What your feet say about your health

Your feet can act as mirrors of your overall health.

Foot issues are warning signs of underlying health conditions, yet many foot problems can be prevented if noticed early. Foot Health Week 2019 (October 14-20) is encouraging Australians to, “stand up for your health”, acknowledging the role fleet play in our overall health and wellbeing.

Dr Frances Henshaw, registered podiatrist and professor at Western Sydney University, shares five foot issues and when you should seek help:

Constant foot pain, including Plantar Fasciitis and Metatarsalgia

One of the most common serious foot conditions in Australia is Plantar Fasciitis, which is noticeable through deep ache or shooting pain in the heel. Metatarsalgia is another common condition where the ball of the foot becomes so inflamed it can be unbearable to stand or walk. To manage pain, it is important to look after your overall general health by drinking plenty of water, wearing correct footwear and exercising regularly where possible.

Given the complexity of ailments affecting the feet and lower limbs, only your podiatrist can prescribe the treatment most suited to your needs; see a podiatrist if you experience pain in your lower limbs and feet.

Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses are common skin conditions often caused by ill-fitting footwear such as high heels, excess friction on your foot or moist feet. To avoid developing corns and calluses, pay attention to your feet.

Keep them moisturised and ensure that you have properly fitting shoes, especially if you spend a lot of time on your feet or you are elderly. Over-the-counter remedies, such as corn paint or plasters, tend to treat the symptoms, not the underlying problem, so if symptoms persist, see your podiatrist.

Fungal and nail infections

Nail fungus often appears as yellow/brownish discolouration and the nail can become quite thick and maintain a crumbly texture when cut. If left untreated, the skin underneath your nail can become inflamed and/or painful and it may retain a foul smell.

To avoid fungal and nail infections make sure you frequently wash your feet, never wear the same pair of socks or hosiery two days in a row and wear footwear that fits properly and is breathable. Some at-home treatments include washing your socks and/or hosiery with a combination of hot water and an anti-fungal wash. It can also help to clean and air your shoes regularly, alternating them with another pair to allow for a thorough cleaning. To avoid further complications, contact a podiatrist at the first indication of a fungal or nail infection.

Diabetic foot

Your feet are often the first place to show diabetic-related symptoms. This is why it is so important to pay attention to any such changes in your feet if you have diabetes. If you experience cold feet, numbness, pins and needles, a change in foot colour (such as redder skin) or infection, seek urgent care as these may be signifying diabetes-related ailments.

To prevent future foot problems, try and keep your blood glucose levels in your target range, avoid smoking, and keep physically active. Make sure your feet are clean and dry, moisturise your feet every day and keep up-to-date with your annual cycle of care visits.

Change in your gait or how you walk

If you are walking around less, have had an accident or experiencing tiredness or pain in your lower limbs, there may be a change in your gait (the way you walk) causing you to move differently.

Any change in your gait or how your shoes are wearing is worth a check-up as this could have a bigger impact on your overall posture. A podiatrist can do a full biomechanical gait analysis that assesses how you move and provide a treatment plan to get you moving more easily again.

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