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From yellow toenails to always feeling cold… what your FEET reveal about your health

Embarrassing Bodies star Dr Dawn Harper reveals the symptoms you should never ignore

WHETHER you're squeamish about feet or a lover of foot massages, they're a part of our body that we often tend to neglect.

According to a recent survey, 90 per cent of women suffer some form of foot-related health problem during their lifetime.

 Surprisingly, 90 per cent of women suffer some form of foot-related health problem during their lifetime
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Surprisingly, 90 per cent of women suffer some form of foot-related health problem during their lifetime

So are there any warning signs we should be looking out for?

Here Embarrassing Bodies star Dr Dawn Harper sheds some light on what our feet can reveal about our health...

Always feeling cold

As the colder weather sets in, many of us will be digging out our slipper socks to keep our tootsies snug during evenings in front of the telly.

 If you've always got cold feet, it could be a symptom of poor circulation
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If you've always got cold feet, it could be a symptom of poor circulation

But if you struggle all year round with cold feet (the literal kind), it could be a symptom of poor circulation.

Dr Harper says: "In extreme cases, poor circulation could lead to gangrene so it's a symptom not to be ignored.

"It could also mean problems with circulation elsewhere in the body so your doctor will want to know and will check your blood pressure and test your cholesterol and glucose levels."

The colour of your feet could also be a tell-tale sign that all is not well.

"Your feet should be the same colour as the rest of you," says Dr Harper.

 Dr Dawn Harper says our feet should be the same colour as the rest of your body
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Dr Dawn Harper says our feet should be the same colour as the rest of your body

"We all get blue feet occasionally but feet that are always dusky blue could be a sign of poor circulation. It can be more difficult to see on darker skins."

She suggests pressing your fingers into the pulp of your toes. The skin should blanch and return to a normal colour as soon as you release the pressure. If this takes some time it is called poor capillary return and could be a sign of circulatory problems.

Nails

If you can't remember the last time your toe nails were naked, it could be there's something grim lurking beneath your layers of polish.

While yellow nails can simply be caused by overdoing it on the pedicures, thick discoloured nails could indicate a fungal infection.

 Yellow nails could be down to too much nail polish - or a fungal infection
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Yellow nails could be down to too much nail polish - or a fungal infection

If this is the case, you may find your nails also become more brittle, change shape and painful.

Dr Harper says: "Your GP will probably want to send some nail clippings to the lab for analysis to confirm this before prescribing antifungal paint or tablets."

If you notice what looks like a bruise under the nail but don’t remember injuring it, it is important to get this checked out as sometimes a skin cancer can develop under the nail and this needs urgent assessment and treatment.

Dry, cracked skin

Let's be honest, how many of you actually moisturise your feet?

Even if you do, if they're constantly dry and cracked it could be a symptom of hyperkeratosis.

 If your feet are constantly dry and cracked it could be a symptom of hyperkeratosis
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If your feet are constantly dry and cracked it could be a symptom of hyperkeratosis

This is when the skin has become so thick due to constant rubbing and pressure from running, walking or going barefoot that it's resistant to cream.

Common examples of hyperkeratosis include corns, calluses and warts.

Other health issues related to dry feet include Athlete's foot, psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema or keratoderma - a marked thickening of the skin.

Smell

If people wince every time you take off your shoes, it's probably time you took notice.

Dr Harper says: "Smelly feet can be a sign of infection, the most common being Athlete's foot, which is caused by a fungus. Fungi love warm sweaty environments."

 If people wince every time you take off your shoes, it's probably time you took notice
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If people wince every time you take off your shoes, it's probably time you took notice

Common symptoms of Athlete's foot include itching, stinging, cracking, blistering and dryness between your toes and on the soles of your feet.

The worst thing is, it's mildly contagious if you come into direct contact with an infected person or touch surfaces contaminated with the fungus.

Dr Harper recommends drying in between each toe after showering and changing your socks every day. Natural fibres are better than man-made as they're more breathable.

 Dr Harper recommends drying in between each toe after showering and changing your socks every day
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Dr Harper recommends drying in between each toe after showering and changing your socks every day

She adds: "Trainers in particular retain a lot of moisture so if you can, invest in a second pair and when you are not wearing them stuff your trainers with paper and leave in a warm dry place – an airing cupboard is perfect."

Consult your pharmacist for the best treatment option for you.

Shape

If you're a regular wearer of pointy, ill-fitting high-heeled shoes, you're at risk of joining the 14 million people in the UK who have bunions.

Once formed, they can only be cured by surgery.

Dr Harper says: "Your big toe should be straight and in alignment with the rest of your foot. If it is bent away towards the other toes leaving a boney prominence at the base of the big toe, you may have a bunion (also called hallux valgus).

 Bunions can only be cured by surgery
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Bunions can only be cured by surgery

"Very pointy ill-fitting shoes will make the problem worse."

While the exact cause of bunions is unknown, Dr Harper reckons it's more to do with the foot type you inherit from your family, injuries or deformities present at birth.

When you stand flat on the floor, the inside of your feet should have a natural arch.

If your foot is splayed on the floor, it could indicate fallen arches, caused by broken or dislocated bones, rheumatoid arthritis, nerve problems or a birth defect.

 Very pointy ill-fitting shoes will make the problem worse
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Very pointy ill-fitting shoes will make the problem worse

Many people with this condition experience pain in the arches, swelling or even back and leg pain.

Your risk of developing fallen arches is increased if you're obese, have diabetes or are pregnant.

Dr Harper recommends insoles in your shoes to improve posture and comfort.

Cramps

If you're always reaching for your feet to stretch out a cramp, it could be an indicator of poor blood flow.

 Recurring cramps in the foot may include calf cramping
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Recurring cramps in the foot may include calf cramping

Generally your muscles become more vulnerable to spasms and cramps when your body is low in fluids and electrolytes as well as minerals such as potassium, calcium or magnesium.

Recurring cramps in the foot may include calf cramping - something that affects around one in three adults at night.

This could be a sign of more serious issues, such as nerve compression, so it's worth getting them checked out.

Previously Dr Harper revealed her five health checks in five minutes that could spot signs of disease like cancer, arthritis, gingivitis or heart disease.

Last night Stand Up To Cancer viewers were put off by Danny Dyer’s bare feet on the table as he took part in Celebrity Gogglebox with daughter Dani.

Danny Dyer watches TV with daughter Dani with his bare feet on the table in Gogglebox special