You might be surprised to learn that many diseases have foot pain as one of their symptoms. Problems with the thyroid can cause nerve sensations in the feet; or degeneration in the lower back might irritate the nerves of the spine, impeding sensation in the feet. Learning what signs to look for could improve your life or even save it.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
PAD occurs when plaque – a fatty substance which builds up in the arteries in the legs – reduces blood flow to the lower legs and feet. Symptoms include cramping in the calves, or other parts of the leg while it is in motion. It may even cause foot pain, or prevent wounds in the foot from healing properly.
While the most obvious symptoms of PAD involve the legs, it is associated with hidden damage to the heart and brain. This means that PAD sufferers are at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure will also increase the risk of PAD. Medications may be prescribed, but diet and lifestyle changes are also necessary.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Gout
The Arthritis Foundation revealed that 46 million Americans have arthritis or other chronic joint problems. Of the 1.3 million Americans who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, 90 percent of them will experience symptoms in their foot and ankle.
RA develops when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing pain and swelling. If RA reaches the feet, pain will begin in the toes, and then spread to the feet and ankles later on. The joint damage caused by RA can even change the shape of the toes and feet, given enough time. RA treatment involves medication, exercise, and sometimes surgery.
Gout is another type of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid in the body. The acid collects in the joints, especially the big toes, and will cause intense, episodic pain. The acid may even cause kidney stones if it builds up there.
Gout treatment involves exercise, lots of water, avoidance of certain medications, and staying at a healthy weight. Doctors may prescribe gout patients with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, or other medications.
Approximately 24 million Americans have diabetes, but 6 million don’t even know it. Diabetes is a condition in which glucose, or blood sugar, builds up in the blood. While glucose is necessary to fuel the body, an excess amount will damage nerves and blood vessels in the feet, causing decreased sensation and reduced blood flow.
Other symptoms of diabetes include numbness and tingling in the feet, and severe foot infections. While many people experience foot discomfort after a long day of standing, severe foot pain out of proportion with your activity level is a problem that should be reported to your doctor. Diabetes can lead to other major foot problems as well, and possibly surgical removal of the toe, foot, or lower leg.
Diabetes can be treated with medication and regular foot exams. It also requires lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, and wearing supportive shoes to mitigate foot trauma.
For more information on foot pain or to schedule an appointment, contact Superior Foot & Ankle Care Center.