Your feet and toes are constantly working hard to keep you moving and going about your day-to-day activities. They also play a role in your overall health, which is why it is important to be aware of any problems with them. This is especially critical for those with diabetes or other known health conditions. Understanding what your toes say about your health can help you monitor and treat potential problems before they become more serious.
8 Things Your Toes Say About Your Health
When it comes to maintaining your health, your toes and nails may play a more significant role than you think. It’s important to pay attention to the condition of your feet and toes, especially if you are experiencing any discomfort or changes in sensation. The following are a few things your toes might be saying about your overall health.
Changes in Nail Color
Healthy nails should be pinkish and smooth. If your toenails are yellowish or have ridges or pits, it could indicate an underlying health condition such as a fungal infection or psoriasis.
Nail beds with discoloration can be an indicator of a few different health conditions, depending on the specific pattern and distribution of the color:
- Terry's nails. With this condition, the nails appear mostly white with a narrow band of pink, red, or brown at the tip. It can be a sign of liver disease, congestive heart failure, or diabetes.
- Leukonychia. With this condition, there are white spots or streaks on the nails, which may be accompanied by a reddish-pink hue near the base of the nail bed. It can be caused by injury, infection, or a nutritional deficiency.
- Half-and-half nails. With this condition, the nail is mostly white on one side and mostly pink or red on the other. It can be a sign of kidney disease and other conditions such as psoriasis or alopecia areata.
If you notice that your toes are cold, it could be due to poor circulation. Cold toes due to poor circulation can be caused by a variety of underlying medical conditions. These include:
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- Heart disease
- Varicose veins, clotting disorders
- Thyroid problems
- Inflammatory illnesses such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
Changes in Nail Shape
If your toenails change shape and look curved or scooped out, it can indicate a health problem such as:
- Autoimmune disorder
If your toenails appear clubbed shape, this can be caused by a medical condition such as:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain types of lung cancer or lung disease
- Low levels of oxygen in the blood, known as hypoxia
If your toes are swollen, it could indicate a problem with your circulatory system such as poor blood flow or lymphatic issues. Toe swelling can also be caused by a number of conditions, including fungal infections, traumatic injuries such as sprains or broken bones, psoriasis, and gout.
Other causes of swelling in the toes include deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg), kidney failure, taking medications such as antidepressants, steroids, or hormones, or an allergic reaction. In addition, there are less serious causes of toe swelling such as:
- Sitting or standing in the same position for too long
- Wearing shoes that do not fit properly
- Being overweight
- Being dehydrated or eating salty foods that cause you to retain fluids
Tingling or Numbness
If you are experiencing tingling, numbness, or burning in your toes or feet, you might be suffering from peripheral neuropathy. This debilitating condition is often caused by diabetes. In addition to symptoms such as prickling, tingling, burning, or even complete loss of feeling in the feet and hands, other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include weakness, fatigue, and muscle spasms.
Dark Vertical Bands or Spots on or Under the Toenail
Dark vertical bands or spots on or under the toenail can indicate something more serious such as psoriasis, dermatophytosis (fungal infection), allergic contact dermatitis, and even melanoma. Dark vertical bands can occur due to estrogen or progesterone hormone shifts during pregnancy or from nail polish use, but in some instances, they may indicate melanoma—a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. In addition, dark spots or streaks may signify an underlying fungal infection such as athlete’s foot that has spread to the nail bed.
Fungal infections in the nails are caused by tiny organisms that feed on the keratin found in the nail. Many people are unaware they have an infection until their symptoms become more apparent. Common signs and symptoms include white or yellow spots or streaks under the nail, as well as discoloration and darkening of the nail. You may also experience flaking or thickening of the nail. In some cases, toenails can become brittle and even fall off.
If you start to experience more frequent toenail fungal infections, such as athlete's foot or toenail fungus, it could indicate a weakened immune system or poor circulation.
Taking action immediately is important if you are experiencing any pain in your feet or toes. Visit our Tarrant County podiatrist for an evaluation to determine the cause of the pain. Common causes of toe pain include overuse injuries, gout, nerve damage, and arthritis.
When to Contact Our Northeast Tarrant County Podiatrists for a Consult
While it's important to pay attention to changes in your toes, it's also important not to self-diagnose. If you are experiencing any concerning symptoms, it's best to consult our Northeast Tarrant County podiatrists for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
If you are experiencing problems with your feet or toes, contact Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for a consultation today. We can evaluate your condition and create a personalized treatment plan based on your specific needs. To request an appointment, please contact our Grapevine practice at 817-481-4000 or our Keller practice at 817-741-4800 or by filling out our convenient online contact form.