Sometimes pain, numbness, abnormal growths, and other issues affecting your feet and legs may actually be related to various diseases. The following are diseases that may cause pain or discomfort in your legs or feet.
If you are suffering from discomfort or pain in your feet or legs, and/or if you are at risk for any of these diseases, you should visit your doctor for examination and treatment.
Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, particularly people over the age of 50. Though arthritis can affect any joint within your body, your feet (which contain 33 joints each), are particularly susceptible to the disease.
Although arthritis cannot be cured, there are several treatment options available to reduce pain and improve mobility. Early diagnosis and treatment can allow people with arthritis to live active, productive lifestyles.
Arthritis literally means "pain within a joint." It causes inflammation of the cartilage that lines the joints, producing pain and limited mobility. The risk of developing arthritis tends to increase with age, but a number of factors, including the following, can cause arthritic foot pain:
Age: Your body's ability to heal itself decreases with age, and over the years, normal wear and tear can break down the cartilage and lining of your joints.
Disorders: Bacterial and viral infections and prescription drugs can trigger the immune system to attack the joints, which may lead to rheumatoid arthritis.
Family History: Heredity does seem to be a risk factor for arthritis. If a close family member suffers from arthritic foot pain, it increases your risk of developing the disease.
Injury: Fractures and other foot injuries that damage the surface of a joint can put you at an increased risk of developing arthritis later in life.
Obesity: Additional weight on your feet can speed up the deterioration of cartilage in your joints.
Symptoms of arthritis will vary depending on which of the many joints in your feet and ankles are affected.
Common signs and symptoms include:
Limited motion of the joint (particularly in the morning).
Pain or tenderness.
Redness or rashes.
Swelling of the joint.
Warm sensation near the joint.
Treatment of arthritis in your feet should address both the pain associated with the disease and the condition of the joints.
Conservative treatment options may include:
Surgery may be necessary if conservative treatment options are not effective. Surgical treatment options can include joint replacement, fusion of the joints, and arthroscopic debridement (cleaning of the joint).
Consult a foot doctor to learn more about the different treatment options available for arthritis of the feet and ankles.
While it may not seem common, there are several different kinds of cancer that can affect your feet, and oftentimes they are some of the most overlooked types of cancer.
The next time you change your shoes or socks, take a closer look at your feet. Self-examination of your feet and toes is the easiest way to catch foot cancer early, and early detection plays a vital role in increasing the effectiveness of treatment.
Neoplastic disorders, or tumors, are caused by an abnormal growth of tissue. There are several different kinds of soft tissue and bone tumors that affect the feet, including the following:
Plantar Fibroma - This benign tumor grows on the bottom surface (or plantar) of your foot. Plantar fibromas can cause discomfort when walking and may be treated with shoe inserts or may be surgically removed.
Osteochondroma - This benign tumor forms in the bone beneath the toenails. It occurs most often in young children and active adults. Osteochondromas are usually not painful, but surgery may be considered if they are interfering with your physical activities.
Giant Cell Tumor - This is a rare and aggressive type of benign tumor usually found on the toes or the top and sides of the feet, near a tendon sheath. These tumors feel firm to the touch and can be painful. Though the tumor does not invade the bone, it can eventually cause erosion of the bone due to pressure.
Malignant Melanoma - Skin cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer that can affect your feet. Malignant melanomas have a high survival rate if caught early, but these skin growths often go unnoticed in their earliest stages, especially on the feet. This type of skin cancer can strike people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
Self-examination is critical to the early diagnosis of many foot conditions, and cancer is no exception. To detect melanoma, most foot doctors will recommend focusing on the soles of your feet, the area beneath the toenails, and the skin between the toes. To differentiate a normal skin growth from melanoma, look for changes in the symmetry, color, diameter, border, and elevation of the growth.
Soft tissue and bone tumors lend themselves to early diagnosis – they will feel like soft or firm nodules or lumps. Osteochondromas (bone tumors) are usually located on the metatarsals and feel like a painless lump. These soft tissue and bone tumors may increase in size and can eventually become painful as they begin to interfere with the function of surrounding tissues and joints.
