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When Foot Pain Should Be Taken Seriously: Warning Signs of Peripheral Arterial Disease, Arthritis, and Diabetes

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Bones & Joints related image Photo: Getty Images

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.

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

That's true, We don't take care of our foot like we care for our face..but its not right we need to think about our whole body part as equal..Foot exercises

November 30, 2011 - 11:14pm

Kudos! I think so many of us take our feet for granted! Imagine if we had to do the work they do every day! My mother-in-law had a painful foot condition recently, and she FINALLY went to the doctor...turns out it was something very serious which is being taken care of now!

December 30, 2010 - 8:48pm
EmpowHER Guest

Its unfortunate that most people think foot pain is normal. Your feet can be tired at the end of a long day, but they shouldn't hurt. If you ever experience any abnormal pain, make a note to see your pedorthist or doctor immediately. Painful feet can sometimes, like the article states, indicate more serious conditions! Take care of your feet :)

December 30, 2010 - 10:42am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.