Peripheral neuropathy is defined as damage of the peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves travel to your arms and legs. When they become damaged, they don’t function properly. Those with peripheral neuropathy have decreased or abnormal sensation in toes/fingers. In some cases, they develop problems moving these parts of the body.
Common causes of peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is caused primarily by diabetes in the United States. 60-70% of people with diabetes will develop neuropathy during their lifetime, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Of course, there are other causes:
- Medications: Medications that can cause this are chemotherapy drugs, as they can damage the peripheral nerves.
- Heredity: At times, the cause can be hereditary, family history of peripheral neuropathy can be passed from one generation to the next.
- Advanced age: peripheral neuropathy is seen more often as people age.
- Arthritis: Primarily, arthritis located in your back can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Alcoholism: The US National Library of Medicine determined that up to half of those with heavy alcohol usage will develop peripheral neuropathy.
- Neurological disorders: Certain disorders like spina bifida and fibromyalgia are related to peripheral neuropathy.
- Injury: Acute injury to these peripheral nerve cause cause this condition as well.
There are different symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Mostly, people feel burning, numbness, tingling, shooting or stabbing pain in the toes and fingertips. Often, feeling changes of sensations in your fingers and toes can be symptomatic of peripheral neuropathy. If you ever feel abnormal sensations, you should definitely report to your doctor. These sensations can also be signs of another condition, like diabetes.
A podiatrist can diagnose peripheral neuropathy by physical exam, health history, and reporting of symptoms. Your doctor may order a blood test to check your blood sugar levels since high blood sugar levels and diabetes can be the cause of peripheral neuropathy.
There is no known cure for peripheral neuropathy. Treatment’s goal is to slow the progression of the disease, keep your feet healthy, and decrease pain.
Your doctor will show you how to care for your feet at home and may prescribe an oral medication to help your symptoms. Finally, he will recommend to have your feet examined by a podiatrist at least once a year.
Home treatment of peripheral neuropathy
Decreased sensation in the feet can develop and it becomes difficult to notice an injury or infection. In fact, those that lose sensation can step on a tack and not even notice it. Therefore, we recommend patients with peripheral neuropathy to inspect their feet at home regularly to make sure they notice injuries or infections right away.
If you are not be able to inspect your feet, seek help from a family member or friend. Or else, we recommend using a mirror to get a better view.
Wear proper shoes
Those with peripheral neuropathy should wear proper shoes and avoid being barefoot to avoid injury.
Control blood sugar levels
If you have diabetes, it is essential to control blood sugar levels, since out of control leads to increased nerve damage. Anyone with symptoms of peripheral neuropathy should see a podiatrist because they are specially trained to preserve your foot health.