Those who suffer from neuropathy know the agony and frustration this condition can cause. Many people have neuropathy in their feet. Some have it in their hands and feet. The condition is generally referred to as peripheral neuropathy, and it is most commonly due to damage to nerve axons. This type of neuropathy usually causes pain and numbness in the hands and feet. Because the symptoms are often present in the areas covered by gloves or stockings, peripheral neuropathy is often described as having a “glove and stocking” distribution of symptoms.
The most common cause of foot neuropathy is diabetes. It isn’t the only cause, mind you, but it seems to be the most frequent one. Other causes include many drugs, shingles, kidney failure, traumatic events that pinch the nerve, and vitamin deficiency.
When people suffer from foot neuropathy, they often feel a tingling or burning sensation, pain, weakness, and loss of balance. There is no specific length of time that the pain exists, but symptoms often improve with time, especially if the neuropathy has an underlying condition that can be treated, like diabetes.
Foot neuropathy can affect nerves that control muscle movement (motor nerves) and those that detect sensations such as coldness or pain (sensory nerves). Patients who suffer from this condition report having difficulty feeling any type of sensations against their feet and have trouble walking or balancing. This is understandable. Imagine trying to walk but you can’t feel your feet or trying to balance yourself without feeling the obstacle on which you are standing.
The treatment for foot or peripheral neuropathy depends on its cause. The first step in treatment is, therefore, to look for the cause.
- Vitamin deficiencies can be corrected.
- Diabetes can be controlled, although control may not reverse the foot neuropathy. The goal with diabetes is early detection and adequate treatment to prevent the occurrence of any neuropathy.
- Nerve entrapment can be treated by physical therapy, injections, or surgery.
- Immediate treatment with sympathetic injections can minimize the chance of shingles progressing to postherpetic neuralgia.
There are other life-style changes that need to be enforced if a patient is to have a chance at recovery or, better yet, prevention. Three actions are essential:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise frequently
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
Of course, eating a proper diet will deter any vitamin deficiency and always keep regular check-ups and blood work with the doctor or specialist.
It is also important to treat the feet properly to avoid any future problems. Proper footwear and care need to be a part of the patient’s regular regimen. By taking these precautions and abiding by the doctor’s recommendations, those with an underlying condition may prevent neuropathy and those with foot neuropathy will learn to better cope with the condition.
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