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6 things your feet can tell you about your health

Lana Bandoim's picture

Although it may sound strange, your feet are excellent indicators of your health. If you know what to look for, then you can make certain deductions about your health that range from signs of diabetes to nutritional deficiencies.


All it takes is a single good peek at your feet. However, ignoring these indicators can lead to dire consequences. Here are just a few of the many things your feet can tell you.

1. Numbness or Ongoing Tingling: Neuropathy and Diabetes

“The most common reason for neuropathy in the feet is diabetes,” says Simon Lee, a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon at the Rush University Medical Center. Elevated blood sugar can damage the nerves, which results in continuous tingling and numbing sensations.

What to Do: Diabetes is a serious, life-threatening illness when left untreated. If you suspect that neuropathy in your feet is caused by diabetes, then see a healthcare professional immediately.

2. Hairless Feet: Poor Circulation

When the heart cannot pump enough blood to the feet, usually as a result of vascular disease, it can cause the hair on your toes and feet to disappear. Your feet may also turn bright red or a dusky purple when you are standing, but they immediately turn pale when elevated.

What to Do: You should see your doctor about treating the underlying vascular problems. The hair on your feet and toes is unlikely to return, but it is a side effect people rarely complain about.

3. Foot Pain in the Soles: Bad Shoes

Having proper shoe support is very important for reducing pain in the body. Foot pain can point to a number of health issues. However, if you notice pain in the soles of your feet in combination with back pain and headaches, then the problem is likely to be your shoes.

What to Do: You should ask your doctor what kind of shoes will work best for your condition. Orthopedic inserts will often help, but in other cases, you may need to purchase an expensive type of orthopedic shoe to solve the problem.

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4. Open Foot Sores: Diabetes

High blood sugar levels can also cause the feet to develop blisters and open sores. If left untreated, this can lead to serious bone infections, hospitalization and amputation in extreme cases.

What to Do: You should see a doctor immediately for treatment before the sore becomes worse. If you know you are diabetic, you have to stay on top of your regular healthcare routine to prevent these sores.

5. Dented Toenails: Iron Deficiency

When your toenails take on a slightly sunken, spoon-shaped deformity in the nail bed, this is most likely a symptom of iron deficiency. A natural deficiency, ulcers, heavy menstrual periods or other external factors can trigger this.

What to Do: Medical professionals diagnose anemia by performing a complete blood count. Then, they will prescribe iron supplements and certain dietary changes to increase your absorption of the supplements.

6. Swollen Ankles and Feet: Heart Failure

If you are pregnant, swollen ankles are most likely a sign of water retention. If you are not pregnant, they could be an indication of pending heart failure, kidney disease, liver disease or a blood clot.

“Painless swelling in the feet is basically gravity in action,” says Dr. Lee. “If your heart, liver, or kidneys aren’t working properly, you’ll have excess fluid in the body that leaks into your tissues and drains down into the feet.”

What to Do: You should treat the underlying causes of the swelling which is the key to solving the problem. If the inflammation becomes painful, you may want to go to an emergency room or visit your doctor immediately. It could be a sign of deep vein thrombosis which is commonly known as a blood clot.

Your feet can help you monitor your overall health. It is worthwhile to pay close attention to everything they tell you about your health in order to avoid catastrophic health problems.