Cold feet? Swelling? 8 signs you shouldn’t ignore

Cold feet? Swelling? 8 signs you shouldn’t ignore

Did you know you can tell how healthy a person is by looking at their feet? You might not realize that your foot health can be a determining factor to your overall health. But if you think about it, we spend our whole lives on our feet.

While a lot of research is dedicated to how diabetes can affect foot health, what other serious issues show symptoms in your feet?

Dr. Kellen Cohn, a podiatrist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., provides tips on what to keep an eye on when it comes to your feet:

1) Pain. Developing pain without injury can lead to chronic pain if left untreated. Plantar fasciitis and sometimes arthritis can loosen up with activity, but fractures certainly worsen it. Fractures aren’t usually something people develop without noticing unless it’s a stress fracture. Tendonitis is another cause of pain that worsens with activity.

2) Skin discoloration. Skin discoloration is a worrisome symptom, and Dr. Cohn advises having a biopsy done when the skin displays certain characteristics that include a growing lesion or one that bleeds easily, discolorations that are asymmetrical, have notched or irregular borders, are not uniform in color or are greater than five millimeters in diameter.

3) Numbness. Numbness in the feet and legs is termed “peripheral neuropathy.” It is a dysfunction of the sensory nerves of the feet and legs. It is usually progressive, beginning at the toes where the nerves are most fragile. The underlying cause of neuropathy is what matters. Common causes include: Diabetes, alcoholism, pinched nerves, medications, thyroid dysfunction, vitamin deficiencies or exposure to radiation and chemotherapy.

4) Swelling. Swelling, or edema, in the feet and legs is something that should never be overlooked. If caught early, it may be treatable. It is usually a problem stemming from insufficient veins or lymphatic ducts. Elevation, compression stockings, water pills, decreased salt intake and a massage can help–especially in early stages. Swelling may also be early evidence of kidney or liver disease.

5) Cold feet. Cold feet is a symptom of arterial disease. Those inflicted with arterial disease are prone to injury, and healing is greatly delayed. Smoking is a big risk factor, and in smokers, it is not a matter of if but when arterial disease becomes evident. Raynaud’s disease presents itself through toes or fingers turning white, blue or red. It is an intolerance to cold temperatures for which patients must be aware of when exposed to cold weather/water. Raynaud’s phenomenon is sometimes associated with more serious autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma.

6) Itchy feet. Itchy feet is typically diagnosed as tinea pedis, also known as athlete’s foot, which is a fungal infection of the skin on the feet. However, if the itch is not responsive to antifungal treatment, other diagnoses include dermatitis or hyperhidrosis.

7) Gait disturbances. Sometimes overlooked, Parkinson’s can create symptoms in the feet. Gait disturbances can be subtle but very important to getting prompt treatment for the underlying pathology.

8) Foot structure. Flattening of the feet overtime can occur normally, but is also the first sign of adult acquired flatfoot. This pathological process occurs in four stages. Stage one and two are a dysfunction of the posterior tibial muscle which is treatable, while stages three and four incurs permanent, rigid, painful arthritic deformity necessitating more invasive treatment.

In addition to flat feet, it is important to pay attention to your toes. Changes in shape or direction may be a symptom of underlying diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma or psoriasis.

It is very important to take care of your feet. “One piece of advice I give to a lot of patients in order to maintain foot health is stretching. Of the many biomechanical problems I address, equinus, or a tight Achilles cord, is the most common,” says Dr. Cohn.

“In fact, most people have inadequate flexibility in their Achilles. This can exacerbate many problems including heel pain, forefoot ailments, tendonitis or shin splints. Proper Achilles stretching techniques can help resolve many of these problems.”

Want to learn more about your risk for diabetes? Take a free online quiz here. 

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  1. I have swelling in both ankles and both feet are always cold.

  2. my feet and one leg is always cold and numb

  3. I have stiff swelling in both feet the top have turned a dark color and the bottom are red, Pain shoots to my leg. At times my feet are freezing cold.

  4. I have numness in both feet, more in left and right feet. More in left foot with numness in more in left foot than right foot. It feels like my left foot has been in ice numming it. Also pain in my hip where I sit. It hurts for me to sit a while on my left hip meor than the riw out of bed in the morning,, wear inserts in my shoes at all times. Never walk without shoes, use ice pack through the day.

  5. I have swelling in both feet and numbness. More so in the left foot, it swells more and feels cold num. I wear insoles in my shoes all the time that I wear when I get out of the bed or get up to walk at all times. I put Ice packs on the left foot through the day because it is he most problem. My left feet feel as if i have already put Ice pack on it even before I put the ice pack on. That was orders from me foot doctor. My hip keep me from sitting at times because I cannot sit for a time. I sleep with my feet on pillows elevated high. Elevation helps. In the morning, my swelling is down but through the day I nave to be careful not to walk without my insole. I found that drinking plenty water and fluid pills helped me to function better. I had to drink plenty water and exercise my feet with my foot machine and foot exercise given my foot doctor, wear compress stockings. Get compress stockings fitted for my feet only.

  6. I had COVID around Thanksgiving! So I was tired and sick lying on the couch! I developed blood clots after my hip surgery and COVID which turned into DVT and then diabetic neuropathy! Saw my neurologist and she put me on Gabapentin and Deloxiphine compressive socks And Eleqyis! I can’t wear shoes only slippers and ace wraps feet swollen big toe swollen ankles toes can’t bend itchy hurt to touch and toes turn blue shiny feet always cold feet shiny feels like I am wearing rolled up balled up socks on my ball and heal! It’s terrible and so painful! Doctors are talking amputation due to no circulation and loss of balance! Take care of your feet and see a vascular dr and neurologist!

  7. Lynn Constantinescu March 26, 2022 at 8:12 am · Reply

    How do you fix cure swelling of feet from constant exposure to cold but not freezing

    What do I do to cure it ?

    I’m living in my truck in winter condition and am constantly cold overnight

  8. Both my hands and feet are swollen and somewhat number what do I do please help

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About the Author

Liz Donofrio
Liz Donofrio

Liz Donofrio, health enews contributor, is a marketing specialist at Advocate Health Care. As a newlywed, she is happy to be done planning her wedding and enjoying spending time with her husband and new extended family. In her free time, you can find Liz cooking new tasty recipes for her family, attending Chicago sporting events and chasing after her shih tzu-yorkie, Buttons.