Neuropathy is a term used to describe symptoms of nerve damage. Peripheral Neuropathy occurs when the ends of the nerves are damaged. It may cause a variety of symptoms, including pain, numbness, burning, or tingling in the hands and feet.
Did you know that the nervous system and its ability to communicate is essential to your foot health?
The nervous system is a complex network of nerves, like telephone wires that communicate with each other to send messages to the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body. It's responsible for everything you feel, think, and do.
These messages tell your muscles what to do, such as moving your toes or taking another step while walking. They also aid in helping blood flow get to certain parts of your body and they deliver sensory messages from your feet to your brain and back.
When you have peripheral neuropathy, these messages get mixed up, diminished, or lost along the way because there's damage to the nerves themselves or their protective covering (myelin). This damage can happen over time with certain diseases like diabetes, auto-immune disorders or multiple sclerosis, or as a result of trauma or infection.
The symptoms of foot neuropathy can be either periodic or constant, often, it affects both sides of your body. Some types of peripheral neuropathy develop suddenly, while others progress more slowly over many years. Nerves typically end in the toes and fingers which is why we call it “peripheral” and neuropathy describes the symptoms such as pain, tingeling, and burning. Here are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy:
- Tingling or burning in the feet, hands, arms, legs, or face
- Impaired balance
- Unsteady steps
- Problems with fine motor skills such as writing or buttoning shirts
- Muscle weakness
- Chronic pain
In certain cases Peripheral Neuropathy can be reversed, but sometimes it's caused by damage that's too extensive for your body to repair. The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes, but many other conditions can cause it too.
Here are some of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy:
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy, a condition that affects the nerves in your legs and feet. If you have diabetes, high levels of blood sugar damage the ends of your nerves. In some cases, this damage is permanent; in others, it can be treated by lowering your blood sugar levels or taking medication to control them and to allow healing of your nerves. Metanx is a prescription medication that is safe and can aid in nerve repair.
Deficiencies in B vitamins may cause nerve damage and injury. You can get these vitamins from food sources such as whole grains and leafy green vegetables (like spinach). Neurx is a safe, all natural supplement that helps your body absorb and retain more vitamin B.
Exposure to neurotoxins:
Alcoholism or heavy drinking over time can also lead to vitamin deficiencies that result in nerve damage and symptoms similar to those related to diabetes or vitamin deficiencies.
Autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
Infectious diseases such as Lyme disease or HIV/AIDS
Treatment for peripheral neuropathy depends on the cause of the nerve dysfunction. If caused by an underlying condition, such as diabetes, then treatment will focus on treating this underlying condition and its symptoms. Some over-the-counter and prescription medications are used to treat symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
We have many treatment options available.
Laser therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat peripheral neuropathy. The treatment uses low levels of light energy to stimulate the nerves and prevent further damage from occurring.
B vitamins are known for their ability to support healthy nervous system function. Vitamins B-1, B-6, and B-12 have been found to be especially beneficial for treating neuropathy.
Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, helps to reduce pain and inflammation
Vitamin B6 preserves the covering on nerve endings.
B12 is essential for proper neurological function. B12 deficiency can actually cause neuropathy.
B vitamins can be supplemented or can be found in eggs, seafood, fortified cereals, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and poultry. We have several supplements available here in our clinic.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant found in many foods. Antioxidants are substances that the body can use to prevent or manage a tissue-damaging process (oxidative stress).The sugar in your bloodstream permanently attaches to cellular proteins leading to the formation and build up of harmful free radicals. If free radicals overwhelm the body's ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a part of the diabetic neuropathy disease process.
Consuming a balanced and nutritious diet can help to prevent neuropathy and support nerve health. This can include eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. It may also be helpful to avoid excessive alcohol consumption and to limit your intake of processed and sugary foods. It's important to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have concerns about your risk of neuropathy or if you are experiencing symptoms of nerve damage. They can provide personalized advice on how to manage your diet and other factors that may affect your nerve health.
Tobacco use is a known risk factor for neuropathy. Smoking can damage the blood vessels, including those that supply blood to the nerves. This can lead to reduced blood flow to the nerves, which can cause damage to the nerve fibers and lead to neuropathy. In addition, the chemicals in tobacco smoke can directly damage the nerves through oxidative stress and contribute to the development of neuropathy. Quitting smoking can help prevent neuropathy and improve your overall health. It is important to talk to your doctor about ways to quit and prevent nerve damage.
Physical activity plays an important role
Physical activity is an important part of maintaining overall health and well-being, and it can also be beneficial for people with neuropathy. Regular physical activity can help to improve blood circulation, which can be beneficial for nerve health. It can also help to reduce inflammation and improve muscle strength and flexibility, which can help to manage symptoms of neuropathy, such as pain, numbness, and tingling. Additionally, engaging in regular physical activity can help to maintain a healthy body weight, which can reduce the risk of developing neuropathy and other chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes. It's important to speak with your doctor or a physical therapist before starting a new exercise program. They can provide guidance on the types and amounts of physical activity that are safe and appropriate for you. They may also be able to recommend specific exercises or modifications that can help to manage your symptoms of neuropathy.
Remember to drink water before, during, and after activity to prevent dehydration. Also, be sure to wear comfortable and supportive shoes. Ask your podiatrist for recommendations.
To prevent peripheral neuropathy of the feet, it's important to manage any underlying health conditions that can increase your risk of developing this condition. This may include things like controlling your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes or managing any autoimmune disorders you may have. In addition, you can take the following steps to protect your feet and prevent neuropathy:
- Check your feet regularly for cuts, sores, or other injuries, and treat them promptly to avoid infection.
- Wear comfortable and supportive shoes that fit properly and provide a stable sole.
- Avoid exposing your feet to extreme temperatures, such as hot surfaces or very cold weather.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption since these can increase your risk of neuropathy.
- Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking since some drugs can increase your risk of neuropathy
- Follow your doctor's recommendations for managing any underlying health conditions that increase your risk of neuropathy.
If you are experiencing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy in your feet, such as pain, numbness, burning, or tingling, it is important to see a podiatrist. At Grandville Foot and Ankle, we can help diagnose the underlying causes of your symptoms and recommend treatment options to help relieve your pain and improve your quality of life. Don't ignore your symptoms since neuropathy can worsen over time and may lead to other complications if left untreated. Contact your Grandville Foot and Ankle Podiatrist today to discuss your symptoms and get the help you need and deserve!
Complete our contact form or call our office at 616-534-3920 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stewart.