Ignoring Your Foot Problems? Reasons to Have Your Feet Checked Now.
My right foot hurts. I’m pretty sure it’s plantar fasciitis. Everything Dr. Google has told me points in that direction: heel pain in the morning that relaxes once I’ve been up and walking on my foot. But the pain is getting worse, and it’s happening more often. The truth is that if I’ve been sitting a while and then stand on my foot, it really hurts.
The causes and symptoms are pretty textbook. I’ve been a runner. I’m guilty of putting too many miles on my shoes. I don’t always have enough arch support. And I’ve been putting this problem off for about six months. Go to a podiatrist, everyone tells me. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the problem of a middle-aged woman, and I keep hoping it will just go away. This isn’t the first time I’ve put off a problem like this.
I sprained my left ankle about a year ago when I missed a step going down our family room stairs and fell. My foot turned inward, and I landed directly on my outer ankle bone with all my body weight. The pain was excruciating. I’m grateful it happened on a snow day when my teenage son was out of school and could help me.
For reasons I can’t rationalize or explain, I did not go to the doctor for nearly a week after the fall. I tried to treat my ankle at home, hoping the problem would just go away. I did everything Dr. Google said: kept it elevated, wrapped it in an elastic bandage, took ibuprofen and used a cold pack to control the unbelievable amount of swelling. I had no idea an ankle could swell like that. And then there was the bruising. After a week of watching me limp around, my husband convinced me to see the doctor and ask about an X-ray. What if my ankle was broken? After checking it out, my doctor said it probably was a sprain but sent me for a precautionary X-ray just in case. She assured me that I’d been doing everything right in treating a sprain. Then she cautioned me that the recovery would probably be worse than with a break. She said my ankle might continue to swell and hurt for months. Seriously, months?
The X-ray confirmed my doctor was right about the sprain. Her recommendation was a compression sock, elevation, ibuprofen for pain and cold packs for swelling. She debated about giving me a brace but ultimately decided against it. As long as I took it easy (i.e., no running and lots of rest) and followed her recommendations, she wasn’t worried I’d re-injure it. So, I sat on my duff for nearly three months, nursing my sore and endlessly swollen ankle and watching my muscle tone disappear.
By April, I’d had enough of sitting around, and I decided to work up gradually to walking extended distances. Once I’d successfully walked three miles at a stretch, I decided to try running again. I took it slowly, gradually increasing my distance each week. It took a few more months, but by August, I’d made up nearly all the ground I’d lost.
And now: plantar fasciitis. I spent all that time recovering from my ankle sprain just to develop more foot problems. I’m annoyed. No, I haven’t seen the doctor about it. No excuses, and yes, I know it’s not going away. Go ahead, call me stubborn.
Apparently, I am not alone in ignoring foot problems and hoping they’ll just go away. A recent article by Next Avenue offers seven examples of foot problems that should not be ignored. These problems can be serious and could indicate significant health issues. Did you know diabetes, arthritis and heart disease have symptoms that can affect our feet? If you’re experiencing these symptoms, your feet might be trying to tell you something.
1. Pain. Plantar fasciitis is first on Next Avenue’s list as a cause of foot pain. Frankly, when I saw it was No. 1, that was my inspiration to write this blog post. What’s the big deal about foot pain from conditions like plantar fasciitis? Well, the problem is that it hurts. Dr. Jane Andersen, a podiatrist in Chapel Hill, N.C., says pain shouldn’t ignored. Fractures can be another cause of foot pain. Do you need a reason to take action? If your feet hurt consistently or you can pinpoint a time of day and specific location of the pain, that’s enough reason to see the doctor. You don’t have to live with the pain.
2. Discoloration. Are you ignoring your feet when you check yourself for skin cancer? Watch for lumps and bumps or unusual moles, and don’t forget to look between your toes. In addition, be sure to monitor your toenails for dark spots, says Andersen. If you don’t know the source of a dark spot, have it checked out.
3. Numbness. If you experience numbness in your feet, it could be due to several serious health problems. The first is a circulatory problem called peripheral artery disease or PAD. PAD reduces blood flow and often includes leg pain and cold legs. Circulation problems and neuropathy are complications of diabetes that can lead to numbness. This is a serious concern for people with diabetes. Numbness might cause them to overlook foot problems, such as infections, that if left untreated could lead to amputation, says Andersen. Arthritis, neurological problems and alcoholism all are connected to numbness as well.
4. Swelling. If you haven’t injured your feet, but you’re experiencing more swelling than usual, have them checked. It could indicate a circulation problem, an undiagnosed injury or another condition such as thyroid problems or congestive heart failure.
5. Cold feet. If your feet are cold all the time, circulation might be to blame. PAD, as mentioned above, could be the culprit. Another condition called Raynaud’s disease also causes coldness in the extremities. If your toes turn white or blue to red, it could be Raynaud’s.
6. Itching. Do you have itchy, scaly feet or cracks in the skin between your toes? If you do, it could be athlete’s foot. If it’s not treated, this foot fungus can spread from between the toes to the toenails. The Next Avenue article says 50 percent of people over age 70 have fungal toenails. It’s important to be mindful of foot fungus like athlete’s foot because it is contagious. You might have caught it from someone in your environment, and you could spread it to others.
7. Gait. If the way you walk has changed, it could be an indicator of several possible problems. It could be neurological, such as from a stroke or multiple sclerosis or even a herniated disk, according to Next Avenue. A combination of numbness and a gait change could be a risk for falls.
These all sound like good reasons to talk to a doctor, especially if ignoring the problem could lead to more serious or long-term issues. If I promise to see the doctor about my plantar fasciitis, will you see your doctor about your foot problems?