Every now and then, our feet “fall asleep,” leaving us with that familiar, pins-and-needles sensation. But if you experience numbness or tingling in your feet on a regular basis, there could be another cause.
Peripheral neuropathy is a serious medical issue that can affect hands as well as feet. Symptoms include:
- Numbness, prickling or tingling that may spread to legs and arms
- Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing or burning pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Unsteadiness on your feet
- Lack of coordination and falling
Peripheral neuropathy can sometimes affect just one nerve (mononeuropathy). Carpal tunnel syndrome is an example of this pattern. Most people experience polyneuropathy, with several nerves in different areas being affected.
AM I AT RISK?
Peripheral neuropathy is linked to several other health factors.
- Diabetes. More than half of all people with diabetes develop some form of neuropathy.
- Medications. Certain medications, especially those used to treat cancer (chemotherapy), can cause peripheral neuropathy.
- Exposure to poisons. Toxic substances such as heavy metals or chemicals can increase your chances of developing peripheral neuropathy.
- Alcohol abuse. Poor dietary choices made by people who drink to excess can lead to vitamin deficiencies, which are linked with neuropathy.
- Autoimmune diseases. These include Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and necrotizing vasculitis.
- Infections. These include certain viral or bacterial infections, including Lyme disease, shingles, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis C, leprosy, diphtheria and HIV.
- Trauma or pressure on the nerve. Trauma from car accidents, falls or sports injuries can sever or damage peripheral nerves.
- Tumors. Malignant or benign growths can develop on nerves or press down on nerves.
- Vitamin deficiencies. B vitamins — including B-1, B-6 and B-12 — vitamin E and niacin are crucial to nerve health.
- Other diseases. These include kidney disease, liver disease, connective tissue disorders and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).
WHEN TO SEE YOUR PODIATRIST
Peripheral neuropathy can make it difficult for you to stand up from sitting or reclining. The increased risk for falls is a serious concern, so it’s crucial to see your podiatrist right away. Early diagnosis and treatment gives you the best chance to control symptoms and prevent further damage to your nerves.
Peripheral neuropathy can also lead to other problems, such as:
- Burns and skin trauma. You might not sense temperature changes or pain in your feet, putting you at risk for serious foot damage.
- Infection. Not being able to feel changes in your feet also means that small cuts and abrasions can become inflamed without you noticing. Check these areas regularly and treat minor injuries before they become infected, especially if you have diabetes mellitus.
WORRIED ABOUT FOOT PAIN AND OTHER SYMPTOMS? ASK DR. WACHTEL
When it comes to caring for foot problems such as peripheral neuropathy, Dr. Jeffrey Wachtel is your best resource. A seasoned podiatrist serving patients throughout the Lansdale, Pennsylvania area, Dr. Wachtel can answer your questions about foot pain and other symptoms and make sure that serious issues are treated early.
If your feet hurt or you’re struggling with a particular issue, call our Lansdale office now to schedule a convenient appointment.