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Diseases your feet will help diagnose

Feet are an important anatomical part of the body that help balance one’s posture, transmits the body weight to the ground during standing, walking or jogging, while helping one to move. However, your feet can alert you of serious issues such as cancer, arthritis and diabetes. Here’s what your feet is telling you about your health

1. Dry, Flaky feet could point to thyroid problems

Dry skin can be as a result of many less serious health issues, and sometimes your skin dries out simply because of changes in the weather. However, if you notice that your skin is dry even after applying lotion or moisturiser, there could be a bigger problem.

Thyroid problems cause severe dryness of the skin. Thyroid gland produces hormones that control your metabolic rate, blood pressure, tissue growth, and nervous system functions. Brittle toenails can also signal thyroid complications. 

2. Bald toes may indicate arterial disease

If you notice that your toes are losing a little bit of hair, or if they’ve gone completely bald, it could be a sign of poor blood flow. One cause of insufficient blood supply to the feet and toes is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).

When plaque builds up in the arteries of your legs, blood flow can be restricted and PAD can set in. If left untreated, PAD could lead to a heart attack or stroke, or even put you at risk for amputation.

3. Black spots or lines under your toenails could be a sign of melanoma

When someone steps on your toes or you drop a heavy object onto your foot, you’ll most likely have some toenail discolouration. But if you notice discolouration — or black and brown lines — under a toenail and you don’t remember injuring your toe, you might want to talk to your doctor.

Dark, vertical lines under a toenail could be a sign of a hidden melanoma. We’re getting better at fighting cancer everyday, but hidden melanomas often go overlooked and untreated. Toenail discolouration could also be caused by a fungal infection, and while that’s much less severe than a potential cancer diagnosis, you should not ignore it.

4. Foot numbness, a symptom of diabetes

You’ve probably experienced numbness in your feet if you sat in one position for too long, or if you fell asleep at an awkward angle. But if it happens regularly or while you’re active, it’s a problem you shouldn’t ignore. Foot numbness is also one of the more common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy related to type 2 diabetes.

5. Wounds that wouldn’t heal could mean diabetes diagnosis

Uncontrolled glucose levels can damage nerves and cause poor circulation, so blood doesn’t reach the feet. When blood doesn’t get to a wound caused by, say, irritating shoes, the skin doesn’t heal properly.

Many people with diabetes are diagnosed first because of foot problems. If you have irregular bouts of foot numbness, and wounds on your feet just don’t seem to heal, talk to a doctor.

6. Morning foot pain may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis, among others

Burning or shooting foot pain that happens when you take your first few steps out of bed can indicate a number of potential issues. It could be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which inflames your joints and can cause pain even in the small joints of your feet.

7. Clubbing is associated with lung cancer

Clubbing is often associated with lung cancer, chronic lung infection, heart disease, or intestinal disease. Lung cancer and heart disease decrease vascular resistance, which means blood flow to the small arteries in the toenails and fingertips will increase. Tissue swells and results in the “clubbed” appearance (rounder, wider fingers and toes).

8. Pitted toenails may point to psoriasis

If you find tiny holes, grooves, or ridges in your toenails, you may have nail psoriasis. Though many people who experience nail psoriasis also have skin psoriasis (an autoimmune disease that makes skin patchy and irritated), five per cent of people with nail psoriasis aren’t affected elsewhere.

If you’ve never been diagnosed with psoriasis, but your toenails have little pits in them, you should get them checked out. Other symptoms include white patches and horizontal lines across the nails.

9. Spooned nails, a symptom of anaemia or lupus

Do you have a depression in the toenail deep enough to hold a water droplet? Also known as koilonychias, spoon-shaped toenails or fingernails can indicate iron deficiency, as well as hemochromatosis (overproduction of iron), Raynaud’s disease (which affects blood supply to the fingers and toes), and sometimes lupus (an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks cells, tissues, and organs). Spooned nails occasionally appear in infants, but normalise in the first few years of life.

10. Enlarged, painful big toe is a symptom of gout

Foods high in purine, a chemical compound found in red meats, fish, and certain alcohol, can trigger an attack by raising levels of uric acid in the body.

Uric acid is normally excreted through urine, but is overproduced or under-excreted in some people. You’ll see the deposition of the uric acid in the joint, most commonly the big toe or the ankle.

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