Peripheral Neuropathy and its Impact
Your nervous system is an interconnected network that operates like a smartphone, the Internet, and Facebook all wrapped up in one. And when your nerves function as intended, this system is an amazing tool – one that enables you to do, well, basically everything you do.
Unfortunately, nerve damage (neuropathy) disrupts the communication and connectivity between your nerves.
When this happens, you may experience painful sensations. Burning, tingling, and electric feelings are common symptoms. Even worse, however, is when nerve communication shuts down completely and you cannot feel anything (numbness).
(Not feeling pain might sound like a good thing, but you’ll see this is 100% not the case.)
Peripheral neuropathy – sensory peripheral nerves play a key role in your sense of touch – is a very serious condition. If you have nerve pain or numbness in your feet, come see us as soon as possible for professional diagnosis and care.
How do you know if it’s neuropathy?
With neuropathy, affected nerves send faulty messages to the brain that give the sensation of burning, tingling, freezing, electric, or sharp, jabbing pain (when there is no rational reason to do so).
In some cases, however, the problem isn’t that your brain receives the wrong messages – it’s that there aren’t any messages at all. (Sometimes, feeling comes and goes – like spotty wi-fi – after extensive damage has taken place.)
And that is extremely concerning.
Numbness caused by neuropathy means your brain doesn’t always receive the message when your foot has been damaged. Now imagine walking on a burst blister or broken bone all day … without even being aware of it!
In this kind of situation, cuts and scrapes can turn into ugly, infected (and potentially life-threatening) ulcers if you aren’t careful.
This shows how the “gift of pain” protects you, and why it’s so dangerous when that gift is lost.
If you experience painful, unusual sensations in your feet or can no longer feel anything down there, contact us today. Early intervention may help you avoid permanent damage—and possibly save your life.
Why do you have nerve pain or numbness in your foot?
Obviously, this is a major problem. So, why did it happen in the first place?
Potential explanations include:
- High and fluctuating levels of blood sugar poison the nerves over a long period of time. More than half of diabetes sufferers develop neuropathy.
- Alcohol or drug abuse. In part, this may be attributed to poor dietary habits from those afflicted with addiction.
- Smoking (and other nicotine use). Nicotine shuts the smallest blood vessels (vaso vasorium) down, and these supply nerves with nutrients to stay healthy. Vaping and patches aren’t better options than smoking, since they also deliver nicotine into your bloodstream.
- Certain illnesses, infections, and disorders. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, bone marrow problems, kidney disease, liver disease, hypothyroidism, and various cancers are some heath issues that can lead to nerve damage.
- For example, some chemotherapy medicines that target cancer cells can also affect nerves.
- Dietary choices. A diet that is very narrow and limiting may not provide enough key vitamins. That can cause nerves to swell or starve from lack of nutrition.
- Trauma or injury. This includes overuse from repetitive motions associated with certain jobs or hobbies.
- Idipathic. Sometimes the change in sensation can be confirmed, but there is no identifiable source that can be connected to it.
How can we treat nerve pain in feet?
When it comes to treating nerve damage in a foot, our goals for you are centered on two things – fix and protect.
First, we find the source of the issue (diabetes, nutrition, injury, etc.) and do what we can to fix or manage it. Then, we take protective measures to relieve symptoms and prevent continued damage, as much as possible.
Examples of this include:
- If your neuropathy is linked to diabetes, we will create a diabetic foot care plan to help you manage sugar levels and protect your feet.
- If repetitive motion is the issue, we can provide recommendations for modifying the activity and/or biomechanics.
- When diet is the root cause, we help you understand how to address this by getting plenty of B vitamins, niacin, and other key nutrients.
Along with managing the root cause, Dr. Leibovitz may also employ oral treatments and supplements to mitigate troublesome symptoms and keep your nerves functioning as well as possible.
Specifically, we have seen impressive results from an over-the-counter product that provides additional building blocks for nerve repair. (As of April 2016, food products previously available only by prescription can now be obtained OTC.)
As a last resort, a variety of prescription medications — including those developed for other conditions (such as anti-depressants or seizure meds) — have proven effective in masking neuropathic pain.
Unfortunately, the longer a nerve has been damaged, the longer it may take to repair itself. And if the damage is chronic, these changes may be irreversible.
The earlier you seek treatment, the better off you’ll be in the long run.