Saturday, March 24, 2018

How to Get Your Best Sleep Ever

woman in bed

To Bed With You

You may know how important a consistent bedtime and exercise routine are for a good night’s sleep. Maybe you have your alcohol and caffeine use down to a science, too. But what happens when you actually get to bed? What else can help you sleep better? Try these tips and tricks.
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mattress shopping
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Get the Right Mattress for You

There are several types. Whether you have back pain, night sweats, sleep apnea, or you just want a good night’s sleep, there's not just one perfect choice. Your mattress should be firm enough to support your back and sleep position, but soft enough to fit the shape of your body.
This isn't always easy to figure out. Some stores will let you test a mattress for several weeks and change it out if you’re not comfortable.
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Innerspring Mattresses

This is the most common type. It uses from 300 to more than 1,000 springs covered in cushioning. These mattresses can be hard or soft, depending on what they're made of. Some say the more coils, the better. Experts believe once you have 400 coils, more doesn't make a big difference. If you’re overweight, you may get out of bed easier with this type of mattress. But they work well for most people.
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memory foam mattress
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Memory Foam Mattresses

These mold to the contours of your body. They may be especially good if you have muscle or joint pain, or other conditions that make it hard for you to get comfortable. But they make some people too warm. So they may not be a good choice if you heat up a lot when you sleep. If you check one out, pay attention to the smell. Some people don't like the odor that can come from the chemicals in the foam.
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couple in bed
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Air Mattresses

We don't mean the kind you store in the closet and blow up for out-of-town guests. This is a high-end mattress with air chambers that adjust for firmness and custom support. Your sleep partner can personalize their side of the bed without affecting yours. They're mechanical, so check some online reviews to make sure you get one that's dependable.
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color bed linen
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Pick the Right Sheets

Look for cotton or linen with a thread count between 200 and 400. That'll make it likely that they're soft and breathable. Higher counts can trap heat and moisture. Even polyester/cotton blends won’t keep you as cool and dry.
Cottons with longer fibers like pima and Egyptian typically wear best. You won’t know what any sheets feel like until you wash them a few times.
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man doing laundry
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Wash Your Sheets Often

The smell of fresh, clean sheets may actually help you sleep better. Wash them at least once a week. Use medium or low heat to dry them, and skip the fabric softener so they'll last longer. Don’t forget the pillowcases. They take in lots of oils and sweat from your face.
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bed pillows
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Choose the Pillow for You

The wrong one can’t just rob you of sleep, it can cause neck pain, numbness, and headaches. A good one keeps its shape and supports your sleep position so your head isn’t too far forward or back.
If yours doesn’t spring back into shape after you fold it in half, it’s probably time for a new one. Replace it every 18 months or so because it can trap mold, pollen, and dust mites that can make you sick or cause allergies.
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woman making bed
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Make Your Bed!

Sounds crazy, but if you do, you’ll be more likely to get a good night’s sleep. Scientists don’t know why, but it may be that it simply makes you feel good about where you take your nightly rest. A clean bedroom may help, too. No word on whether you have to clean it yourself, though.
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air conditioner remote
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Try White Noise

The consistent hum of an air conditioner, fan, or even a long rain can mask sounds that may wake you, like conversation and slamming doors. You can also get machines or phone apps that make white noise of your choice.
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woman sleeping
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If You Sleep on Your Belly

You may toss and turn more to get comfortable, which means you probably won’t sleep as well. Sleeping that way can also strain your neck and lower back. But it’s not always easy to change positions. If you already sleep like this, it helps to use a very soft or thin pillow -- or none at all -- to keep your neck from hurting.
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contour leg pillow
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If You Sleep On Your Back

It can make snoring worse, and it's hard on your back. That position can also contribute to sleep apnea, a serious condition where your snoring interrupts your breathing.
Putting a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees can help keep the natural curve of your spine. For your head, you may need a thinner pillow that’s slightly thicker at the bottom so it supports your neck. Memory foam pillows work well because they mold to your shape.
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body pillow
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If You Sleep on Your Side

