Neuropathy: Understanding Nerve Problems in Your Feet
You’ve probably had an experience when your foot “fell asleep,” and when you got up and started moving again, you felt that annoying pins and needles effect. Imagine having that tingling, burning feeling almost all the time, and you get an idea of what neuropathy can be like. If you have these nerve damage symptoms, you know how it can make life more difficult and limit your activities.
Why Nerves Become Damaged
There are many underlying reasons for these symptoms, but a top one is diabetes. Your body’s inability to regulate sugar levels in the blood can result in damage to the nerves. When they can’t function properly, they may send pain signals to the brain when there is no reason, or lose sensation altogether and be unable to send warning signals when something is wrong.
A host of other problems can result in neuropathy (nerve damage). Alcoholism with its related poor eating habits may create vitamin deficiencies. Certain medications or cancer treatments as well as exposure to toxins can damage nerves. Autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, tumors, infections, and hypothyroidism can be factors. Then there are inherited disorders, bone marrow problems, or certain infections like Lyme disease that can have this effect. Finally, injuries or even overuse can lead to nerve damage or entrapment.
Symptoms and Complications of Neuropathy
As mentioned, the main symptoms are tingling, numbness, or a prickly, electrical type of pain that can sometimes be severe and stabbing. You could also lose all sensation as sensory nerve ends deteriorate. This can lead to several other complications.
One is burns, because you are unable to sense how hot something is. A walk on hot pavement, bath water that’s too hot, or even sunburn can go unnoticed, and may end up damaging your skin.
You may be more susceptible to infection, because you don’t notice a sore, wound, or blister and it gets worse, exposing underlying tissue to bacteria. An infection in a diabetic person can become a very serious issue leading to gangrene and possible amputation if it is not treated.
When nerves don’t function properly, you may lose your sense of balance, or your limbs might be weak and unstable. This makes you more prone to falls, and thus to bruises or broken bones.
In some cases, damage can occur to the bones in your foot and you may not know it. If you keep walking on it, the damage worsens and the whole structure of your foot is susceptible to collapse (known as Charcot foot). This is a serious condition that can deform the foot and greatly limit your mobility.
How Nerve Pain and Damage Can Be Treated
There are a variety of conservative remedies that we can use to relieve nerve pain, such as medications, lidocaine patches, or topical creams. High dose vitamin therapy has been shown in some cases to reverse damage to nerves, and therefore often relieves symptoms. Prescription medications can also help, although they may come with some side effects.
Other therapies include electrical stimulation, plasma and immune globulin treatments, physical therapy, and as a last resort—surgery. The final option is especially helpful if there is a structure pressing on the nerve.
Of course, the first thing you should do is develop healthy habits to head off neuropathy in the first place. That includes eating a diet that provides the nutrients you need and helps you control blood sugar levels, and getting regular exercise for optimal circulation so the nerves get the nourishment they need.
Don’t Wait—Consult Our Foot Experts for Nerve Pain
As with many problems, neuropathy is much easier to treat in the early stages. At the first sign of unusual pain, tingling or numbness, set up an appointment with Far West Podiatric Medical Group in Hawthorne, CA by calling (310) 675-0900 or filling out the contact form online. We can examine you and do the necessary tests to find out the reason for your symptoms, and guide you in choosing the treatment best for your situation. We’re ready to help you make your feet as healthy as they can be!
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