Treatment of benign foot tumors begins with conservative measures, including stretching, physical therapy, steroid injections, and foot orthotics. When foot growths begin to interfere with physical activities, surgery may be necessary to remove the tumors.
Suspicious skin growths on your feet may require biopsy and removal. If the growth is malignant, treatment will depend on whether the cancer has spread to other areas of your body.
Charcot disease, also known as Charcot's syndrome and Charcot's sclerosis, is a progressive degenerative disease associated with nerve damage to your feet. The disease affects the joints of your feet and diminishes your ability to sense pain in the feet, thereby causing recurrent foot and joint injuries. As a result, Charcot disease can be devastating, particularly if it is not treated properly.
If you or a family member are experiencing symptoms of, or have been diagnosed with Charcot disease, contact your doctor to obtain the treatment you need. An experienced podiatrist can help improve your foot's functioning while reducing your symptoms.
The precise causes of Charcot disease are not fully understood. However, primary risk factors for the disease are. These factors include diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, and foot trauma. High blood glucose levels (associated with diabetes) trigger neuropathy, which may develop into Charcot foot disease. A minor trauma to the foot (for example, twisting the foot) can also trigger the disease's progression. Although it may take decades after the onset of diabetes for Charcot disease to develop, once the disease develops, it can progress in a matter of weeks or months.
Symptoms of Charcot disease include:
Heat in the joints of your foot.
Instability and misalignment of your foot joints.
Loss of pain perception.
Redness and swelling of your foot and ankle.
Repeated joint injuries (i.e. dislocation of the joint).
Strong pulse in your feet.
Blood vessel and nerve compression.
Bone and joint inflammation.
The goal of Charcot disease treatment is to minimize or eliminate the disease's symptoms and, in particular, to stabilize your foot joints. Your doctor may stabilize the joints using one or more methods, depending on the severity of your symptoms and how far the disease has progressed. You may need to use crutches to prevent further damage to your foot and allow the bones to heal. In more severe cases, your doctor may perform surgery to reshape your foot’s structure, remove abnormal bone growth, and correct deformities. Recommended treatment for any underlying disease(s) will also be suggested.
Contact your doctor today to learn more about treatment options for Charcot disease. With the help of a skilled foot care specialist, you can have your feet functionality improved or restored.
High blood sugar levels from diabetes can lead to many health problems, some of which can affect your feet. Foot problems associated with diabetes often involve sores or injuries that result from loss of feeling in your feet.
Many diabetics also have reduced blood flow to the feet which can make it difficult for sores on the feet to heal and increase the risk of infection. If not treated properly, an infection may cause tissue damage severe enough to require amputation. However, foot problems associated with diabetes can often be prevented by eating a well-balanced diet, taking medications as prescribed, and checking regularly for any sores on the feet or signs of infection.
Individuals with diabetes often develop foot problems as a result of nerve damage and peripheral vascular disease. Not all diabetics suffer from these conditions, but it is common in individuals who have had diabetes for several years or those who do not have the disease under control.
Nerve Damage (Diabetic Neuropathy)
Nerve damage related to diabetes can cause a loss of feeling in your feet. Without the ability to feel cold, heat, or pain you may sustain an injury and not even realize it. If not treated, the injury may get worse and can become infected.
Nerve damage can also affect your balance and positioning of your feet. Over time this can cause your feet and toes to change shape. If you wear shoes that rub against the bones or soft tissues of your feet, sores may begin to form. Even a small sore on a foot can turn into an ulcer if it goes unnoticed or is not treated properly. For this reason, it is important to check your feet daily for redness, inflammation, calluses, and cuts.
Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
Individuals with diabetes may also suffer from peripheral vascular disease in which the arteries harden and become narrow. This causes reduced blood flow to your feet, which can make it difficult for sores to heal and increases the risk for infection. Signs of poor circulation include swelling of your ankles or feet and wounds that take a long time to heal.
