The features of our feet aren’t things we think about that often, that is, unless finding comfortable shoes is always a problem for you. Indeed, it was shown in a podiatrist survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association that most people regard their feet as the least important parts of their body in terms of our overall health and well-being.
The survey found that 77 percent of Americans say they experience foot pain but that only a third of those said they would seek podiatrist care. Yet, Dr. Dawn Harper, the ambassador for Sole Bliss, says that our feet reveal a lot about our health and not to ignore the signs.
With that advice in mind, here are 10 such warning signs corresponding to feet features such as the shape, look, and, yes, smell:
1. Foot shape
A foot shape that drastically changes can be a strong sign of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Health Information Center. For example, nerve damage from diabetes can lead to changes in the shape of the feet, such as in Charcot’s foot, where the foot may start swelling with redness. After that, bones in the feet and toes can shift or even break, which may cause the feet to have an odd shape, such as a “rocker bottom.”
Many diseases can cause swollen feet, such as heart disease and kidney or liver failure. These problems can result in excess fluid buildup (edema) that is often concentrated in the legs and feet, causing swelling.
Some swelling of the feet and ankles is normal during pregnancy. If pregnant women, towards the end of their pregnancy (after 20th week), have sudden or excessive swelling, however, it may be because of a serious condition called preeclampsia, and you should call your doctor immediately.
3. Purple or blue color
Feet that suddenly turn purple or blue can indicate that an individual has underlying medical conditions. Examples of illnesses that can change the foot color to such a degree are peripheral arterial disease, Raynaud’s disease, and diabetes, according to Medical News Today. The reason that feet become discolored is due to the fact that not enough oxygen is reaching the area. Either way, feet that have such discoloration should be examined by a medical professional to provide the appropriate treatment for the underlying cause.
4. Red or inflamed feet
People may find that they occasionally have red or inflamed feet because of foot rashes as a result of an allergic reaction. However, feet that have these characteristics on a consistent basis are caused by a more serious issue, and it’s a result of having the autoimmune disorder called systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus, according to Medical News Today.
Lupus is an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack the blood vessels and other parts of the body. As a result, people who have it may easily end up having red, inflamed feet.
5. Chronic cold feet
Plenty of health conditions can cause a person’s feet to become cold, such as having an underactive thyroid, diabetes, or anemia, according to Healthline. All of these conditions cause poor blood circulation, which will cause the feet to become cold. Anyone who consistently has feet that are cold needs to see their doctor to do some testing to find out the cause.
6. Constant cramps
The occasional foot cramp is not worth worrying about, but if a person’s feet are cramping regularly, then there could be some serious causes for that. According to Healthline, dehydration and not getting enough minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, in your diet can cause muscle cramping in the feet, which can be easily treated. However, if the cramping continues even after treatment, then that may be a sign that there is nerve damage.
7. Color and condition of toenails
Occasionally, toenails turning black can be due to something as simple as an injury such as toe stubbing. However, according to WebMD, other serious causes for toenail discoloration often come into play. For instance, black toenails can be due to a serious form of skin cancer called malignant melanoma. Black and yellow toenails can also be a result of a fungal infection, while green toenails can be a result of a serious infection. The point is that any kind of serious discoloration of toenails should be taken seriously and needs to be examined by a podiatrist.
8. Dry and cracked skin
People who live in colder climates with harsh winters are going to be more prone to eczema and other skin conditions due to the dry air. However, if the skin condition does not improve after constant moisturizing, then more serious factors are likely to be the reason behind this issue.
According to Very Well Health, malnutrition, diabetes, or hypothyroidism can easily cause people’s feet to become dry and cracked. Other conditions that cause digestive malabsorption, such as celiac disease, can be the culprit as well. This is because essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are not being properly absorbed, which causes the skin to become dry and cracked. That means if the condition persists even after using foot cream, a trip to the podiatrist is needed.
9. Foot odor
Smelly feet can be a form of infection, the most common form being athlete’s foot, which is caused by a fungus. According to Dr. Harper, the way to cure athlete’s foot is by getting into the habit of drying between each toe after showering and spending as much time bare foot as possible to allow the foot to dry out. Also, changing socks every day and wearing natural fibers as opposed to man-made will help. Another cause can be hyperhidrosis, which means excessive sweating, and these issues should be discussed with a doctor.
10. Constant ulcers
A foot ulcer can appear as a shallow, red crater, and it can just involve the surface skin or also can occur deep into tendons or bones, as explained by Drugs.com. Constant foot ulcers can be a result of diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, or circulatory problems. People who have peripheral neuropathy may have ulcers on their feet quite often, as they do not feel the pain due to nerve damage. So, if you have ulcers on your feet, you should not neglect the issue and should go to see a doctor to address it right away.