You’re less likely to snore or have back pain. You also have better odds of all-night sleep, and it’s better if you have a bad back, too. All “side sleep” positions are good, but the fetal position, with your knees bent slightly toward your chest, seems to be best. It can help to use a large, firm pillow to bridge the distance from your ear to your shoulder. Another pillow between your legs can help keep your spine in line, as well.
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pregnant woman resting
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If You're Pregnant

It’s usually more comfortable and healthy for you and your baby if you sleep on your side. The left side is better, because it gets more blood and nutrients to your baby. But don’t worry if you wake in another position. It can help to put a pillow under your belly and between your legs to support your weight.
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Couple in pajamas
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What to Wear?

Consider fabric. Cotton is breathable and soft, but it may not keep you warm enough. Flannel is warmer, but it may make you too hot in the summer. Silk is expensive and hard to clean. A looser fit is best.
If your feet get cold, which can be bad for sleep, wear socks. But ones that are too thick can heat up your whole body. If you do get too hot, try sleeping naked. It can keep you cool and lead to longer, deeper sleep.
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Symptoms That May Signal Vitamin Deficiency

family at supermarket

Are You Getting What You Need?

Tired, dry skin, or fighting a cold again? If you feel like something is a little off, you may lack some key vitamins or minerals. They help your cells and organs work the way they should and boost your immune system, among other things. Usually, the best way to get them is through foods that have a lot of them.
liver with onions

Fight Fatigue

If you’re tired after a full night’s rest, it could be from a lack of iron (found in lean meat, beans, and fortified cereals) or vitamin B12 (in beef liver and clams). They’re both important for healthy red blood cells, which get oxygen to your body’s tissues.
cracked walnuts


If you have these a lot, talk to your doctor about magnesium, found in beans, nuts, and green leafy veggies. This mineral helps your nerves work the way they should and keeps your blood sugar levels in check. The Association of Migraine Disorders says 400 milligrams a day can help some people who get migraines.
raw seasoned salmon

Dry Eyes

It might be from allergies or from wearing contact lenses for a long time, but another possibility is that you’re not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. Found in oily fish like salmon, these are important for healthy vision. In addition to dry eyes, low levels of omega-3s also have been linked to age-related macular degeneration, among other issues.
cooking eggs

Dry, Itchy Skin

Scaly, rough patches of skin -- dermatitis -- can be caused by something that irritates it or illness, but it also can come from a lack of vitamin B2 (riboflavin). B2, which helps your cells grow and work the way they should, is found in eggs and some green vegetables, like asparagus and broccoli.
steak salad

Hair Loss

This can happen naturally as you age, but it also can be caused by a nutritional problem, especially in women under 50. Boost your iron (through lean meats, beans, or nuts) to help make sure your hair and the skin around it stay healthy.
citrus fruits

Bleeding Gums

The most likely cause of this problem is gum disease, but a severe lack of vitamin C (found in citrus fruits and some vegetables) can also bring it on. This is rare for people in the U.S., though, so see your dentist to find out for sure before taking a supplement.
woman farmers market

Muscle Weakness

A lack of vitamin B1 -- also known as thiamin -- can lead to this and other problems. It’s found in whole grains, pork, fish, some nuts, and beans. Potassium (found in bananas) is also important for healthy muscles. Talk to your doctor if you don’t think you’re getting enough through these foods.
drinking juice

Chronic Colds

You might cough and sneeze more often if you don’t get enough vitamins C and E, which have antioxidants that boost your immune system. A balanced diet won’t prevent colds, but it can keep your body healthy enough to fight them off.
oyster in shell

Canker Sores

These little ulcers form in the soft tissue of your mouth or the base of your gums. No one knows for sure what causes them, but they’ve been linked to a lack of B12, zinc (found in oysters, nuts, and beans), folate (in asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and oranges), and iron.
ear examination

Hearing Loss

One of vitamin B12’s many jobs is to help your nervous system (made up of your brain, spinal cord, and nerves) work the way it should. If you don’t get enough, researchers think, the signals between your ears and your brain can be affected, and this might lead to hearing loss or tinnitus -- ringing or buzzing in your ears. If you're having hearing problems, see your doctor to find out what's causing them.
bowl of yogurt