Health problems associated with diabetes, such as nerve damage and poor blood flow, can often be prevented by eating a well-balanced diet and taking medications to help keep the disease under control. However, problems may still develop, especially if you have had diabetes for several years.
If you are suffering from nerve damage, it is important to bring your glucose level within the normal range in order to prevent further damage. Any pain associated with the condition can usually be treated with over-the-counter pain medications.
If nerve damage has caused loss of feeling in your feet, precautions should be taken to prevent injury. Shoes and socks should be worn to protect your feet. Be sure to wear shoes that are comfortable and fit well to avoid sores and blisters, and check your feet regularly for any signs of rubbing. If cuts or sores develop, treat them right away and keep the area clean to prevent infection. If an infection develops, be sure to seek immediate medical attention. If left untreated, severe tissue damage can result and amputation may be necessary.
If you are a diabetic with poor blood flow, you may benefit from regular exercise. Walking and other light exercises can help to improve circulation and increase blood flow to your feet. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help with circulation. However, if the condition is severe, surgery may also be necessary to enlarge an artery that has become too narrow.
If you have diabetes and develop foot problems, consult your doctor to learn more about your treatment options.
Freiberg's disease is a relatively uncommon disorder that affects the joints of metatarsals, the bones that extend from the arch of your foot to your toes. The disease is associated with the gradual collapse or disintegration of the joint surfaces between the metatarsals as well as the formation of abnormal joint tissue.
The specific events or factors that cause Freiberg's disease are not completely understood. However, there are several risk factors for the disease, which include the following:
Age and gender (Freiberg's disease occurs most often in female adolescents and young women, although the disease can occur in any person at any age).
Excessively long metatarsals.
Although Freiberg's disease may be asymptomatic, it can cause symptoms. Symptoms include:
Activity-related foot injury.
Chronic history of forefoot pain.
Walking with a limp.
The disease progresses in stages. Stages I and II are characterized by the formation of relatively minor joint lesions or patches of abnormal tissue. Subsequent stages cause additional symptoms: Stage III includes flattening of the metatarsals; Stage IV involves bone collapse; and Stage V includes degeneration of the ends of the metatarsals and the toes.
Freiberg's disease may be asymptomatic, or it may heal without treatment particularly in Stages I through III. When medical intervention is necessary, the treatment goal is to rest the metatarsal joints, allowing the joint inflammation and irritation to go away. Your doctor will select your treatment depending on the severity of your symptoms and on how far the disease has progressed. For relatively minor symptoms, they may have you wear foot-supporting devices (i.e. shoe modifications, metatarsal pads, etc.) and/or prescribe steroid injections. For severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery to restore the joint's congruity. In severe cases, he may replace damaged metatarsal joints with prosthetic ones.
If you have been diagnosed with Freiberg's disease, or if you are experiencing symptoms of the disease, contact your doctor to obtain the treatment you need. With proper medical attention, you can have health and functionality returned to your foot.
Gout, a type of arthritis, can cause significant discomfort. The disease causes sudden attacks of burning pain, stiffness, and swelling in your joints (usually your big toe joints). The attacks may recur as frequently as every few weeks or as seldom as every few months. If left untreated, gout can cause long-term damage to your joints, tendons, and other tissues.
Fortunately, with proper treatment, gout is manageable. If you experience the symptoms of gout or have been diagnosed with the disease, contact an experienced physician to obtain the medical attention you need.
Uric acid is a chemical that the body creates when it breaks down substances called “purines,” found in some foods. Gout is caused by an accumulation of uric acid in the blood. The uric acid crystallizes in the joints, causing joint pain. Risk factors for developing gout include:
Consuming too many purine-heavy substances (including liver, dried beans, fish, beer, and wine).
Using certain diuretics and other drugs.
The primary symptoms of gout are sudden attacks of pain, swelling, and redness in your big toe, foot, ankle, or knee. Gout attacks can last a few days or as long as several weeks.
