Plantar Fasciitis

10 Subtle Signs of Disease Your Feet Can Reveal

Let’s give our feet a little more credit. Here’s how they can alert you to serious issues like diabetes, thyroid disease, and heart disease before you can even get to the doctor’s office.

Written By KELSEY KLOSS

You notice: Dry, flaky feet

It could be: Thyroid problems, especially if moisturizer doesn’t help. When the thyroid gland (the butterfly-shaped gland in the base of your neck) goes on the fritz, it doesn’t properly produce thyroid hormones, which control metabolic rate, blood pressure, tissue growth, and skeletal and nervous system development. “Thyroid problems cause severe dryness of the skin,” says Marlene Reid, DPM, a foot specialist in Naperville, Illinois. “When we see cracking on the feet, or if moisturizer doesn’t improve dryness over a few days, we usually refer patients to their primary doctor to make sure their thyroids are OK.” Brittle toenails can also signal thyroid complications.

You notice: Bald toes

It could be: Arterial disease. If the fuzz on your toes suddenly disappears, it could signal poor blood circulation caused by peripheral arterial disease (PAD). “Signs of PAD can include decreased hair growth on the feet and ankles, purplish toes, and thin or shiny skin,” says Suzanne Fuchs, DPM, a podiatric surgeon at North Shore University Hospital in New York. A buildup of plaque in the leg arteries, PAD affects about 8 million Americans. Symptoms are subtle, but doctors can check for a healthy pulse in the foot or spot PAD on an X-ray. “If I take an X-ray of a broken foot, and I see a hardening of the arteries, 99 percent of the time, the same thing is happening in the heart blood vessels,” says Gary A. Pichney, DPM, a podiatric surgeon of The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy Medical Center.

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