Clues your feet give about your health, 11-12
11. Red flag: Being unable to raise the foot upward from the heel
What it means: "Foot drop" (also "drop foot") signals nerve or muscle damage that can originate well north of your feet -- as far as your back or even shoulder or neck. Certain chemotherapy drugs can also cause trouble lifting the front part of the foot while walking or standing.
More clues: There may be pain and numbness as well, though not necessarily. Sometimes the pain is felt in the upper leg or lower spine, where a nerve is pinched (by damage or a tumor). In many cases, the foot drags when the person walks, sometimes causing him or her to have to hike up the knee and hip with each step. It's rare for both feet to be affected.
What to do: Report this serious symptom to your doctor. Foot drop can be completely reversible or permanent, depending on its cause and treatment. Wearing a brace to keep the foot from flopping is often recommended, in order to prevent back and hip pain caused by hiking up a floppy foot.
12. Red flag: Dry, flaky skin
What it means: Even if your face or hands tend to be powdery-dry, don't dismiss this skin condition on your feet. You don't have to be a jock to contract athlete's foot, a fungal infection that usually starts as dry, itchy skin that then progresses to inflammation and blisters. When blisters break, the infection spreads.
(The name comes from the moist places the fungus thrives -- places athletes tend to congregate, such as locker rooms and pools.)
More clues: Athlete's foot usually shows up between the toes first. It can spread to the soles and even to other parts of the body (like the underarms or groin), usually due to scratching.
What to do: Mild cases can be self-treated by bathing the feet often and drying them thoroughly. Then keep the feet dry, including using foot powder in shoes and socks. If there's no improvement in two weeks or the infection worsens, a doctor can prescribe topical or oral antifungal medication.