Peripheral Neuropathy

Burning, tingling, numbness, pain or shooting to your feet? Does this sound familiar? Are you experiencing some or all of the symptoms? You may be experiencing classic signs of peripheral neuropathy. You may also be experiencing a cramping in the feet, curling of the toes, or weakness and loss of control to your legs and feet. Many people experience the same complaints in their hands.

Peripheral neuropathy is actual nerve damage that results from a systemic disease. The most common form of neuropathy is from diabetes. There are many other causes of neuropathy like chemotherapy, thyroid disorders, arthritis (rheumatoid, lupus), vitamin deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity, drug-induced, leprosy, and alcoholism. Many people today are overweight, have high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. They are "Pre-diabetic" (Metabolic Syndrome / aka Syndrome X). Their neuropathy is often an earlier phase of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Many times the cause of neuropathy is unknown, that is called idiopathic neuropathy.

Anyone who is a diabetic or knows a diabetic understands the havoc it can wreak on the body. The nerves are included in this path of destruction and this includes the nerves to your lower extremity and your feet. The damage to the nerves in your feet makes you unable to really feel your feet and can lead to open wounds (ulcerations). Ulcerations can lead to amputations. How does this happen?

Neuropathy can affect the motor nerves which control the muscles in your body. Damage to these types of nerves produces weakness in the muscles. This weakness can affect your balance. Loss of motor nerve function also causes loss of the tone of the muscle (atrophy of the muscle).This causes your foot to lose its original shape and produces areas of increased pressure. This increased pressure can cause breakdown of the foot which can lead to skin ulcerations.

Neuropathy can also affect the autonomic nerves which affect your skin's ability to maintain moisture. This loss of moisture makes your skin dry. Dry skin can lead to cracking, and this cracking in your skin can lead to ulcerations.

The most devastating effect neuropathy has is on the sensory nerves. This numbness, burning and/or tingling is the loss of sensation you may be experiencing. This can affect part of your foot, your whole foot, or even your entire lower extremity. This loss of sensation means a loss of your body's ability to perceive increased pressure areas or changes in temperature. This loss of natural protection puts you at risk for ulcerations.

When you hear of a diabetic losing part of his or her foot, or one or both legs, you can now understand why this at any time could become your battle. The damage produced by neuropathy does not occur rapidly. On the contrary, it usually occurs so slowly and subtly that it is not enough for you to notice. The longer you have neuropathy, the longer you are undiagnosed, or the longer you have uncontrolled diabetes, the more danger you place on your limbs and your life.

Why is controlling this important? The amputation of part of the foot dramatically increases the likelihood of further amputation of your foot or your limb within the next few years. The loss of one limb puts increased pressure on the other limb and this increased pressure inevitably results in breakdown of this foot and loss of this limb. The lifetime expectancy for a single amputee is five years. The lifetime expectancy for a double amputee is less than five years.

Are you experiencing numbness, burning, and/or tingling in your feet? Whether you have a history of diabetes in your family or not, we urge you to come in to have this evaluated. There are many times where these symptoms have resulted in a diagnosis of diabetes. At the very least, this discovery alone could save your limbs. At the very most, this discovery could save your life.

Dr. Alan Shih
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Tucson Podiatrist Dr. Shih will take care of your foot, ankle, & leg pain, call Head to Toe Healthcare today.