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What Are Your Feet Telling You

Jeanne Boudrieau, ARNP is a Nurse Practitioner at Providence Medical Group - Panorama Clinic. She believes in working with her patients to identify their personal and family values in order to achieve the best possible health outcome.

JeanneBoudrieauToYourHealthWhen I'm not seeing patients I can often be found standing out in my field with a flock of sheep, training my Border Collies to herd. And, as a former marathoner, I’m sensitive to any nagging aches and pains my body may be feeling.

While we often ignore foot pain, it’s important to pay attention to your feet because they can tell you about health problems you might otherwise never notice.

Pain

If you’re overweight, your aching feet may be telling you to lose some weight. If you’re over 40, they may be telling you what you don’t want to hear: your treads are getting thin.

With age, the foot begins to lose some of its structure. Muscles weaken and the foot begins to spread out, stretching ligaments and tendons more than they want to be stretched. The effect may throw your whole stride out of line, resulting in pain in the ankle, knee or hip.

Arthritis—whatever the type—is likely to show up in your feet early.

  • About half of Americans in their 60s and 70s have osteoarthritis. Causes include a lot of standing or walking in poorly fitting shoes, or even years of exercise. A good percentage of distance runners have osteoarthritis in their big toes from repetitive pushing off. If you had a severe ankle or foot sprain or fracture years ago, that could be coming back to haunt you as osteoarthritis, often known as “wear and tear” or “traumatic” arthritis. The cartilage that covers and protects the ends of the bones becomes frayed and worn, resulting in inflammation, pain and swelling.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age. The immune system attacks and inflames joints in the body. Pain, swelling and stiffness may occur, often accompanied by fever, fatigue and loss of appetite. Early treatment is essential to curb the inflammation before too much damage is done.

Numbness, Tingling

Numbness and tingling may be signals of a more serious problem. Peripheral neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes. When feeling is reduced in the foot, it’s easy to ignore a blister or sore which all too quickly can turn into an ulcer that becomes infected. In severe cases this can lead to gangrene and amputation. Those living with diabetes must check their feet constantly and avoid anything that causes constant irritation, such as a poorly fitting shoe.

Cold Feet

Cold feet could be a sign of poor blood circulation, which is often associated with peripheral neuropathy as well as peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Particularly if one foot is colder than the other, this symptom is a good reason to talk to your doctor.

Swelling in Your Feet or Ankles

Swelling without pain can be caused by prolonged standing or sitting (a long airline flight or car ride, for example), menstrual periods or pregnancy, or can be a side effect of a medication. Fluid retention in the body is also associated with high blood pressure and severe illnesses such as congestive heart failure, kidney failure and liver failure. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, you probably tend to retain fluid when you’ve eaten too much salty food, haven’t exercised enough or haven’t taken your medication. To avoid more serious problems such as congestive heart failure, it’s important to see yourp rovider and get back on your treatment regimen.

There is a favorite saying among farmers, “No foot, no horse.” Without healthy ‘hooves,’ lameness, pain and lack of free movement interferes with an animal’s usefulness on the farm. We can borrow some parallels from our four legged friends—Happy Feet, Happy Me!

Take good care of your treads and they’ll give you many happy, pain free miles on your journey!

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