What is Neuropathy?
The function of our nerves is to transmit messages from the brain to all over the body. Any damage to the nerves disrupts this function resulting in a condition known as neuropathy. There are different types of neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is a type of progressive neuropathy where there is damage to the peripheral nerves or the nerves present in the extremities. Peripheral neuropathy comes and goes and can become debilitating also.
What is Neuropathy in Feet?
The peripheral nervous system comprises of sensory nerves and motor nerves. The sensory nerves help you to feel and the motor nerves help you to move. Either or both sets of nerves can be damaged in neuropathy. Neuropathy in feet is commonly seen in patients is suffering from diabetes. The exact cause for neuropathy in feet is not always known.
What are the Causes for Neuropathy in Feet?
The exact cause of neuropathy in feet is not always clear. Some of the probable causes include: Diabetes (the leading cause), alcohol, cancer/chemotherapy, trauma, genetics, kidney failure, vitamins deficiency, aids, radiation exposure, medication, scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.
About 30% of the neuropathy cases are idiopathic in nature, that is, they have no known cause. In about 30% of the cases, the cause of neuropathy is diabetes. The rest of the 40 % of neuropathy cases occur due to the above causes. The commonest cause of neuropathy in feet is diabetes and can lead to severe complications in the legs and feet.
What are the Symptoms of Neuropathy in Feet?
Symptoms of Neuropathy in Feet depend on the part of the peripheral nerve which has been damaged.
Damage to the sensory nerves of the feet produce symptoms like: Burning sensation, tingling, numbness, sensation of clothing on bare skin, sensitive skin, tingling which radiates from the ball of the foot and upwards, pain and severe symptoms at night.
Damage to the motor nerves of the feet produce symptoms like: Paralysis, muscle weakness in the affected foot/limb, dizziness upon standing, loss of sensation in feet, intestinal problems and hypotension.
Diagnosis of Neuropathy in Feet
Medical history and physical examination are conducted. Tests which are done for diagnosis of Neuropathy in Feet include: Muscle strength tests, blood tests, analysis of cerebrospinal fluid, CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan tests, electromyography (EMG), nerve conduction velocity tests (NCV), nerve biopsy and skin biopsy.
What Can Be Done for Neuropathy in Feet?
All types of neuropathy cannot be cured. Many of the times, the symptoms of neuropathy in feet can be managed and reduced; however, complete cure from neuropathy in feet is not always possible.
Treatment for neuropathy in feet depends on the underlying cause. If neuropathy in feet occurs as a result of a certain medication, then change in the medication helps in relieving neuropathy in the feet. If the cause of neuropathy in feet is a vitamin deficiency, then giving the patient vitamin supplements helps in improving the symptoms of neuropathy in feet. If diabetes is the cause of neuropathy in the feet, then treatment consists of controlling and managing diabetes to improve the symptoms of neuropathy in the feet. Medications, such as anti-depressants, pain killers and medicines to treat seizures also help in controlling the symptoms of neuropathy in the feet.
Patient if suffering from diabetes should always check themselves regularly for any bruises or cuts, which have occurred without the patient not being aware of them due to loss of sensation.
Prevention of Neuropathy in Feet
Some of the lifestyle modifications, which need to be incurred to prevent Neuropathy in Feet are:
- Consuming a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein.
- Moderate exercise on a regular basis.
- Drinking plenty of fluids, especially when working in extreme cold or hot temperatures.
- Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle and moving around frequently if sitting or standing in a cramped position.
- Avoid repetitive motions. Change your activity level daily if possible.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
Consult your dietician and physician/neurologist to discuss about new diets and exercise programs.