Burning or Swollen Feet? What Foot Pain Says About Your Health
Are your feet and toes often cold? Poor blood circulation, known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), may be the reason. PAD is often the result of an underlying disease, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, hyper-cholesterol, and anemia. Smoking is also strongly linked to PAD. Peripheral neuropathy may also make your feet feel cold. Common in fair-skinned females, Raynaud's disease makes hands and feet appear blotchy and bluish in cold weather. This may be associated with rheumatoid arthritis, 'Sjögren's disease, or lupus, and is known as Raynaud's phenomenon. Your doctor can check and see if you may have one of these underlying conditions or if you just have cold feet.
It may not just be your shoes causing your feet to hurt. Although four out of five women complain of foot pain from their shoes, there may be an underlying condition causing the problem. High heels or poorly fitting shoes can exacerbate common foot conditions such as bunions, neuromas, hammertoes, and ingrown toenails. Postmenopausal women can suffer from osteoporosis, which puts them at a higher risk for a stress fracture, a small crack in the bone.
Red, White, and Blue Toes
If your toes turn white, then blue, and red again with a blotchy appearance, you may have Raynaud's disease. Exposing your feet to cold temperatures or emotional stress triggers vasospasms that cause a sudden narrowing of the small arteries to the skin of the feet and toes, resulting in Raynaud's disease. Chronic smokers may also have an appearance of blotchiness and changing color of their feet due to peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia is a large, broad ligament at the bottom of the foot that attaches to the heel and can become inflamed. This causes a sharp pain in the heel, which may be most pronounced when taking your first steps in the morning or after sitting. Other causes of heel pain are retrocalcaneal Achilles tendocalcinosis (bone spurring), bone prominence (pump bump), stress fractures, bone tumors, infections, bursitis, neuritis, and arthritis. An examination by your physician, as well as X-rays, can rule out many of these conditions.
Dragging Your Feet
A change in the way you walk may be the first sign of an underlying medical condition. It may manifest itself as a slower or wider gait, imbalance, foot dragging, and tripping. One common cause is peripheral neuropathy, which is a slow loss of sensation that causes numbness and sometimes a burning sensation of the feet. Peripheral neuropathy is most commonly seen in diabetics but may also be a consequence of alcoholism, infection, vitamin deficiency, lower back nerve impingement, or exposure to heavy metals.
Clubbing of the toes refers to the structural shape of the toes. Clubbing may also occur in the fingers. The nails are curved and rounded at the top, somewhat like an upside-down spoon. There may be a bulbous appearance of the tip of the toes. The most common underlying cause is lung disease or lung cancer. Other causes are heart defects present at birth, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, liver disease, thyroid disease, and Hodgkin's lymphoma. In some cases, clubbing of the toes and/or fingers may just be a family trait where no underlying disease exists.
Swelling of the feet may be temporary from prolonged standing or sitting in one position. This is particularly common during pregnancy and is usually benign. In contrast, persistent swelling of the feet and legs maybe an indication of a serious underlying medical condition, including cardiovascular problems such as congestive heart failure, poor blood circulation, or venous insufficiency. It may also be a problem with one's lymphatic system (lymphedema). Other causes of swelling are infections (cellulitis), kidney or thyroid disorders, and even a blood clot in the leg. Consult your doctor if you have persistent swelling of the feet.