"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet." -James Oppenheim
Feet are a complex structure of 33 joints, 26 bones, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. A pair of feet share 250,000 sweat glands among themselves and about 25% of bones of the whole human body. Feet that bear the whole weight of the body, is taken for granted by humans. Like skin, face, and nails, the disposition of the feet also serve to indicate various conditions related to human health. Myriad nerves and blood vessels in the feet link to the heart, and brain. In foot reflexology, the sole of the feet holds the nerve connection to the whole body, and feet massage and acupressure is resorted to alleviate various ailments. "Our feet are the first parts to be affected by nerve issues because they're the farthest from our hearts and spine," says Carolyn McAloon, DPM, a Bay Area podiatrist and president of the California Podiatric Medication Association.
Non-hairy or Bald Toes
Men and women both have hair growing on toes. Few hair stands or no hair on the toes and ankles indicate circulatory issues, or peripheral vascular disease (PAD); which means, the heart is finding it difficult to circulate blood to the feet. PAD is build-up of plaque in the leg arteries and the heart arteries as well. Bald toes say, it is time to meet your cardiologist and test for artery blockages.
Pain in the Big Toe
Many a time one feels a painful twitch in the big toes. It can be hot and swollen at certain times. A painful big toe says you have got excess uric acid in the body - gout or even osteoarthritis. The uric acid gets deposited in the joint of the big toe or the ankle. Foods rich in purine like salmon, red meats, alcohol can lead to spike in uric acid. However, high fructose-based foods can also add triglycerides and uric acid, because, the by-product of fructose metabolism is uric acid. One needs to reduce intake of purine and fructose-based foods and get their gout treated.
Sore Toe Joints
Inflammation in the small joints of your feet and fingers indicate rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an auto-immune condition and a degenerative joint disease which can damage cartilage and joints. One feels stiffness, swelling and aches in and around the small joints which tend to aggravate in the morning. Pain on toe joints also indicate the onset of osteopenia and osteoarthritis. Sore toe joints say, treat your arthritis and get adequate dose of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.
Swollen feet speak of a problem with the lymphatic system, poor circulation, blood clot, kidney disorder or underactive thyroid. In winter, frost bites lead to swollen feet and toes.
Never ignore swollen feet as it is a symptom of some severe medical condition. Not palm reading, but reading the feet will help you analyze the condition of your health.
Toe Nails' Shape and Color
Thick yellow toenails indicate fungal infection, lymphedema and even lung problems, psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Concave, spoon-like nails also called koilonychias are indicative of lupus, iron deficiency or overproduction of iron. Less hemoglobin; internal bleeding or heavy menstrual periods can cause anemia. White nails can hint towards congestive heart failure, liver disease, kidney disease or even psoriasis. Pits or depressions in the surface of the nail can be due to psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. The nail growth gets disturbed at the nail plate. There could be white patches or horizontal lines. Clubbed nails also are indicative of either cardiovascular, lung or gastrointestinal problems.
Lines under Toe Nails
Red streaks under the toenails or fingernails indicate broken blood vessels or damaged tiny capillaries or endocarditis which is infection in the heart lining. Broken blood vessels are also known as splinter hemorrhages. People who have an existing heart condition or suppressed immune systems are at high risk of getting endocarditis. If splinter hemorrhages are noticed, you should consult your doctor for heart and circulation. A dark, vertical line or dot under the nail can indicate hidden melanoma or acral lentiginous melanoma. These signs appear in obscure parts of body. Melanoma dark spot in foot area indicate skin cancer. Consultation with podiatrist or dermatologist is must.
Cold feet primarily indicate hypothyroidism and anemia. However, nerve damage from uncontrolled diabetes, circulatory problems can also give cold feet. Cold feet can also be caused by Raynaud's disease where the toes turn white, bluish and then reddish before the natural tone is regained. This could be due to vasospasms or the narrowing of the arteries. Raynaud's disease can be also linked to Sjogren's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid problems. Foot numbness is caused due to damage to the peripheral nervous system. There can be a heavy pins-and-needles sensation and the main causes could be diabetes, chemotherapy or alcohol abuse. Diabetics with peripheral nerve damage may experience a burning sensation in their feet. However, if the numbness is only in one foot, the reason could be a pinched nerve in the foot or ankle.
Dry, Flaky Feet
Thyroid problems cause severe dryness of the skin. Despite regular use of moisturizer, if the foot sole remains cracked, and the skin remains flaky, then an under-performing thyroid is the sure cause. Fatigue and unexplained weight gain are symptoms of hypothyroidism or sluggish thyroid. Itchy and scaly skin can also be athlete's foot which is a common fungal infection. If it is not treated, inflammation and blisters can be formed.
Sores That Do Not Heal
Sores in the foot area that do not heal indicate diabetes. Diabetes may include numbness of the feet. Peripheral vascular disease (PAD) and poor circulation also can result in slow healing sores. Damage of nerves and poor circulation do not let blood reach the foot, thereby delaying wound healing. You need to get tested for diabetes and PAD.
Foot Pain & Cramps
Foot pain can be caused due to various reasons. Brittle bones indicative of osteoarthritis can be one of the primary reasons. Intense exercise or crack in the bone can also cause foot pain. Tendonitis; bone spur; inflammation where long ligament attaches to the heel bone also known as plantar fasciitis; high heels or poor fitting footwear can lead to heel pain. Morton's neuroma is the thickening of tissue around a nerve between the third and fourth toes can cause toe pain. Foot muscle spasm or cramp could be due to deficiency of magnesium, potassium, calcium, or vitamin D levels in the body. Poor circulation and dehydration can aggravate foot cramps. Frequent foot cramping is also known as "Charley Horses".
Clubbed toe indicate serious heart disease and lung disorders. The toes swell and club upwards at the tips. It is also called 'digital clubbing' or 'Hippocratic clubbing'. Clawed toe is a neurological disorder where the toe curves downwards from the middle joint. Dragging feet is also caused by peripheral nerve damage. High-arched feet are associated with neuromuscular condition. Thinning of arch muscles could indicate Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT). It can cause difficulty in balancing, and changed gait. 'Foot drop' is due to damage to the common fibular nerve or paralysis of the muscles in the anterior portion of the lower leg. Flat feet or Pes Planus, or fallen arches can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), diabetes, nerve or muscle problems. Consult your podiatrist.