Weak Bones

Calcium is a building block for bones, and vitamin D helps your body absorb it. If you don’t get enough of these, you can be more likely to have osteoporosis, a disease that makes your bones weak and brittle. The best way to get vitamin D is through supplements, but you can get calcium through dairy products and some fortified foods. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.
mashed potatoes

Cracks in Corners of Your Mouth

A lack of vitamin B6 can cause this as well as skin rashes. It’s found in poultry, fish, starchy vegetables like potatoes, and noncitrus fruits like grapes and apples. Check with your doctor before starting a B6 supplement, though -- it can cause problems if you take certain medications.

Subtle Signs of Glaucoma

glaucoma illustration

What Is Glaucoma?

It's a condition that can damage your optic nerve, usually because of too much pressure in your eye. The optic nerve does an important job. It sends signals from your eye to your brain, which turns them into an image you can see. When the optic nerve isn't working right, you'll get problems with your vision. You can even lose your sight.
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blocked drainage angle
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What Causes Glaucoma?

Your eyes make a fluid that bathes and nourishes tissue in them. Normally the liquid flows through a channel called the drainage angle. When you have glaucoma, the channel stops working well. Fluid backs up and causes pressure to build up inside your eye.
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multi generation family
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Who Gets Glaucoma?

You're more likely to get the condition if your parent, brother or sister, or another close relative has it. Your chances of getting it are greater if you're over 40, are African-American or Hispanic, or because of things like:
  • High pressure in eyes
  • Eye injury or surgery
  • Thin cornea (clear layer in front of the eye)
  • Diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease
  • Problem with your optic nerve
  • You use steroid eyedrops or pills
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open angle glaucoma
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Types of Glaucoma: Open-Angle

There are 4 main kinds of glaucoma. The most common is open-angle glaucoma, which affects about 90% of people with the disease. It's called "open angle" because there's a clear opening to the drainage canal, which gets clogged farther inside. This type comes on slowly. You may not notice any symptoms at first.
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angle closure glaucoma
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Types of Glaucoma: Angle-Closure

This type comes on fast and it's a medical emergency. It typically happens to people with a narrow opening to their drainage canal, which gets blocked suddenly. That keeps fluid from flowing out of your eye. Pressure inside the eye rises quickly. If you get severe eye pain, headache, nausea, or vision loss, get medical help right away to prevent blindness. You'll likely need surgery to open up the drainage canal.
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industrial pressure gauge
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Types of Glaucoma: Normal-Tension

If you have this kind of glaucoma, the pressure in your eye is normal, but you still get optic nerve damage. Doctors aren't completely sure why. One possibility is you're extra sensitive to slight increases in eye pressure. Or it may be that lower blood flow to the optic nerve is causing damage. Your doctor may suggest a treatment that puts your eye pressure at a level that's lower than normal.
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congenital glaucoma
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Types of Glaucoma: Congenital

It's a rare form of the disease that affects babies. It happens when the drainage channels in the eyes don't properly develop in the womb. Your baby's eye may get cloudy and look larger than normal. Surgery can fix the problem. Most babies who are treated early will have normal vision throughout their lives.
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blurred vision
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What Are the Symptoms?

Since open-angle and normal-tension glaucoma sneak up on you slowly, symptoms may not show up until the disease is already far along. Without treatment, you'll slowly lose your peripheral (side) vision. That means you may miss objects that you would normally see out of the corner of your eye. It's a bit like looking through a tunnel.
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eye pressure test
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Tests for Glaucoma

A regular eye exam is the best way to find glaucoma early. Your doctor will do some or all of these tests:
  • Measure the pressure inside your eye
  • Test your side vision
  • Measure the thickness of your cornea
  • Use a magnifying tool to check your optic nerve for damage
  • Take a picture of your optic nerve
  • Check the drainage angle in your eye
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man using eyedrops
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Glaucoma Treatments: Medicine