There are a number of treatment options for gout. Your doctor will choose the most effective one depending on the severity of your symptoms, your medical history, your current health, and other factors. To provide immediate pain relief, your physician can administer a shot of corticosteroids or prescribe an anti-inflammatory and/or pain medication, such as ibuprofen. To provide long-term relief, your doctor may prescribe a uric acid buildup-reducing medication and/or recommend changes in your diet.
If you have been diagnosed with gout or experienced symptoms of the disease, contact a skilled doctor to receive the treatment necessary to manage your symptoms and address the causes of gout.
Kaposi's Sarcoma, a type of cancer most often associated with HIV/AIDS and other immune system deficiencies, can be devastating. The disease primarily affects your skin, lymph nodes, and lower extremities (including your feet), although it can also affect your lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs.
Characterized by skin lesions, swelling of the feet and legs, and additional symptoms, Kaposi's Sarcoma can cause significant pain, a decreased quality of life, and emotional trauma. With treatment from a skilled doctor, the disease and its symptoms can be managed.
Kaposi's Sarcoma is caused by a herpes virus (the Human Herpes Virus 8, or HHV-8) spread through sexual contact. Although not everyone who has HHV-8 develops Kaposi's Sarcoma, HHV-8 sufferers with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop the cancer. Therefore, HIV, AIDS, and other immune system deficiencies are significant risk factors for developing Kaposi's Sarcoma.
The symptoms of Kaposi's Sarcoma include:
Painless skin lesions - Plaques; nodular growths; or red, purple, blue, brown, or black spots may develop, and over time, the lesions typically enlarge.
Severe swelling in the feet, legs, arms, and face - This swelling may cause difficulty walking, eating, and/or swallowing.
Lesions in the gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes, and other organs - These growths may cause internal bleeding and blockages, resulting in nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain. The lesions also may lead to the development of secondary malignancies, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Although Kaposi's Sarcoma is not curable, early medical intervention can manage the symptoms of the disease and potentially slow its progression. Typically, treatments include:
Antiretroviral therapy for patients with HIV/AIDS.
Cosmetic skin treatments to remove or lighten skin lesions.
Podiatric treatments to restore or improve functioning of the feet and legs.
Systemic chemotherapy to treat lesions that have spread to the organs.
If you have been diagnosed with Kaposi's Sarcoma or are experiencing symptoms of the disease, contact your doctor right away to obtain the treatment you need. With proper care by an experienced healthcare provider, your disease can be managed effectively.
Kohler's disease, also known as Kohler's Osteochondrosis or Navicular Osteochondrosis, is a rare foot bone disorder that occurs in children, usually between the ages of three and seven. The disease is characterized by disruption of blood supply to the foot, which causes the bones to deteriorate.
Although Kohler's disease typically resolves itself within a few years from its onset, the disease can cause painful symptoms prior to healing which may decrease a child's quality of life. Fortunately, with the help of a skilled foot care specialist, the symptoms of Kohler's disease can be managed.
Although the exact cause of Kohler's disease is not yet fully understood, experts do know that the disease is caused, at least partially, by abnormal growth of the arteries in the foot. The arteries create a dense network over the foot bones, compressing the foot bone tissue. This compression affects the blood vessels in the central spongy bone and causes a decrease in blood supply to the foot, resulting in the symptoms of Kohler's disease.
Kohler's disease may also be caused by hereditary factors.
The symptoms of Kohler's disease include:
Swelling of the foot.
Kohler's disease usually heals over time without treatment; the body restores the bones' size, density, and structure in approximately one to two years. However, if symptoms are extreme or if they do not subside over time, treatment may be necessary. Your child's doctor may recommend arch supports, below-the-knee casts, and other foot-supporting devices to allow the foot bones to heal.
If your child is experiencing symptoms of, or has been diagnosed with, Kohler's disease, an experienced doctor can help manage your child's symptoms and increase the chances of enjoying a positive outcome. Contact your doctor today to obtain both information and any necessary treatment.
