Health

Hair on toes can reveal a lot about your health.
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6 Surprising Things The Hair On Your Toes Can Tell You About Your Health

Who would have guessed?

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You've probably noticed that hair can grow on your body and face in places where you might least expect (or want) it. Some hair has a specific and obvious purpose — like eyebrows and eyelashes, which keep dirt, dust, pollutants, and sweat from getting in your eyes — but other body hair is a little more perplexing. Take, for instance, the hair on your toes. While you might not think it has any real function (besides getting in the way of a great pedicure sometimes), your toe hair growth and thickness can reveal surprising clues about your health.

It’s just one of many ways that certain features on your body, like body hair or the arches of your feet, can provide subtle indications about other underlying health concerns. While it’s important not to self-diagnose before talking to a professional, it could be worth investigating if you notice major changes in the hair growth on your toes. “When you've had good hair growth on your feet before and it starts going away or is gone, I think that's a concerning factor,” Patrick McEneaney, doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), owner and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, tells Romper. When it comes to toe hair and your health, here are some of the factors that might be at play.

1

Your Circulation Isn't Super

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If you're losing your toe hair relatively rapidly, it could be a sign that your circulation isn't all that great. “People [who] have bad blood supply, either due to blockages in their arteries, due to smoking, or due to other metabolic reasons … can lose hair to their toes,” McEneaney explains. This can extend to your lower legs if your lower body circulation is particularly poor. If your toes don't have any hair (or you're losing it), talk to your doctor because, in some cases, the poor circulation could be worth a closer look by a professional.

2

You're Dealing With Natural Hormone Changes

Hormones naturally shift throughout a person’s life, and with that can come some changes to your body hair. If you notice the hair on your toes getting coarser or darker in color, it might be your hormones fluctuating with age. “Sometimes it's due to thyroid issues,” McEneaney explains. But it’s also just something that can happen over time. Just because your toe hair was blond and relatively invisible when you were younger doesn't mean that it won't get dark and very noticeable decades later. It doesn't mean that there's something terribly wrong, just that your body is undergoing the natural changes that come along with getting older. “This hair can change color like the rest of the hair on your body,” McEneaney says, “and you can also get gray hair on your toes.”

3

Hair Growth Runs In The Family

How much hair you have on your toes, as well as how it changes, might also have to do with your genes. “There are some that are genetically predisposed towards increased coarseness of hair as they age,” Dr. Erum N. Ilyas, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology, tells Romper. So, if your parents or extended family members have a lot of hair on their toes or it gets a lot darker or thicker as they get older, your toe hair might do the same. In rare cases, you could be dealing with an autoimmune condition called alopecia, which results in a sudden loss of hair and usually shows up in childhood. If this runs in your family, it could explain why your toe hair is thinning all of a sudden.

4

There Could Be A Dietary Component

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Your diet can impact almost everything about your health, even things you might not expect — like hair growth. “If [they’re] not getting an appropriate diet, people can lose their hair not only in their toes, but in other areas also,” McEneaney says. Studies have shown that nutritional deficiencies (take iron as an example) can cause your hair to become thinner or sparser. While you’re more likely to notice this on other areas of your body, your toes are no exception.

5

You May Potentially Have Peripheral Vascular Disease

One of the causes of poor circulation is peripheral vascular disease, so if you notice substantial hair loss anywhere on your body, it’s worth getting checked out by a doctor. “Poor circulation can often result in a decrease of blood flow to the small blood vessels that support hair growth,” Ilyas explains. “Poor circulation can result [from] peripheral vascular disease in addition to conditions such as diabetes. Aside from poor circulation to these areas, these conditions, in addition to congestive heart failure, contribute to leg edema or swelling. The added swelling in the legs can also cause hair thinning or loss on the toes and feet.”

6

You Might Be Dealing With Underlying Nerve Dysfunction

A loss of hair on your toes could also be an underlying sign of nerve damage, Ilyas says. “For example, reflex sympathetic dystrophy and complex regional pain syndrome are poorly understood disorders that may have both a nerve and circulatory component, given some skin changes such as hypotrichosis or decreased hair growth that can accompany the areas affected.” If you’re also experiencing sharp pain, numbness, or other unusual sensations in your feet, these are all good reasons to see a neurologist or other chronic pain specialist.

If you're worried about the hair on your toes (or lack thereof) or are embarrassed by it, talking to your doctor can make you feel better about things. Chances are, your hair is just a normal part of having a body, but it’s worth paying close attention if you notice any major changes. Who knew the hair on your toes could be so revealing?

Studies referenced:

Guo, E. L., & Katta, R. (2017). Diet and hair loss: Effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.5826/dpc.0701a01

Experts:

Patrick McEneaney, doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), owner and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists

Dr. Erum N. Ilyas, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology