Special Report

Dangerous Health Problems Your Hands and Feet Can Reveal

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1. Poor blood circulation

Numbness, tingling, and ulcers in the legs or feet can be indicative of poor blood circulation, according to Dr. Kent Feldman, a foot surgeon in San Diego. When not enough blood reaches the extremities, a feeling like pins and needles is common. Swelling (edema) in the feet can be another symptom of poor blood circulation, he noted. Poor circulation moves less blood and fluid up from the leg up towards the heart, hence the swelling.

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2. Vascular disease

Vascular disease is narrowing of the blood vessels. They become smaller, slowing down blood flow throughout the body, including the feet, Feldman explained. With a slower blood flow, o organs are not getting enough blood, as well as the oxygen and nutrients it carries, which can cause damage to all organs. People suffering from vascular disease can develop a blood clot in a foot artery. This may hurt, and the skin will likely turn blue due to the lack of oxygen, Feldman added. The clot may eventually lead to tissue damage.

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3. Peripheral artery disease

When narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, some of the symptoms may show up in the feet and legs. Possible signs include numbness, weakness, sores that won’t heal, as well as weak or no pulse. Walking can be painful, and, as the disease advances, even resting or lying down can cause pain.

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4. Diabetes

While not an emergency, feeling numbness in your feet for a week or more should be checked out by a doctor. It may be a sign of diabetes, according to Feldman. High sugar levels in the blood can damage nerves throughout the body. Diabetic neuropathy most often damages nerves in the legs and feet, spreading to the hands and arms. Muscle weakness, sharp pain, a burning sensation, and ulcerated skin are common signs of the condition.

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5. Spinal stenosis

Numb feet can indicate nerve problems in the lower back, Feldman noted. “You don’t need to have back pain to know you have back problems.” The nerves going to the legs can be compressed, leading to a lack of sensation in the feet.

Tingling in your feet can be a sign of a simple nerve problem or something as complex as spinal stenosis, a nerve disease where the spaces within the spine get smaller, putting pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine, Feldman explained. Neck pain, loss of balance, as well as numbness in the feet, legs, arms, or hands are some of the symptoms. The condition may lead to permanent nerve damage and paralysis if left untreated.