Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral Neuropathy is a disease that can damage nerves in the feet and prevent them from working properly. It’s most common in people with diabetes. Neuropathy can also be caused by poor nutrition, injury, and other diseases. When nerves are damaged, you may have changes in sensation, including numbness. Not being able to sense pain makes you more likely to injure your feet without knowing. Over time, neuropathy can lead to permanent loss of nerve function, as well as bone and joint damage.

Causes:

Diabetes is the leading cause of peripheral neuropathy. Having diabetes also makes it harder to heal from injuries. In fact, minor foot problems can quickly become serious infections that send you to the hospital. To prevent foot problems, manage your diabetes carefully and inspect your feet daily for changes.

Symptoms:

  • Numbness
  • Burning or pain
  • Tingling, or a feeling of “pins and needles”
  • Feeling like you’re wearing invisible socks

Physical Exam:

Your doctor will ask you about your health and any history of foot problems. If you have diabetes, they will also discuss how well controlled your blood sugar levels have been. Be sure to mention any medications, supplements, or herbal remedies you take. Your doctor will check how well your nerves sense vibrations, pressure, and temperature. To do this, some simple tools will be touched against your feet.

Treatments:

After the evaluation, your doctor will talk with you about treatment options. These may include making changes in your diet and exercise habits. Other treatments are used to reduce pain and improve nerve function. Keep in mind, an important part of treatment is learning how to protect your feet.

Nutrition:
Eating food high in vitamin B can help improve nerve problems caused by poor nutrition. In some cases, vitamin supplements may be needed. If you have diabetes, be sure to measure your blood sugar regularly and follow your meal plan.

Exercise:
Daily exercise improves blood flow in your feet. It also increases foot strength and flexibility. Gentle exercises, like walking or riding a stationary bicycle, are best. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Also mention if any exercise causes pain, redness, or other signs of foot problems.

Other Treatments:
Your doctor may recommend other treatments for your neuropathy. These can include ointments and medications to help reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy, massage, and electrical nerve stimulation may also help manage pain and improve nerve function.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Protect Your Feet:

Neuropathy makes it hard to feel injuries. Inspect your feet each daily and check for red “hot spots”, blisters, sores, corns or calluses, color changes in skin, cracks in heels or dry skin, and thick or yellow toenails. Look at the top and bottom of each foot, the heel, and between the toes. It may help to use a mirror. Wear proper footwear and socks to protect your feet. Don’t buy shoes you have to “break in”. Avoid shoes with open toes or open heels. Before putting on your shoes, check inside them for rough stitching or losing objects such as pebbles.

Foot Care Tips:

  • Manage your diabetes
  • Inspect your feet daily
  • Avoid walking barefoot
  • Exercise daily
  • Don’t use corn or wart removers
  • Ask if your doctor should trim your toenails
  • Wash feet with warm water and mild soap
  • Use lotion to moisten dry feet
  • Stop smoking