The #Selfie That Could Save Your Life

The #Selfie That Could Save Your Life

More than just a photograph, taking a “foot selfie” may alert your doctor of potential health risks

In 2013 “selfie” was deemed the Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionaries1. A selfie is a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. Although selfies may be associated with narcissistic behavior, there is a proven medical benefit with taking certain selfies. With the explosion of smartphone use, podiatric physicians are advocating people to take “foot selfies”, which may greatly decrease the chance of health complications, infection, and loss of limbs (amputations). During April’s National Foot Health Awareness Month, the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) would like the public to be aware of the dangers which diabetes, vascular disease, and neuropathy pose to their feet. Today’s podiatrists are advocating the use of readily available “smart” technologies to help save people’s limbs and lives with smart medicine.

About half of the more than 26 million Americans with diabetes (and several million more undiagnosed) will lose feeling in their feet. This loss of feeling could lead to unrecognized trauma and wounds which could then lead to infection and other health complications. Unfortunately many people in this circumstance lose part of their feet or legs because wounds can go unnoticed due to loss of sensation. However, use of smartphone cameras has greatly increased the likelihood that amputations can be prevented, simply by taking a “foot selfie”.

“When patients take pictures of their feet, they are engaged in their own healthcare and made aware of possible risks of complications,” says Dr. Wenjay Sung, a podiatric surgeon in Los Angeles, California.

“If my patients check their feet daily with a ‘foot selfie’, this is their personal record of their limb health. If they have a concern with how their ‘foot selfie’ looks, they can send it to me instantly for evaluation. This is not only better care, but saves on the cost of transportation and possibly unnecessary trips to the emergency department,” says Dr. Sung.

Here are some tips on what can be concerning with a “foot selfie”:

-          A new callus, open sore or draining wound

-          Sudden redness that does not blanche with touch

-          Dark purple or black colored toe tips

-          Increased swelling in one foot more than the other

-          Sudden swelling in both feet with or without redness

“Today we have tools at our disposal that weren’t around even 10 years ago,” said Dr. Sung. “Smartphones are available relatively inexpensively today compared to digital cameras and are simple to use. Doctors and their expertise can be at their patients’ fingertips at the end of a send button.”

“There are several other advances in medicines, drugs, and surgical techniques to better the lives of our patients,” Dr. Sung concluded. “However, a simple ‘foot selfie’ can not only save time and money, but more importantly, can save a leg and save a life.”

Follow Dr. Wenjay Sung on twitter at @jaysung. To find a local licensed podiatric physician visit

Founded in 1912, the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) is the leading and recognized professional organization for doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and structures of the leg.