in the arteries of the legs, affects about 8 million Americans. The signs are nearly imperceptible, but doctors can detect it by taking a pulse from the foot pad or by a spot on an X-ray.”By seeing hardening of the arteries on an X-ray of a fractured foot, it makes us 99 percent certain of a similar condition in the myocardial blood vessels,” says Gary A. Pichney, a podiatric surgeon at the Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy Medical Center.
3- Sores on your feet that don’t heal:
“This could be a sign of diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar damages nerves and causes poor circulation, so blood doesn’t get to the feet. When blood doesn’t get to a wound caused, for example, by rubbing shoes, the skin doesn’t heal properly. Many diabetics are diagnosed with foot problems,” says Dr. Reid. Other symptoms of diabetes include tingling or numbness in the feet. Ask your doctor for a blood sugar test.
4- Painful inflammation of the big toe:
It could be an attack of gout, a type of arthritis that usually affects the big toe joint. Do you only eat steak and wine? Foods rich in purine, a chemical compound found in red meats, fish and some alcohols, can cause a gout attack by raising the level of uric acid in the body.
Uric acid is normally eliminated in the urine, but can be produced in large amounts, or not excreted enough, in some people. “Most often, you see the deposition of uric acid in the big toe or ankle,” says Bob Baravarian, a podiatrist and foot and ankle specialist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.
The person wakes up with a red, swollen joint. It’s terribly painful.” A doctor prescribes anti-inflammatory drugs for relief and suggests a low-purine diet for prevention.
5- You have spoon-shaped nails:
You may have anemia or lupus. Do you see a deep spoon-shaped depression on your nail? The deformation of the nails in the shape of a spoon, hence the name koilonychia, may indicate an iron deficiency, hemochromatosis (an overproduction of iron), Raynaud’s disease, which affects the blood supply to the extremities,
and sometimes, lupus erythematosus “an autoimmune disease that directs the immune system to attack cells, tissues and organs”.
Spoon-shaped nails sometimes affect infants, but this is corrected in the first few years of life. If your nail takes on a spoon shape, see your doctor for a blood test to determine the exact cause.
6- Appearance of a straight line under your nails:
A dark vertical line under a fingernail could signal malignant melanoma of the extremities or hidden melanoma, a form of skin cancer that appears on less visible parts of the body. Other melanomas such as melanoma of the eye and mouth are hidden melanomas. “The black line shows from the base of the nail to the tip,” says Pichney. The person should see a podiatrist or dermatologist to make sure it’s not a fungus, which is usually brownish yellow in color, and the line is not continuous.” Only 5% of all melanoma cases seen are of the hidden kind, it is most common in dark-skinned people.
7- You see an accentuation of the arch of the foot :
This symptom is about neurological damage. “The majority of highly arched feet are due to some form of underlying neuromuscular disorder,” says Pichney. If you notice the symptom of thinning plantar muscles, it signals a neurological disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT).” This inherited disease damages peripheral nerves (nerves other than those in the brain and spinal cord). Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) can also cause changes in gait, numbness, difficulty keeping balance, loss of muscle in the legs and, later, similar symptoms in the arms and hands. Consult your doctor if you see any abnormalities. “See a podiatrist immediately if you notice any changes in your feet,” suggests Dr. Reid.
8- Appearance of tiny red lines under a nail:
This could be a heart infection. Red streaks under the toenails or fingernails are evidence of ruptured blood vessels, thread-like hemorrhages. Red streaks occur when the capillaries under the nails are damaged by small blood clots. Red streaks may indicate endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. People with heart disease, pacemakers, or weakened immune systems (such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, people with HIV, and diabetics) are more likely to develop endocarditis. If left untreated, this infection will lead to heart failure. If you notice thread-like bleeding under your fingernails, without prior trauma, consult your doctor and ask for an evaluation of your heart and blood circulation.
9- You notice a deformity in your feet :
It could be lung cancer or heart disease. Deformity of the golf club-shaped bony epiphyses in the toes and fingers is often a sign of lung cancer, chronic lung infection, heart disease or bowel disease. Lung cancer and heart disease weaken vascular resistance, which increases blood flow to the small arteries in the toenails and fingers, swells the tissues and causes deformation of the bony epiphyses (such that fingers and toes become rounder and wider). Although patients are usually aware that they have a disease that causes the deformity, it is best to consult your doctor.
10- You notice that the surface of the nails is riddled with holes:
This could be psoriasis. You notice small holes, grooves or ridges on your toenails, you could have nail psoriasis. Although most people who have nail psoriasis also have generalized psoriasis (an autoimmune disease that parchment and irritates the skin), 5% of people with nail psoriasis are not affected elsewhere. “If your nails are cracked without noticing psoriasis, you should see your doctor,” says Pichney. Other signs of psoriasis are white spots and horizontal lines on the nails. To treat psoriasis consult your doctor to prescribe creams or topical steroids to inject under the nail.