Feet: When they are telling you something is seriously wrong!
From smelly feet to swollen feet – when are changes to your feet a sign of a serious illness?
Our feet are very sensitive to changes in our health and often are a sign something isn’t quite right. But they are often ignored. Think back – how many times have you looked down and thought “Oh, my feet and ankles are swollen” or “what’s wrong with that toenail?” but ignored it?
Very often, these changes have a simple explanation but sometimes they can be signs of serious illness such as heart disease and diabetes. These changes can also be a sign of mineral or vitamin deficiency, iron deficiency and anaemia.
This Harley Street Health Centre guide will, uh, help you find your feet when it comes to, well, feet.
This is highly unlikely to be a sign of an illness but is a bit embarrassing. It’s difficult to define what level of smell is OK for feet but we are going to suggest that if you and other people are noticing it, it’s probably bad enough to pay attention to. Why do feet smell? Well, there might be a few causes. Firstly, our feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of your body! If you sweat a lot from your feet you need to be more careful about cleaning them, changing your socks, avoiding synthetic sock fabrics and using powders to keep your feet dry. The other main cause which is more serious is an untreated fungal infection, such as Athlete’s Foot. We recommend seeing a doctor for proper treatment. Stinky feet affect your self-confidence and relationships and fungal infections can cause cracks and other infections in the skin – take action.
Swollen feet and ankles
There are many reasons for swollen feet and ankles including standing too long, shoes that don’t fit well or sitting for long periods (for example, long-haul travel). But in these cases, they usually go back to normal pretty quickly. If your feet are swollen for no apparent reason and stay that way for a few days, this should give you enough reason to see your doctor. Feet are usually the first sign of poor blood circulation and they can also be a sign of serious illnesses. For example, a build of fluid could signify that there is something wrong with your kidneys or liver. Swelling can also be caused by heart disease – if your heart is not pumping well, fluid from inside your blood vessels and leak out into surrounding tissues.
Discoloured or misshapen toenails
Be honest – how many times have you covered a discoloured toenail with nail varnish and forgotten about it? Or just left it because nobody is going to get to see if – it’s getting cold after all? It’s true that toenails aren’t often pretty but there is such a thing as a healthy toenail and a toenail that tells you something might be wrong. So what’s a normal toenail? A normal toenail should appear a healthy colour depending on your skin tone (you’ll know what looks normal to you!), they should not have any marks on them and should not appear hollow, sunken or highly ridged. Discoloured nails or nails that grow away from the toenail bed may be a sign of a fungal infection. Hollow or sunken toenails can be a sign of anaemia and iron deficiencies. Other causes include poor circulation, skin conditions such as psoriasis and tumours under the nail. An ugly toenail isn’t something to ignore and a pedicure can’t solve everything!
In summary, your feet tell a story about your overall health. Sometimes it’s a reminder to eat better or take supplements and be aware of iron or vitamin deficiencies, and sometimes it’s a serious alarm bell telling you to take care of your health and see a doctor.