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Look At Toenails For CluesTo HealthFor a quick “snapshot” of your health during the past year, bend over and take a look at your toenails.

“Their shape, color, growth rate and susceptibility to pain all offer vital clues that your family doctor or a foot specialist can interpret,” says Michael Schey, D.P.M., a Beaumont Hospitals podiatrist.

Dr. Schey recalls seeing a patient with infected toes and peeling, cracked skin on her feet who had recently lost weight. He urged her to see her family doctor, who confirmed Dr. Schey’s suspicions. The woman had diabetes.

Spoon shape – If downward, cardiopulmonary disease; If upward, psoriasis

Pain – Excessive pain, diabetes, neurological disease, poor circulation, nail deformity, collagen disorder, kidney disease; Lack of pain, neurological disease, diabetes, nerve injury

Color – Blue nail bed, oxygen deficiency, Lou Gehrig’s disease, congestive heart disease; Dark spot under nail, skin cancer

Dr. Schey cautions against self-diagnosis and urges anyone who notes an unusual appearance to his toenails to check with his doctor or to consult a dermatologist or podiatrist.

The Beaumont foot specialist urges everyone to pay attention to their toenails, noting any changes in texture, shape and color, including unusual growth, pitting or holes in the nails and dark brown streaks beneath the nails. He also stresses that foot and toenail problems may be avoided by:

* Keeping the feet dry. This may be accomplished through the use of frequent stocking changes and/or synthetic socks that wick moisture away from the skin, especially when wearing athletic shoes. Avoid wearing the same shoes everyday.

* Clipping or filing the nails to avoid sharp corners that can ingrow or cut adjacent toes.

* Not removing the cuticles or cleaning too deeply under the nails, which can lead to infection

* Avoiding self-care for ingrown toenails. Seek help from a professional.


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