Can serious medical problems be detected by examining the feet?

Several medical conditions can be diagnosed through a thorough examination of the feet and legs. In particular, diabetes often will have signs that show up in the feet as decreased sensation and after a thorough foot exam, patients who have this are often referred back to their primary medical doctor. Likewise, people who have poor circulation in the feet otherwise known as PAD (peripheral arterial disease) will often have this condition in other parts of their body including the arteries and blood vessels that go to their heart or brain, which sometimes will lead to heart attacks or strokes. So when this is detected in the feet, we promptly advise our patients and their physicians. There are several skin conditions as well that can be seen in the feet and the signs of a more serious medical problem. A rash that shows up on the foot and discoloration of the nails can be an indication of such diseases like psoriasis. Often on examining our patients’ feet, we have taken an x-ray, which will show significant bony changes that can lead to a diagnosis of gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Sometimes a bony suspicious lesion can be the first indication of a cancer that has been in the body that has metastasized (spread) from somewhere else in the body.

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