Study Yourself Using the Behavior of Your Feet

Thursday 11 September 2014 0 comments

As long as everything appears to be working properly, we may not pay much attention to our feet. They are often covered with socks or shoes and, as the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” However, as soon as something feels off, it can quickly become hard to ignore. Here are some common symptoms to look out for, as well as possible explanations for what those symptoms might mean for your health.


Cold feet

For many people, having cold feet is more than a figure of speech. While it is possible to simply have cold sensations without any serious underlying cause, chronically cold toes could be a sign of poor blood circulation. Smoking and smoking-related conditions like COPD can reduce the lungs’ ability to fully absorb oxygen, leading to lower oxygen levels in the blood. Additionally, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and several other forms of heart disease can cause your arteries to narrow, which can impede the flow of blood throughout the body. 

Itchy feet

As unpleasant and distracting as they may be, itchy feet aren’t normally a sign of a serious medical condition. The most common culprit of itchy, scaly skin on the feet is a fungal infection like athlete’s foot. These infections thrive in damp environments, usually begin between the toes and occur most commonly in people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined to tight-fitting shoes. While athlete’s foot is contagious, it can be treated easily with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal medications. 

Skin discoloration

A rash or fungal infection like athlete’s foot commonly leads to scaly, reddish skin, but many other conditions may also result in discoloration of the feet. One condition, known as Raynaud’s phenomenon, is characterized by a sequence of color changes in the skin as a response to cold or stress. During an instance of Raynaud’s, the affected area turns white as the arteries begin to narrow and blood flow is reduced. The affected area may start to feel cold or numb and eventually turn blue as blood flow is further restricted. 

Clubbed toes

Clubbing involves changes in the area surrounding and supporting the finger or toenail. Common symptoms of nail clubbing include softening of the nail bed, bulging of the tip of the toe and curving of the nails to form a sharper angle with the toe (often described as resembling the head of an upside-down spoon). 

 Burning sensation

The sensation of burning feet can vary from mild (numbness and tingling) to severe (distracting pain that can even interfere with sleep). Something as simple as tired feet or a common infection like athlete’s foot can cause short-term symptoms like burning or tingling. In more severe cases, burning in the feet could be a sign of nerve damage from diabetes or a circulatory condition known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). 

Pain in the big toe

Generalized foot pain is one thing, but sometimes specific pain points to a more specific condition. If the pain is focused around the tip and corner of your nail, it could be a sign that you are developing an ingrown toenail. Sudden, severe bouts of pain localized in the joint of a big toe could suggest a complex form of arthritis known as gout. Symptoms of gout include intense joint pain followed by lingering discomfort and often occur at night without any warning. 

Yellow toenails

As with other parts of your body, discoloration in your nails may be a sign that something is wrong. An infection of nail fungus often begins as a yellow spot under the tip of your nail. Unfortunately, as you may have learned in high school biology, fungi tends to thrive in dark, warm and moist environments, making the underside of a toenail the perfect home. If left unnoticed or untreated, this discoloration can spread deeper into the nail and to other surrounding toes.   

White nails

White discoloration of the nails doesn’t necessarily point to a health issue. Leukonychia (sometimes called a “milk spot”) is a medical term for common white blotches that start around the base of the nail and move as the nail grows. Contrary to popular belief, these marks are not a sign of a vitamin deficiency and are generally considered harmless. A white mark at the tip of your nail, however, may be more serious. An injury may cause part of the toenail to separate from the nail bed, which can make the tip of the nail appear whiter.  
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