Maffucci's syndrome, a rare disorder that affects the skin and bones, can cause significant disturbances in your life. Characterized by benign overgrowths of cartilage in the hands and feet (enchondromas), Maffucci's syndrome causes skeletal deformities, dark red patches, and potentially malignant cell growth.
Although receiving a diagnosis of Maffucci's syndrome can be traumatic, with proper medical attention, the disorder can be managed. If you have been diagnosed with Maffuci's syndrome, enlisting the services of a skilled doctor is your first step in obtaining the treatment you need.
The exact cause of Maffucci's syndrome is not fully understood. The disorder appears to stem from improper bone and skin development in-utero or in early childhood. Genetic factors may also play a role in the development of Maffucci's syndrome. Maffucci's syndrome causes some cartilage to grow irregularly as the bone grows, eventually forming the bone deformities that characterize the syndrome.
Maffucci's syndrome can be asymptomatic, but when the disorder causes symptoms, they might include:
Bone abnormalities (i.e. legs that are unequal in length, bones that fracture easily, fractures that do not heal properly).
Red skin patches.
Secondary bone fractures.
Skin and bone malignancies.
If Maffucci's syndrome does not cause symptoms, treatment may not be necessary. However, ongoing medical evaluation is crucial in order to monitor any changes of the skin and bones. When symptoms are excessive, malignant transformations can occur in the skin and skeletal regions, at this point treatment might be necessary. The goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms and restore the bones and skin as much as possible.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of Maffucci's syndrome, or if you have been diagnosed with the disorder, contact your doctor to obtain the treatment you need. A skilled medical professional can help manage your symptoms and improve your prognosis.
Ollier's disease is characterized by multiple benign cartilage tumors called enchondromas. The disease is usually diagnosed during childhood because the lesions typically form near the growth plate cartilage and can affect bone development. Enchondromas commonly affect bones in the feet, but can also form in the bones of the thigh and upper arm. In some cases, enchondromas may become malignant. Malignant cartilage tumors are called chondrosarcomas.
It is not yet clear whether the disease is caused by a single gene defect or a combination of mutations; however, the irregular distribution of lesions suggests that the disorder is the result of mosaicism, or an error in cell division that occurs before birth.
The main symptom of Ollier's disease is bone deformity. However, individuals with Ollier's disease may have:
A bony mass on the toe.
Pain in the area affected by an enchondromas.
Swollen, aching limbs.
Since enchondromas cause the outer layer of bone to become thin and fragile, individuals with Ollier's disease are more susceptible to bone fractures. In fact, Ollier's disease is typically diagnosed when enchondromas show up in an X-ray. When an enchondroma is present, the X-ray will typically show a dark hole in the bone that has calcification or white spots.
It is typical for swelling to occur due to an enchondroma, but pain may be a cause for concern. While it may be normal for pain to occur with activity, pain that occurs when one is at rest or pain that does not go away may be a sign of malignancy and should be investigated.
In most cases, enchondromas aren't painful or cancerous and don't require treatment. If they become malignant, cause a deformity, or weaken the bone enough to cause a fracture, surgery can be performed to remove them. During surgery, the region is removed from the bone and a filling material such as bone graft is used to fill the cavity.
Raynaud's disease affects the blood vessels in the toes and causes temporary skin discoloration and numbness. Episodes of the disease are usually triggered by cold or stress. While it is normal for small blood vessels in the toes to constrict with extreme cold or stress, preserving temperature, individuals with Raynaud's disease have an exaggerated response. As the blood vessels narrow, blood flow to the toes decreases, causing the skin to lose all color and finally turn red as blood flow returns to normal. Women and those who live in colder climates are most likely to suffer from the condition.
There are two forms of the disease, primary and secondary. Primary Raynaud's occurs by itself and is not associated with another illness. However, secondary Raynaud's can occur as part of a rheumatic disease such as arthritis, scleroderma, or lupus. A blood test can usually determine whether the disease is primary or secondary. The cause of both primary and secondary Raynaud's disease is not yet known.
Symptoms of Raynaud's disease include:
Burning sensation as blood flow returns to the toes.
Numbness or tingling in the toes.
