Diseases of the Foot
When people talk about getting sick, most people think of respiratory or gastrointestinal problems — the cold, the flu, the unfortunate consequences of a bad meal, etc.
But your feet can get sick, too!
While in some cases illnesses can show up anywhere in the body, there are a number that only occur in feet, tend to strike the feet before spreading elsewhere, or affect feet in ways that produce unique challenges.
As you learn about these diseases of the foot, you might realize you (or a loved one) have one. If so, we are here for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment.
Systemic problems that affect your feet
Because your feet are the farthest possible points from your heart, lungs, and brain – and they also must contend with the pressures of supporting your entire body – they are often the first place you can notice system-wide nervous or vascular conditions, such as:
- Peripheral neuropathy. In this condition, nerves slowly decay due to damage or lack of nutrition. Lower legs (and potentially your hands) are the first areas where symptoms become present, but in time the burning, tingling pain or even outright numbness can spread throughout the body without treatment. This is commonly seen in tandem with diabetes (more than half of diabetic individuals have neuropathy).
- Peripheral vascular disease (PVD). This disease is a slowing of circulation in the extremities (often caused by a buildup of plaque in blood vessels). Symptoms aren’t always present but, when they are, can include pain, cramping, swelling, and slow-healing ulcers. A major red flag is claudication – muscle pain or cramping that occurs while walking or exercising (and goes away with rest).NOTE: If plaque builds up in lower body blood vessels, there’s a good chance it’s forming elsewhere, such as your heart and brain. Accordingly, catching and treating PVD early can reduce your risk for heart attack or stroke.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This form of arthritis is an inflammatory disease where your immune system attacks your own body tissues. RA typically affects joints that have a lot of motion (synovial joints), such as the ones in your toes and feet (which are often first to be damaged). There are different arthritic conditions that mimic RA, so proper diagnosis is essential.
Diseases that challenge your feet in unique ways
Diseases that tend to affect multiple areas of the body (whether independently, sequentially, or all at once) can pose particularly frustrating challenges when they show up on the feet, due to the unique role that they play or the difficulty of making a diagnosis. These include conditions like:
- Skin cancer. Feet are susceptible to the same skin lesions that other sun-exposed areas of your body can develop. Unfortunately, feet are also less likely to be rigorously checked for abnormal growths. Left unaddressed, this can become a life-threatening issue. Learn more about skin cancer on feet here.
- Diabetes. This disease affects the body in myriad ways, including causing two of the conditions (peripheral neuropathy, PVD) we just covered. Due to its heightened risk for kidney failure, blindness, heart attacks, and stroke, foot health can be overlooked. That’s a huge mistake! This page provides a close look at why diabetic foot care is critical.
Get the professional care you need for foot diseases
We’ve really only scratched the surface here — we haven’t even mentioned gout, a particularly painful dietary disease that often leads to pain in the big toe — but we think you get the point:
Feet can get sick, and when they do it’s often a sign of a wider problem that needs to be addressed.
While our office specializes in foot and ankle care, we are focused on your full body health. Sure, we can fix your bunion and take away heel pain, but it’s also important to us that we keep the entire “you” active, healthy, and happy.
If you have a disease affecting your feet, we’ll do everything we can to help you beat it, including providing referrals to other specialists and keeping in regular contact with your general practitioner (and other appropriate members of your medical team).