Our feet take a beating every day. We exert a lot of pressure on them, walking here and there, running up and down stairs, sometimes carrying heavy loads, showing them no mercy. Many of us spend more hours on our feet in a given day than off of them. At the end of a long day of being on our feet, the next best thing to a warm bath and something good to eat is a luxurious foot rub to release the tension and restore the comfort. That usually does the trick for me. However, unusual or intense foot pain can signal a serious medical condition.
Many diseases can lead to harmful changes in the feet. For example, if your thyroid is not working properly, it may contribute to problems with your nerves that can affect the sensations in your feet. Also, if you are experiencing degenerative issues in your lower back, the nerves that come off of the spinal cord can become irritated, which could adversely affect the health of your feet. The three most common conditions that can result in foot pain and unhealthy feet are peripheral arterial disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
Roughly eight million Americans suffer from peripheral arterial disease, also known as PAD. With this condition, plaque builds up in the arteries in the legs, which reduces the blood flow to the lower legs and feet. Calf muscles may begin to cramp while you move around, and foot pain may also come into play, including foot wounds that are slow to heal. Of course, this disease also affects the heart and the brain, posing a much greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
The Arthritis Foundation indicates that there are 46 million American with arthritis or other long-term conditions affecting their joints. For those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis – about 1.3 million Americans – roughly 90 percent will develop symptoms in their feet and ankles.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack the joints, making them painful and swollen. This can include severe foot pain. The pain usually begins in the toes, eventually spreading to the rest of the foot and the ankle. The resulting joint damage can even cause a change in the shape of the foot and the toes.