Toes that change color, usually from white to blue to red in response to cold or stress.
The disease is more of an annoyance than a risk to one's health, unless it is associated with an underlying condition that causes other health problems. Episodes of Raynaud's disease can often be prevented by keeping the toes warm and reducing the emotional stress in one's life.
When an episode does occur and the toes become numb, they are more vulnerable to injury, thus it is important to wear socks or shoes to protect them. If an injury occurs, it should be treated right away to prevent infection. In extreme cases, an episode may last for an extended period of time, and the lack of blood flow to the toes can cause tissue death. Consult your doctor immediately if you develop an infection or suspect tissue damage.
Active children are prone to developing foot injuries from overuse, and one of the most common sites of those injuries is the heel. When a child complains of sharp pain in the heel of one or both feet, the most likely cause is Seiver's disease.
Seiver's disease, sometimes referred to as Sever's disease, is an inflammation of the growth plate in the heel bone, usually caused by trauma or injury. It occurs most often in growing children between the ages of 10 and 13 years old.
The exact cause of Seiver's disease is unknown, but it most likely develops from repetitive trauma and overuse of the heel bone and tendon during athletic activities.
Seiver's disease is common in children beginning new sports, particularly sports played on hard surfaces. Having tight calf muscles can also increase the risk of developing Seiver's disease because it increases the pull on the Achilles tendon, which is connected to the growth plate on the heel bone. This type of strain causes the growth plate toward the back of the heel to become inflamed.
Seiver's disease is characterized by sharp pain and tenderness in one or both heels. The pain tends to be localized at the back of the heel and is aggravated by walking or running.
Children with Seiver's disease also experience calf muscle stiffness. In severe cases, the pain can cause the child to limp when walking.
Seiver's disease will resolve on its own once the child stops growing, but the pain associated with the condition, however temporary, can seriously limit athletic activities.
The following treatment options are recommended to help relieve the discomfort associated with Seiver's disease:
Calf muscle stretches.
If your child has Seiver's disease, it may be necessary to limit physical activity until symptoms improve. Wearing proper shoes will help reduce pressure on the Achilles tendons. It is also important to make sure your child avoids walking barefoot.
Sever's disease, or calcaneal apophysitis, is a common cause of heel pain among active children between 10 to 13 years old. This spontaneous heel pain results from injury to the heel bone’s growth plate which is caused by overuse rather than specific injury or trauma.
The condition is common among athletic children, particularly those active in soccer, football, and baseball. Treatment is available to reduce pain and discomfort associated with Sever's disease, but the condition usually resolves on its own once feet stop growing.
Children are at a higher risk of developing Sever's disease when they are in the early stages of a growth spurt. During times of growth, muscles and tendons become extremely tight. Movements during athletic activities like soccer, tennis, and gymnastics can put added force on the growth plate in the heel, which is pulled tight by the Achilles tendon. Over time, the growth plate becomes inflamed and painful.
There are several other factors that can increase a child's risk of developing Sever's disease, including the following:
Flat or high arches.
Short Achilles tendon.
Weight gain (which results in more force on the feet).
The pain associated with Sever's disease is usually felt along the back of the heel and becomes worse when running or walking. In some children, the pain is so severe they may limp when walking.
One of the diagnostic tests for Sever's disease is the "squeeze test". Squeezing both sides of the heel together will produce immediate discomfort. Many children feel pain immediately upon waking and may have calf muscle stiffness in the morning.
Treatment of Sever's disease will depend upon the severity of the condition. Parents can assist with the treatment of Sever's disease by making sure their children reduce physical activity until some of the pain subsides. Losing weight can also help reduce pressure on the heel.
It is important to consult a doctor if the pain persists. A physician may recommend flexibility exercises, custom shoe inserts, or anti-inflammatory medication. In some cases, a splint or cast may be necessary to immobilize the foot and give it a chance to heal.
Most cases of Sever's disease will resolve by the age of 16, when growing subsides. Fortunately, there are no known long-term complications associated with the disease.