We depend on them every day and most of the time they are hidden away, but often, we take our feet for granted unless they hurt. So it’s hardly surprising that most of us are unaware of how our feet can provide important clues to the state of our health.

There is an old saying in Chinese, “Foot is your second heart”. Our feet are composed of twenty six major bones and joints. The way we walk depends on how these bones and joints move in relation to each other and the other bones in our bodies. Because of this, flat feet can indicate curvature of the spine and distorted toes can signify rheumatoid-arthritis later in life.
So when your feet send you a warning sign, don’t ignore it.Toes that tip up might be Lung, heart or gastrointestinal problem. It can be one toe or multiple and is usually a red flag for a pulmonary or lung disease, even lung cancer. It can also be a gastro issue, like Crohn’s disease or heart disease. A primary care doctor needs to hone in on what’s going on with additional testing.

Numbness might indicate Diabetes. Podiatrists perform various types of nerve testing to check a patient’s sharp and dull sensations. People with decreased sensation have a peripheral neuropathy, which may signal diabetes because high sugar impacts the nerves so they don’t function well. If you have neuropathy but good blood sugar checks levels, you may have a misaligned position of the foot where when weight is placed on the foot, it collapses. A nerve that runs along the side of the foot becomes stretched and eventually compressed and leads to losing nerve sensation there.

Custom orthotics, little inserts in shoes, helps correct the alignment.
Swelling in your feet or ankles may indicate high blood pressure. Swelling may also indicate the existence of a severe illness such as congestive heart failure, kidney failure or liver failure if your feet and ankles swell, you should check it out.

Foot cramps and charley horses in the calf are usually a result of low potassium or dehydration. If you have an issue with cramping of feet or legs, eat a banana before vigorous exercise and drink plenty of water before and after. Try stretching feet before sleeping.

Disappearing hair on toes may indicate poor circulation. Hair follicles don’t have enough circulation to remain intact so they slough off. Often it’s accompanied by a cool foot temperature. It’s typical of vascular disease, most commonly arterial sclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries that brings blood from the heart to the extremities. Poor circulation can also be heart related; a weak heart-pumping mechanism can cause circulatory issues. Patients must see a vascular surgeon for evaluation.

If it hurts to walk, don’t wait. See your health care provider. A few simple tests can determine the cause and treatment plan and help you start the healing process. Pay attention to your feet and treat them well.

PHOTO Courtesy of: http://media.mnn.com/sites/default/files/user/132046/happy_feet.jpg