Perfecting My Foot

Lupus: A Potential Enemy Of Your Feet

Lupus – a chronic, autoimmune disease – can affect any area of your body, including your feet. Some problems are a direct result of lupus; other problems are caused indirectly and may be the result of medications used to treat lupus. Since foot problems are common in people with lupus, seeing a podiatrist for regular checkups can lead to early detection and treatment of feet problems for which the disease puts you are at risk.   

Raynaud's Disease

A circulatory disorder known as Raynaud's disease is a condition that individuals with lupus commonly suffer. Raynaud's, which can affect both your fingers and toes, causes them to turn white or purple when they are exposed to the cold.

Lack of blood flow to the digits when vessels narrow from the cold can cause numbness. If Raynaud's is severe, the condition can cause ulcers on the toes or even gangrene.

Increased Risk of Infection

Although blisters and other minor skin problems affecting the feet usually heal without complications, individuals with lupus are at increased risk of developing infections. You are at particular risk of developing an infection if you are taking medications for your lupus that suppress the immune system.

The side effects of corticosteroids that your doctor prescribes to treat the swelling and pain associated with the disease can weaken your immune system as well. Taking high doses of these medications increases your risk of getting an infection.

Steroidal medications you may take to reduce inflammation can also cause thin skin, which increases the risk of skin tears and infection. Even small breaks in the skin or simple injuries that cause tissue damage can lead to infection.

Toenail Problems

It is not uncommon for people with lupus to have toenail problems. Your nails may grow more slowly than normal, which can cause the nail plate to become pitted or loosen the nail. Toenails may be thin and weak or thick from inflammation.

A weakened immune system, circulation problems, and slower growing nails – all factors associated with lupus – increase the risk of developing toenail fungus. Lupus that causes inflammation of the heart or blood vessels decreases blood circulation throughout the body. Less blood flow to the toes hinders your immune system in fighting off nail fungus infections.


Vasculitis is a potential complication of inflammation caused by lupus. If you have vasculitis – inflammation in the blood vessels – you can experience pain and swelling in your ankles and feet. You also may develop infections of the feet and toes.

Skin lesions caused by vasculitis can take the form of small black spots under the toenails, ulcers around the ankles, petechiae (small red or purple dots) on the legs, or toe gangrene. If required, treatment generally is effective, but the symptoms can reoccur and require ongoing pharmacological treatment.   


The symptoms of pain and stiffness in your back or hip can change the way you walk. If you favor one side of your body more than the other, how you walk can change your gait pattern and eventually may lead to the development of hammertoes – a deformity that causes your toes to bend. Problems with your toes that make walking even more difficult can lead to additional foot problems, including corns and calluses. 

For further assistance, contact a local professional, such as one from Allied Ankle & Foot Care Centers PC.