Your doctor will likely suggest eyedrops or pills to manage your glaucoma. They cut how much fluid your eyes make and help it drain off. Take your medicine every day to keep your condition under control. Let your doctor know if you get side effects, like burning, stinging, and redness in your eyes.
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laser surgery
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Glaucoma Treatments: Laser Surgery

Your doctor may suggest a procedure called laser trabeculoplasty to treat open-angle glaucoma. He'll numb your eye and then use a laser beam to make small holes in the drainage channel to help fluid flow out. Usually doctors treat one eye at a time. Laser surgery can lower pressure in your eyes, but the effects may not be permanent. Some people need more than one surgery to get long-term results.
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eye surgery
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Glaucoma Treatments: Surgery

If medicine and laser surgery don't lower your eye pressure enough, your doctor might recommend a procedure called trabeculectomy. He creates a flap in the white part of your eye to let more fluid drain out. About half of people who have this surgery don't need glaucoma medicine anymore. But sometimes the opening closes again and you'll need a second surgery.
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man receiving opthalmogy exam
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Protect Your Vision

About half of people with glaucoma don't know they have it. To prevent vision loss, know your family history and other risks. Get an eye exam every 1 to 2 years. If your doctor tells you that you have glaucoma, follow his treatment directions carefully. Let him know about any changes in the way you see right away.
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patient talking with doctor
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What to Expect

Eyedrops, surgery, and other treatments can help you manage your glaucoma and prevent you from losing your vision. You'll need to keep up with your treatment throughout your life to keep your eye pressure in check. Your doctor will want you to see her for checkups a few times a year.
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A Fifty-Year Friendship Catalyzed By Kindness

"My parents came to the U.S. in the 1960s, along with the first wave of immigrants from India. My father came to Kansas, which is where he was getting his Ph.D. Six months later, my mother came with the three of us kids -- my sister, my brother, and me. We were just two, four and five years old. It was the very first winter we were in Kansas. It was cold. We didn't yet have heavy coats. We didn't yet have a car or anything like that, and my Dad didn't have a US driver's license yet. Back then, there were few Indians anywhere around." What follows is the story of a neighborly act of kindness that catalyzed a fifty-year friendship between two families.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Do Young Kids in America Have Racist Beliefs?

New research suggests we aren't born bigots. Racial prejudice is something we learn.

Given the extent to which fear and resentment of other races is driving our politics, it’s an excellent time to revisit a key question: Are such attitudes inherent, or learned? A 2017 study from China suggested the former, finding infants as young as nine months show preferences for people with skin tones that resemble their own.
A new, much larger study offers more hope for humanity. It reports that American five- and six-year-olds largely reject the belief that an individual’s personality and abilities are determined by one’s skin color.
The results suggest such beliefs—which are potential precursors to prejudice—“are the product of protracted developmental processes, and require ample cultural input,” writes a research team led by Tara Mandalaywala of New York University. In other words, bigotry is an acquired attitude.
The study, in the journal Child Development, featured 203 five- and six-year-olds who were recruited and tested at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Their responses were compared to those of 430 adults recruited online.
“Participants were told two stories in which a baby was born to one mother (shown in an image), but adopted and raised by another,” the researchers write. “In one story, the birth mother and adoptive mother were the same race, and in the other, they were of different races.”
They were then told the child is now six years old, and he or she is “very nice,” “very smart,” “good at music,” and “good at sports.” For each of those descriptions, they indicated “whether the trait was due to the birth mother, or the adoptive mother.”
In those scenarios where the child’s race differed from that of the adoptive mother, children indicated the birth mother “only 31 percent of the time,” the researchers report. In other words, most kids did not tend to believe that the child’s personality and abilities were related to their skin color. Strikingly, “adults were more likely to view behavioral properties as heritable than children.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the corresponding attitude of their parents (66 of the kids’ mothers or fathers also took the test) was not related to the kids’ beliefs. The researchers note that previous studies have found this sort of mirroring of attitudes doesn’t begin until kids are a bit older—ages six to eight, according to one recent study.
The makeup of a child’s immediate environment, however, appeared to influence their views. Using home zip codes supplied by their parents, the researchers noted the demographic makeup of the neighborhoods of 97 of the young participants. They found both black and white kids were less likely to see certain abilities or attitudes as determined by race if they lived in a more racially diverse area.
Altogether, the results suggest “beliefs about race that contribute to prejudice take a long time to develop—when they do—and that their development depends to some extent on the neighborhoods in which the children grow up,” said coauthor Marjorie Rhodes, a New York University psychologist, in announcing the findings. Further study will determine whether racially diverse schools similarly shape young minds in a non-prejudicial direction.
So it appears we don’t come out of the womb predisposed to categorizing people by race. That encouraging news makes the task of determining how and when racism takes root in young minds that much more urgent.

