Our nerves run information through our body. One of their functions is to transmit sensations to our brain, so our bodies can act accordingly.
When everything is working correctly, you can think of them a bit like the “Check Engine” light on a car. When a sensor trips that light, your reaction is to respond and check out the problem (or at least it should be).
Having peripheral neuropathy, however, is a lot like having a fault in the sensors themselves. The light starts going off when there isn’t really reason for it to, and you start responding to nothing. Only in the case of your body, those responses can include pain, tingling, and numbness.
Just What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
The peripheral nerves are basically all your nerves that lie outside the “central hub” of the brain and spinal cord. This includes all the nerves that run through your extremities.
Peripheral neuropathy is simply a medical term for damage to these nerves; namely, any sort of damage that can impede their function and create unwanted symptoms.
Our nerves are delicate by design, so a variety of different problems can cause them damage. A few common examples include:
- Direct trauma to the nerves themselves, perhaps through crushing or cutting.
- Conditions such as diabetes or arthritis, which can interfere with blood flow to nerves and/or cause nerve inflammation.
- Vitamin deficiencies.
- Chemical exposure, whether as the side effects of certain drugs or unplanned exposure to certain toxins or heavy metals in the environment.
- A genetic predisposition to neuropathy (in other words, you were born with a higher risk).
When nerves become damaged, their ability to transmit signals effectively also falls into trouble. Some might compare it to a wire that has gone on the fritz. Sometimes it might not work when desired, and other times it might spark unexpectedly.
This can result in different kinds of symptoms. Some may feel just one, while others may feel them all:
- Pain, often described as a “burning,” “electric,” or “shooting” sensation.
- Numbness or tingling.
- Cramping or tightness in muscles.
While pain and cramping can be extremely frustrating and debilitating symptoms, numbness is very much a concern all its own.
Numbness is a sign that nerves have lost their ability to transmit pain whatsoever, which means that cuts and other injuries might happen unnoticed. This is particularly dangerous to the feet, as wounds can easily become larger and risk infection if one continues to walk on them without addressing the problem.
So when it comes to treating peripheral neuropathy, the primary goals are to relieve discomfort, prevent further degradation to the nerves, and potentially even help the nerves to recover.
What You Can Do to Fight Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is absolutely something that is worth seeing a professional about, no matter at what stage or how severe the problem feels. Remember that preventing further damage is a primary goal in this situation.
A big element of recommending proper treatments is understanding the factors responsible for this condition in the first place. A thorough evaluation and potentially some testing will likely need to be conducted to narrow in on the root of the problem.
Once these factors are identified, we can work with you to develop an effective treatment plan to help you find relief from pain, as well as added support for your damaged nerves. This might include specific forms of exercise, the use of custom orthotics to take excess pressure off areas with stressed nerves, and advanced treatments such as MLS Laser Therapy.
However, there are general steps you can take at home as well. Many of these are good for your overall health and foot care in the first place, so come highly recommended.
Here are some steps to consider if you have peripheral neuropathy in your feet, and we are always happy to discuss these and other possible steps with you:
- Perform regular exercise. Exercise is not going to reverse neuropathy, but it can play a significant role in helping to prevent matters from becoming worse. The key in a good exercise regimen is safety, however. If a condition such as diabetes is part of the problem, you want to exercise in ways that don’t risk damage to your feet.
- Always wear the right shoes. Wearing the right shoes for the right activities will help lower your risks of injury by keeping your weight better distributed over your feet. The right shoes can also be protective and supportive in ways that will increase your comfort and mobility. Ask us about diabetic shoes and other ideal types of shoes in general.
- Adopt a nerve-friendly diet. This naturally includes any diet recommended for diabetes. However, other items to consider boosting in your diet include Omega-3 fatty acids to help with inflammation, and colorful fruits and vegetables for nerve health in general. Avoid excesses of alcohol, saturated fats, and refined grains—all of which can aggravate peripheral neuropathy.
- Conducting daily foot inspections. This is an important preventative measure, especially if numbness is a concern. Detecting injuries and other foot problems early means they can be addressed sooner; and that means lower risks to your overall foot and nerve health.
Contact Your Source for Foot & Ankle Peripheral Neuropathy Help
Do not let the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy slide by without notice. If left unchecked, odds are high that the situation will grow worse and more dangerous over time.
At Kalamazoo Podiatry, we not only help patients with direct concerns related to peripheral neuropathy, but provide advice and care to help prevent its progression. Let us serve in your corner!
To schedule an appointment, please call either of our offices:
- Kalamazoo – (269) 373-1019
- Allegan – (269) 673- 8757
If you prefer to make contact electronically, our online contact form is also open! Simply fill it out and a member of our staff will reach out to you during normal office hours.