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What Your Feet Tell You About Your Health

A podiatrist gives some insight into how your feet can tell you a lot about your health and also explains why you shouldn't delay care if you're experiencing discomfort or pain.

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They may have thought their pain was isolated to their feet and then discover it’s actually due to another medical condition. Image for illustration purposes
They may have thought their pain was isolated to their feet and then discover it’s actually due to another medical condition. Image for illustration purposes
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CLEVELAND CLINIC – Did you know your feet can actually tell you about your health?

“We can definitely see evidence of different disease processes in the feet, whether it’s on the skin or in the toenails, or just in general,” explained Joy Rowland, DPM, podiatrist for Cleveland Clinic. “Say a patient presents with swelling of the skin or the feet, sometimes it’s related to heart disease, or kidney disease, or lymphedema, or vascular disease. We can also see evidence of dermatological problems like psoriasis.”

Dr. Rowland said she can also tell if someone has poor circulation or even diabetes based on the appearance of their feet, which can come as a surprise for some.

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They may have thought their pain was isolated to their feet and then discover it’s actually due to another medical condition.

For example, someone experiencing numbness or tingling in their feet could have nerve damage from perhaps a back injury.

Dr. Rowland said in those kinds of situations, she will order additional tests to help confirm the suspected diagnosis.

And it’s not just your feet that can indicate something is wrong, your toenails can too.

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“If you happen to come into a podiatrist’s office with thickened toenails, they’re crumbly, they’re brittle, a podiatrist can evaluate you, take a culture, and determine if you have psoriasis, if you have a fungal nail infection in your toenails, or also something called nail dystrophy,” she said. “Nail dystrophy is different from the others as it’s related to repetitive injury to the toenail. So even if you have a thickened yellow crumbly type toenail, it’s not always nail fungus.” 

Dr. Rowland said sometimes people will endure foot pain or discomfort for years before finally coming in to get examined.

She urges you not to delay as it could impact the type of treatments available.

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