Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder that involves impairment in the function of the nerves at the body’s periphery such as the hands and feet. Those suffering with the condition will often report a feeling of numbness in their feet and/or a loss of sensation in the affected area. Peripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to these nerves which can be due to a range of conditions such as Diabetes, shingles and rheumatoid arthritis. Peripheral neuropathy can also be caused by excess alcohol intake, drugs, chemotherapy and spinal compression. The neuropathy often begins in the feet and may spread upwards towards the limbs.
Occasionally some people suffer painful neuropathy which may include a burning numb tingling or sharp pain in the feet, which can be rather distressing and unpleasant.
Many people suffer from Peripheral neuropathy and manage the condition day to day, however if not managed appropriately peripheral neuropathy has the potential to cause serious problems such as wounds and possible amputation. For these reasons it is important to discuss with your Podiatrist or GP if you are experiencing any symptoms.
THE LINK BETWEEN DIABETES AND PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY
Diabetes causes a range of changes to your feet, this is why it is recommended that those living with Diabetes have their feet checked by a Podiatrist. Developing peripheral neuropathy is very common in people with Diabetes, you may reduce your risk of peripheral neuropathy by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and managing your Diabetes appropriately. If blood sugar levels are kept too high, this affects the sensitive nerves at the periphery and can lead to neuropathy. Often hard skin will build up in areas of high pressure on the feet, if the hard skin builds up too much, the skin beneath this may break down and ulcerate. As the sensation is diminished in a person with peripheral neuropathy, this may all be occurring without their awareness which is a large contributor to diabetes foot disease and amputation.
DIAGNOSING PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY
There are a few simple tests that can be done during your appointment with your Podiatrist which can aid with diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy. These tests are relatively quick and will help determine the quality of sensation at your feet.
MANAGING PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY
Once diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy it is important to assess the cause and manage symptoms. This may include monitoring blood sugar levels and limiting alcohol intake. As peripheral neuropathy affects the sensation in your feet it is important to check your feet and inside of shoes daily. Even a small stone inside a shoe may cause a wound and possible amputation. Also check your footwear for prominent seams that may cause irritation and blistering. Check your feet for any areas of redness, irritation, abrasions and hard skin and always discuss with your Podiatrist any changes you have noticed with your feet.
Your podiatrist can help with specific advice on caring for feet with reduced sensation.