Mind & Body
Health Problems are Often a Step Behind Foot Problems
8/3/2017 11:54:08 AM

Our feet carry us through every step of our lives. Although sometimes neglected or overlooked, the human body’s lowest extremities are complex and changes can often send alerts for the body’s overall health, according to Dr. Tyson Green, foot and ankle specialist with Center for Orthopaedics and director of the CHRISTUS St. Patrick Podiatric Medicine and Surgical Residency. "It’s not uncommon at all for a patient to come in for a concern about their foot – pain or a change in appearance – and that actually be a symptom of a different health problem. Your feet can serve as an early warning system for more serious health concerns if you pay attention to them.” 

He says there are several common signs to watch for in your feet: 

Pain in Big Toe
A painful big toe may indicate gout, a type of inflammatory arthritis that often first appears in the joint of the big toe. Gout is caused by a severe inflammatory response to uric acid crystals which results from high uric acid levels in the blood. "Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine,” says Dr. Green. "But sometimes your body either produces too much uric acid or your kidneys excrete too little uric acid.” Gout is extremely painful and usually requires anti-inflammatory drugs. Left untreated, gout can cause irreversible joint damage, kidney problems, and tophi, which are hard, painful uric acid deposits under the skin.

Clubbing of the Toes
A clubbed appearance (rounder, wider toes) can be a sign of lung cancer, chronic lung infection, heart disease, or intestinal disease. Dr. Green explains that clubbing of the toes can occur as a result of decreased vascular resistance, which means the blood flow to smaller arteries increases, causing tissues to swell. 

Toenail Changes
Deep ridges on the bed of the toenail can sometimes indicate anemia and be a sign of Raynaud’s disease, which affects the blood supply of fingers and toes. Dr. Green says this change may also signal an autoimmune disease called lupus, which causes the body’s immune system to attack cells, tissues, and organs. Spoon-shaped nails, known as koilonychias, could indicate an iron deficiency or iron surplus.

Constant Cold Feet
If you begin noticing that your feet are constantly cold, it could be a symptom that your thyroid isn’t working properly, says Dr. Green. Hypothyroidism can lead to a wide array of problems including unexplained weight gain, depression, exhaustion, and hair loss. Although relatively rare, untreated hypothyroidism can lead to myxedema coma, a condition in which the body’s functions slow to the point that it is life-threatening.

A Sore that Doesn’t Heal
When a wound on the foot will not heal, it may be because of an infection, poor circulation, or diabetes. A foot specialist can evaluate the sore to see what potential factors may be preventing healing. Diabetic ulcers on the foot are commonly caused by poor circulation, high blood sugar, and loss of feeling and/or numbness in the foot. "Unmanaged diabetes can slow down the healing process of a sore or wound on the foot or lower extremity. Sometimes this occurs and the person is unaware they have the disease,” says Dr. Green. 

Tiny Red Lines Under Toenails 
Red streaks under the nails could be broken blood vessels commonly called splinter hemorrhages. Dr. Green explains that the streaks develop when small blood clots damage tiny capillaries under the toenail. It can be a sign of endocarditis, which is an infection in the heart’s inner lining. If left untreated, endocarditis can lead to heart failure. 

"If you notice any of these symptoms, or any significant changes or pain in your feet, don’t ignore it,” says Dr. Green. "See a doctor to have it evaluated. Not only will your feet benefit, you could be preventing more serious health problems from developing.” 

For more information about foot care, visit www.centerforortho.com or call Center for Orthopaedics, an affiliate of Imperial Health at (337) 721-7236 to schedule an appointment. 
Posted by: Kristy Armand | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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