Betsy Damon: Living Water

"Water is Betsy Damon's passion, living water -- water, as the Chinese say, that has gone up and down the mountain ten thousand times. After many years of studying water her question became, "How can we teach people how nature takes care of water?" Fast forward a few years and she's in China, an unattached visitor. But she's talking with everyone she meets about water. And where this story leads, well, I'll just say its mind-blowing." This riveting interview shares more.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

19 Foot Problems and What They Might Mean

socks on feet

Cold Feet, Many Culprits

If your toes are always cold, one reason could be poor blood flow -- a circulatory problem sometimes linked to smoking, high blood pressure, or heart disease. The nerve damage of uncontrolled diabetes can also make your feet feel cold. Other possible causes include hypothyroidism and anemia. A doctor can look for any underlying problems -- or let you know that you simply have cold feet.
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woman holding red shoes
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Foot Pain

When feet ache after a long day, you might just curse your shoes. After all, eight out of 10 women say their shoes hurt. But pain that’s not due to sky-high heels may come from a stress fracture, a small crack in a bone. One possible cause: Exercise that was too intense, particularly high-impact sports like basketball and distance running. Also, weakened bones due to osteoporosis increases the risk.
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raynauds disease on feet
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Red, White, and Blue Toes

Raynaud’s disease can cause toes to turn white, then bluish, and then redden again and return to their natural tone. The cause is a sudden narrowing of the arteries, called vasospasms. Stress or changes in temperature can trigger vasospasms, which usually don’t lead to other health concerns. Raynaud’s may also be related to rheumatoid arthritis, Sj√∂gren’s disease, or thyroid problems.
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illustration of heel pain
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Heel Pain

The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis, inflammation where this long ligament attaches to the heel bone. The pain may be sharpest when you first wake up and put pressure on the foot. Arthritis, excessive exercise, and poorly fitting shoes also can cause heel pain, as can tendonitis. Less common causes include a bone spur on the bottom of the heel, a bone infection, tumor, or fracture.
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woman dragging feet
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Dragging Your Feet

Sometimes the first sign of a problem is a change in the way you walk -- a wider gait or slight foot dragging. The cause may be the slow loss of normal sensation in your feet, brought on by peripheral nerve damage. About 30% of these cases are linked to diabetes. Nerve damage also can be due to infection, vitamin deficiency, and alcoholism. In many cases, no one knows what caused the nerve damage. Other possible causes for foot dragging include problems with the brain, spinal cord, or muscles.
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illustration of clubbed toes
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Clubbed Toes

In clubbing, the shape of the toes (and often the fingers) changes. The nails are more rounded on top and curve downward. Lung disease is the most common underlying cause, but it also can be caused by heart disease, liver and digestive disorders, or certain infections. Sometimes, clubbing runs in families without any underlying disease.
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swollen feet
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Swollen Feet

This is usually a temporary nuisance caused by standing too long or a long flight -- especially if you are pregnant. In contrast, feet that stay swollen can be a sign of a serious medical condition. The cause may be poor circulation, a problem with the lymphatic system, or a blood clot. A kidney disorder or underactive thyroid can also cause swelling. If you have persistent swelling of your feet, see a physician.
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feet warmed by campfire
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Burning Feet

