“We neglect our feet and put up with signs and symptoms that, in any other part of the body, would have us running to medical professionals,” says podiatrist Jake Heath from One Wellness Clinic in Wimpole Street, London.
“Yet noticeable changes can be indicators of wider health issues.”
Enlarged big toe
It could be gout.
Not only the preserve of men with pot bellies and a rich diet. “Gout is a build-up of razor-sharp uric acid crystals in a joint,” explains Jake. “This can be caused by being overweight, certain medications or a high protein diet, but it can also be genetic.” For most people the first sign comes in the form of a sore, red, swollen big toe.
What to do: If you have pain in your big toe or another joint, such as the knee or elbow, see your GP, who can test for gout. Icing the joint and non-steroid anti-inflammatories can reduce pain. A low-protein diet, drinking lots of water and losing weight can also help.
It could be hypothyroidism
Not that moment when you slip into bed more if you suffer from particularly chilly hands and feet. Hypothyroidism is known as an underactive thyroid gland.
Cold feet can also be caused by Raynaud’s disease. “This is where the blood vessels to the toes and fingers are hypersensitive to temperature, stress, smoking and medication,” says Jake. “They constrict, reducing blood flow and making them appear white. Later, when the blood flow returns, they can be red, swollen and itchy.”
What to do: Other common signs of hypothyroidism are tiredness, weight gain, aching muscles and depression. If you have these too see your GP for a thyroid function test. Also avoid extreme temperatures.
Thickened, crumbling or discoloured nails
It could be Psoriasis
“Nail pitting may be a sign of psoriasis, a chronic skin condition caused by an overactive immune system,” says Jake. Psoriasis affects 1–2% of the population and can be linked to stress, medication or genetics. Jake says half of patients with psoriasis will have nail problems. Other symptoms are flaking, inflammation and thick white, silvery or red skin patches.
What to do: Treatments include steroid creams, light therapy and oral medications.