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8 Things Your Feet Are Trying To Tell You About Your Health

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By the age of 50, the average American will have logged an astounding 75,000 miles on their feet. It’s important to take care of your feet and treat problems early, before they impact your comfort, mobility and overall health.

As we enter Foot Health Month, the staff at Greene County Medical Center is dedicated to educating you and your loved ones on the signs and symptoms associated with foot problems. Learn more about eight potential foot issues and what they could mean for your overall health:

1. Foot or toe pain disturbing you when sleeping. This symptom is most often associated with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)  and is caused by a blockage or narrowing of the arteries in the legs when plaque builds up. The buildup causes the arteries to narrow and harden, resulting in a reduction of blood flow to the legs and feet. Factors associated with this condition include smoking, high blood pressure, physical inactivity and diabetes.

2. A sore or wound that will not heal. Commonly located at the bottom of the foot, this could indicate a diabetic foot ulcer. Approximately 15% of patients who have diabetes will develop this condition. Many people who develop foot ulcers have lost the ability to feel the pain. Therefore, a primary symptom is drainage in socks, and redness or swelling in addition to the sore.

3. Inflamed swelling of the cartilage and lining of the joints. Usually accompanied by increased fluid in the joints, these symptoms are a strong indicator of arthritis. The feet tend to be more susceptible to arthritis than other parts of the body. With each foot having 33 joints, there is no way to avoid the pain due to the weight bearing down on them. Arthritis is a consistent component of complex diseases that could involve more than 100 identifiable disorders.

4. Inflammation of a tendon. Known as tendinitis or Achilles tendinitis. The pain for this condition will be most prominent when you move the body parts of the swollen tendon. As the most common causes of ankle or foot pain, tendinitis results primarily from injury or overuse. People with “flat feet,” arthritis or tight tendons are also prone to tendinitis.

5. Dry, silver-whitish patches. These symptoms indicate Psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin condition caused by faster-than-normal turnover of skin cells. Typically, new skin cells will rise to the surface of the skin once every month causing the old skin cells to die. The new cells move to the surface so quickly that the dead cells build up on the surface, causing this skin condition. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects those with weakened immune systems, including those going through cancer treatments or those with AIDS.

6. Loss of hair on the feet and legs. Associated with high blood pressure and hypertension, these symptoms occur when your blood pressure rises and stays above normal over a period of time. Hypertension often relates to atherosclerosis, a condition in which there is plaque buildup in blood vessels. Atherosclerosis leads to decreased circulation and PAD.

7. Contracture, or bending, of the toe at the first joint. Commonly referred to as hammer toe, the proximal interphalangeal joint will bend, causing the toe to appear like an upside-down V from the side. Any toe could be involved, however the second through fifth toes are most commonly affected. There are two different types of hammer toe:
  • Flexible Hammer Toe. This type of hammer toe is less serious due to being diagnosed and treated while in the developmental stage. They receive the name “flexible hammer toe” because of the ability to move at the joint. 
  • Rigid Hammer Toe. This is more developed and serious than the flexible hammer toe condition. Rigid hammer toes are typically seen in patients with severe arthritis. The tendons have become tight, causing the joint to be misaligned and immobile. This makes surgery the usual treatment option.
8. Cracking, bleeding and ulceration. These symptoms can be caused by many things, but could be due to skin cancer. Skin cancer can happen anywhere on the body, including feet. Skin cancer of the feet is usually caused by viruses, irritation, inflammation, inherited traits or exposure to chemicals.

If you have questions or concerns regarding foot health or other health issues due to diabetes, please contact our diabetes management team for immediate assistance. If you have questions or concerns regarding arthritis, please contact our West Central Orthopedics clinic.

Greene County Medical Center staff are committed to keeping you and your loved ones healthy. By familiarizing yourself with the serious health concerns that could stem from foot problems, you are one step closer to maintaining a healthier lifestyle.