A burning sensation in the feet is common among diabetics with peripheral nerve damage. It can also be caused by a vitamin B deficiency, athlete’s foot, chronic kidney disease, poor circulation in the legs and feet (peripheral arterial disease), or hypothyroidism.
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oozing wound on foot
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Sores That Don't Heal

Foot sores that will not heal are a major warning sign for diabetes. Diabetes can impair sensation in the feet, circulation, and normal wound healing, so even a blister can become a troublesome wound. Those sores also are prone to infection. Diabetics should wash and dry their feet and check them for any wounds every day. Slow-healing of sores also can be caused by poor circulation from conditions such as peripheral artery disease.
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feet with gout
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Pain in the Big Toe

Gout is a notorious cause of sudden pain in the big toe joint, along with redness and swelling (seen here). Osteoarthritis is another culprit that causes pain and swelling. If the joint is rigid, it may be hallux rigidus, a complication of arthritis where a bone spur develops. Finally, turf toe is an ailment of athletes, particularly those who play on hard surfaces. It's caused by an injury to ligaments surrounding the joint.
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illustration of mortons neuroma
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Pain in the Smaller Toes

If you feel like you're walking on a marble, or if pain burns in the ball of your foot and radiates to the toes, you may have Morton’s neuroma, a thickening of tissue around a nerve, usually between the third and fourth toes. It is eight to 10 times more common in women than in men. It is caused by injury or too much pressure on the toes.
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athletes foot on toes
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Itchy Feet

Itchy, scaly skin may be athlete’s foot, a common fungal infection. A reaction to chemicals or skin care products -- called contact dermatitis -- can cause itching, too, along with redness and dry patches. If the skin on itchy feet is thick and pimple-like, it may be psoriasis, an over-reaction of the immune system. Medicated creams can relieve the symptoms.
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illustration of claw toe
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Claw Toe

This foot deformity can be caused by shoes that are tight and pinch your toes or by a disease that damages nerves, such as diabetes, alcoholism, or other neurological disorder. Your toes will be bent upward as they extend from the ball of the foot, then downward from the middle joint, resembling a claw. They may respond to stretching and exercises of the toes or you may need special shoes or even surgery.
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womans feet
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Foot Spasms

A sudden, sharp pain in the foot is the hallmark of a muscle spasm or cramp, which can last many minutes. Overwork and muscle fatigue are common causes. Other causes include poor circulation, dehydration, or imbalances in potassium, magnesium, calcium, or vitamin D levels in the body. The changing hormone levels of pregnancy or thyroid disorders may play a role. If spasms are frequent or severe, see a doctor. Strengthening exercises can help with muscle fatigue.
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dark spot on toe
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Dark Spot on the Foot

We associate skin cancer with the sun, so we’re not as likely to check our feet for unusual spots. However, a melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, can develop in areas that are not regularly exposed to the sun. Melanoma can even appear beneath the nail, where it might look like a black spot.
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fungus on toenail
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Yellow Toenails

Your toenails tell a lot about your overall health. A fungal infection often causes thickened yellow toenails. Thick, yellow nails also can be a sign of an underlying disease, including lymphedema (swelling related to the lymphatic system), lung problems, psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis.
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illustration of spoon shaped toenails
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Spoon-shaped Toenails

Sometimes an injury to the nail or frequent exposure to petroleum-based solvents can create a concave, spoon-like shape. However, iron deficiency also can cause this unusual shape.
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toes with white nails
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White Nails

Injury to the nail or illness anywhere in the body can cause white areas in the nails. If part or all of a nail separates from the nail bed (shown here), it can appear white -- and may be due to an injury, nail infection, or psoriasis. If the nail is intact and most of it is white, it can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition including liver disease, congestive heart failure, or kidney disease. Talk with your health care team about any concerns.
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psoriasis on toe
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Pitting of the Nails

Pitting, or punctured-looking depressions in the surface of the nail, is caused by a disruption in the growth of the nail at the nail plate. It affects as many as half of people with psoriasis.
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