If You Notice This On Your Feet, Get Your Blood Checked, Doctors Say
It could be a major warning sign that you need medical attention.
It's a cruel irony how little attention and care we give to our feet considering how important they are to our daily lives. Of course, when something goes wrong with them and our ability to move about comfortably is compromised, it's usually one of the hardest health problems to ignore. And if you ever notice one specific symptom on your feet, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting some blood work done. Read on to see what could be the sign of a serious medical issue.
Finding painful, itchy bumps on your feet may be a sign you have dangerously high cholesterol.
Similar to hypertension, having high cholesterol is a serious health problem that usually goes unnoticed until a lucky doctor's visit or a major medical event like a heart attack or stroke makes you aware of it. But according to doctors, some symptoms can be a red flag to schedule a checkup and have your blood checked.
According to Mount Sinai, people with high cholesterol can develop painful, itchy bumps on their feet known as xanthomas. The skin condition occurs when fat deposits build up under the skin, and are described as "firm, raised waxy-appearing papules or bumps…and may be skin-colored, pink, or even yellow. The presence of this type of skin lesion may be associated with abnormal levels of lipids in the blood."
Xanthomas can be a sign of other serious medical conditions, too.
Typically, xanthomas can range in size from as small as a pinhead to as large as a grape, Healthline reports. And while the feet may be one of the most common places they develop, they may also form on the hands, buttocks, or joints—especially the knees and elbows. They can also develop on the eyelids, in which case they're called xanthelasma.
While xanthomas themselves aren't dangerous, their appearance usually serves as a red flag for a much more serious underlying health condition. Besides high cholesterol levels, this can include certain types of cancer, diabetes, an inherited metabolic disorder, scarring of the liver due to blocked bile ducts, inflammation and swelling of the pancreas, or an underactive thyroid, according to Mayo Clinic.
Staying on top of your health with regular check-ups is the best way to keep your cholesterol in check.
If you're worried about keeping your cholesterol in check, you're not alone: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 38 percent of American adults have elevated levels of it in their bloodstream. The agency advises that keeping levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your bloodstream under control is an important step in maintaining heart health, especially in lowering your risk of heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, having high amounts of LDL cholesterol—which is the "bad" cholesterol versus the "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—usually comes with no symptoms and must be monitored through regular blood tests.
The agency recommends checking them with a blood test at least once every five years to stay on top of your health. You can also make changes to your diet that can help keep levels under control. The agency suggests avoiding foods high in saturated fats to help keep your cholesterol in check, which often includes anything made from animals such as butter, cheese, or red meat. Instead, try to increase your intake of high-fiber foods like oatmeal and beans. They also suggest healthy unsaturated fats found in foods like avocados, olive oil, and nuts.
There are other steps you can take to control your cholesterol besides diet and exercise.
Regular checkups and setting yourself up on a healthy diet are great ways to kick off getting your cholesterol under control, but there's even more you can do to improve your situation. The CDC suggests not to avoid any tobacco products, which can speed up the hardening of the arteries and increase your risk of heart disease.
The agency also recommends staying active by completing 150 to 300 minutes of exercise each week. They also suggest learning more about your family's medical history to see if you should be getting your cholesterol tested more often.