Diabetic neuropathy in feet means that nerve damage has taken place on the nerves leading to your feet. Virtually all diabetics who have experienced ongoing elevated blood sugar levels for more than five years suffer some loss of sensitivity in their feet to pain, pressure, and temperature. This is because prolonged blood sugar elevation can injure and eventually destroy all of the sensory nerves in the body’s extremities, especially the feet, otherwise known as sensory neuropathy.
Deterioration in the functioning of the nerves that carry messages between the spinal cord and extremities is known as peripheral neuropathy. The condition occurs because of either damage or irritation to the myelin sheaths that surround and protect the nerves or damage to the conducting fibers of the nerve. Peripheral neuropathy is not related to a circulation problem.
People who suffer from neuropathy in feet often say they have a burning sensation along the involved nerves. Additionally, muscle weakness, loss of feeling, loss of ability to distinguish hot and cold, and loss of reflexes may develop.
There are a variety of reasons a person can suffer from peripheral neuropathy including injury from trauma, continuing pressure on a nerve, or inflammation or nerve destruction by disease. Peripheral neuropathy can also be a side effect of a variety of diseases including: diabetes, vitamin deficiency (especially vitamin B-12 deficiency), alcoholism, kidney failure, a condition called Guillain-Barre’ syndrome and inherited diseases. Less common causes of peripheral neuropathy include drugs, toxins and cancer.
Symptoms usually begin gradually and progress slowly over many months. The first sign that is experienced is a tingling sensation in the toes or the balls of the feet that spreads upward. Pain and numbness may follow the same path and typically skin will become extremely sensitive so that even the lightest touch can be painful.
Doctors usually determine whether a neuropathy exists through a nerve conduction test. This test measures the speed that an impulse travels down a nerve. Additionally, this test sometimes provides information about the type of neuropathy causing symptoms.
Even though a person can undergo extensive studies including urine tests, blood tests, x-rays, and sometimes a biopsy of the nerve itself, the cause of the neuropathy may never become apparent. The facts are that for 1 out of 5 people who have peripheral neuropathy, no cause can be found. Even if no cause can be found these studies need to be conducted simply because some of the causes, such as vitamin deficiencies, can easily be corrected.
There is no proven treatment for neuropathy in feet; however, there are some options available to help relieve your symptoms, or, at the very least, make them more tolerable. There are topical creams and nutritional supplements that can help relieve the pain and replenish the lost nutrients that cause neuropathy.
When you have neuropathy it is important to keep your feet fastidiously clean, wear properly fitting shoes, and carefully examine your feet each day. If you have lost feeling in your feet, you may cut or injure them without realizing it which is a perfect setup for infection or ulcer formation.