April 16, 2024/Daily Health Stories

What your Feet Tell you About your Health

A podiatrist gives some insight into how your feet can tell you a lot about your health and also explains why you shouldn't delay care if you're experiencing discomfort or pain.

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CLEVELAND - April is National Foot Awareness Month.

Did you know your feet can actually tell you about your health?

“We can definitely see evidence of different disease processes in the feet, whether it's on the skin or in the toenails, or just in general,” explained Joy Rowland, DPM, podiatrist for Cleveland Clinic. “Say a patient presents with swelling of the skin or the feet, sometimes it's related to heart disease, or kidney disease, or lymphedema, or vascular disease. We can also see evidence of dermatological problems like psoriasis.”

Dr. Rowland said she can also tell if someone has poor circulation or even diabetes based on the appearance of their feet, which can come as a surprise for some.

They may have thought their pain was isolated to their feet and then discover it’s actually due to another medical condition.

For example, someone experiencing numbness or tingling in their feet could have nerve damage from perhaps a back injury.

Dr. Rowland said in those kinds of situations, she will order additional tests to help confirm the suspected diagnosis.

And it’s not just your feet that can indicate something is wrong, your toenails can too.

“If you happen to come into a podiatrist's office with thickened toenails, they're crumbly, they're brittle, a podiatrist can evaluate you, take a culture, and determine if you have psoriasis, if you have a fungal nail infection in your toenails, or also something called nail dystrophy,” she said. “Nail dystrophy is different from the others as it's related to repetitive injury to the toenail. So even if you have a thickened yellow crumbly type toenail, it's not always nail fungus.” 

Dr. Rowland said sometimes people will endure foot pain or discomfort for years before finally coming in to get examined.

She urges you not to delay as it could impact the type of treatments available.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. Cleveland Clinic is consistently recognized in the U.S. and throughout the world for its expertise and care. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 81,000 employees worldwide are more than 5,743 salaried physicians and researchers, and 20,160 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,690-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 23 hospitals, 276 outpatient facilities, including locations in northeast Ohio; Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2023, there were 13.7 million outpatient encounters, 323,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 301,000 surgeries and procedures throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 132 countries. Visit us at clevelandclinic.org. Follow us at twitter.com/CleClinicNews. News and resources available at newsroom.clevelandclinic.org.

Editor’s Note: Cleveland Clinic News Service is available to provide broadcast-quality interviews and B-roll upon request.

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