There are many people who suffer from neuropathy of the feet. What is foot neuropathy? Simply put, neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nerves of the body. The effects of this damage are displayed in the feet and hands of the patient. Many times, neuropathy, often called peripheral neuropathy, occurs in people who have diabetes.
However, there are other conditions that will also cause foot neuropathy. These are called acquired neuropathy. Here are some of the other causes for foot neuropathy:
- Trauma or pressure on nerves, often from a repetitive motion such as typing on a keyboard
- Nutritional problems and vitamin deficiencies, often from a lack of B vitamins
- Alcoholism, often through poor dietary habits and vitamin deficiencies
- Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Tumors which often press up against nerves
- Other diseases and infections such as kidney disease, liver disease, Lyme disease, HIV/AIDS, or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Inherited disorders (hereditary neuropathies), such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and amyloid polyneuropathy
- Poison exposure, from toxins such as heavy metals, and certain medications and cancer treatments
- Sometimes the cause is unknown. About 30 percent of all neuropathy cases are idiopathic or unknown.
For those who suffer with foot neuropathy, the pain can be agonizing symptoms of numbness and yet with pain. Besides the numbness and pain, there can be tingling in the feet and “electric” type sensations that can be quite anguishing.
TYPES OF NEUROPATHY
There are three main types of nerves affected by neuropathy; motor, sensory, and autonomic. Several types of neuropathy affect all three types of nerves. Some neuropathies arise suddenly while others come gradually over time.
Motor nerve damage has symptoms like muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms. This type of neuropathy can lead to a loss of balance and coordination. Patients may find it hard to walk or run, feel like their legs are heavy, stumble, or easily get tired.
Sensory nerve damage can display various symptoms like weakened sense of position, tingling, numbness, pinching and pain. The pain is often described as burning, freezing, or electric-like. Some patients report that they feel sensations as if they are wearing an invisible stocking. The sensations tend to be worse at night, and can become painful and severe. On the other hand, sensory nerve damage may lead to a decrease or absence of feeling, where nothing is felt at all.
Autonomic nerve damage affects the internal organs and involuntary processes. It can display these symptoms:
- Autonomic nerve damage affects the internal organs and involuntary processes. It can display these symptoms:
- Abnormal blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduced ability to perspire
- Bladder dysfunction
- Sexual dysfunction
- Thinning of the skin.
When your doctor diagnoses neuropathy, he will perform a medical history or physical Examination. Also, neurological exams will be conducted that will examine tendon reflexes, muscle strength and tone, the ability to feel sensations, posture and coordination. Blood tests will be taken to measure levels of vitamin B-12. Other common tests may include a urinalysis, thyroid function tests, and a nerve conduction study that includes electromyography (to measure electrical discharges produced in muscles). Physicians may also want to have a nerve biopsy for microscopic examination.
FOOT NEUROPATHY TREATMENTS
There are many treatments available for foot neuropathy. They range from traditional pills and creams to special diets and therapies that stimulate the nervous system. Antidepressants and selective serotonin-norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors (SNRI’s) are the first line treatments for most patients. These are available for non-depressed patients.
Other medications often prescribed for neuropathy are anticonvulsants. These medicines block calcium channels on neurons to limit pain. Opioid narcotic treatments for neuropathy are also used to treat the condition but are not highly recommended because of the risk for dependency. However, opioids have been the most consistently effective form of relief in reducing neuropathic pain
For other types of neuropathy, doctors recommend treatment with a topical anesthetic such as numbing cream. Several topical applications of capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers hot) have also been used to treat neuropathic pain.
Alternative therapies for peripheral neuropathy include cannabinoids (a class of chemicals found in marijuana), Botulinum Toxin Type A (Botox), dietary supplements (such as alpha lipoic and benfotiamine), chiropractic massages, yoga, meditation, cognitive therapy, and acupuncture.
Foot neuropathy is a debilitating condition that can be caused by several conditions. Treating your neuropathy is important and should be treated early on to control symptoms and help reverse the condition, if possible. There are many treatments for neuropathy, some medicine and other alternative. You and your doctor will work together to establish the treatments that best suit you and your symptoms. Together, you can get a handle on this condition and promote a better quality of life for you.
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