Your feet serve you in so many ways every day, but did you know they can be an important indicator of your overall health? 

Taking time to inspect your feet can give you vital information, especially if you’re an active person or someone diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetic foot care is especially important to prevent serious problems.

What Should You Do?

For some of us, getting a good look at the bottoms of our feet is easier said than done. If you have trouble bending in a way to do a thorough inspection, a mirror can come in handy.

It’s also best to investigate with freshly cleaned feet in a well-lit area. Using your hands can also help you get a good feel for what is going on.

Skin and Toenail Problems

What to Look For When Checking Your Feet

1. Scratches, Cuts, or Abrasions

Breaks in the skin can serve as an entrance for bacteria in your body. Since our feet often come in contact with germy surfaces, especially during sandal season, this can be dangerous.

If you find a cut or scrape on your feet, be sure to keep it covered with a bandage and keep the area clean until it heals. Wounds that are warm to the touch, show signs of redness and swelling, or become pus-filled are all signs of an infection.

Cuts or abrasions that heal very slowly, or never seem to completely go away can be an indicator of poor oxygen flow. If you notice that your feet consistently have cuts and scrapes that don’t go away, it may be time for a visit to your doctor. 

2. Dry, Cracked Skin

Dry, cracked, and flaky skin is a common issue for many, especially during periods of cold or dry weather. However, skin that doesn’t seem to improve with regular exfoliation and moisturizing treatment can be a concern. 

There are multiple health issues associated with dry feet, including diabetes and hypothyroidism, as well as chronic skin conditions. If the problem becomes persistent, consult your doctor. 

3. Blisters and Sores

For those of us who are very active or often on our feet, blisters can be a common occurrence. When they happen, it’s important to protect the area from infection. 

In some cases, blisters or sores that go unnoticed can be a signal that nerves in the area are less sensitive, which can be caused by diabetes or another underlying disease. If you find that you have sores or blisters that you didn’t notice, tell your doctor right away.

Athlete's Foot

4. Calluses and Corns

Painful calluses and corns can result from poorly fitting footwear, not wearing socks, or simply being on your feet a lot. Noticing these early on when they start to develop can make them easier to treat. This can help prevent them from becoming a major hindrance to your everyday routine. 

5. Plantar Warts

If you’ve experienced a plantar wart, you probably already recognize the feeling. These unmistakable spots on the bottoms of your feet can be painful when in a place that receives pressure when you walk. Most plantar warts can be taken care of at home with an over-the-counter wart removal kit, but some stubborn instances require the intervention of a medical professional.   

Warts are caused by a virus and are most common in young people, but repeated development of plantar warts in adults could be an indicator of a suppressed immune system. If the problem becomes persistent, tell your doctor. 

6. Ingrown or Discolored Toenails

Both our fingers and toenails can tell us a lot about our health. Discolored nails are often the symptom of a fungal infection, but depending on the color, it could indicate several underlying health issues. 

Yellowing nails can occur from keeping nail polish on too long due to occluding the nail from sunlight. Other possible conditions range from psoriasis to kidney dysfunction and even liver problems. 

When it comes to ingrown toenails, they can pose a risk for infection. In extreme cases, they sometimes even require surgery to correct.

The best way to avoid ingrown toenails is to be sure you cut your nails properly and wear shoes that fit well. 

7. Redness and Swelling

Often, being on your feet for long periods can cause redness and swelling. If the issue persists and can’t easily be explained, it could be a condition called edema

If you have shiny, stretched skin and difficulty walking, your swollen feet could indicate something is abnormal with your overall health. 

If you’re pregnant and experience these symptoms, it could be associated with some serious complications and should be mentioned to your doctor right away.

Ingrown Toenail

When to See a Doctor

If you find any of these foot issues that can’t be explained by your everyday activity or persist despite treatment at home, it may be time to consult an expert. When it comes to the signs of infection mentioned above, especially if accompanied by a fever, see a medical professional immediately. 

Dr. Viedra V. Elison
Founder and Managing Partner of Fixing Feet Institute
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