Numbness and Diabetic Neuropathy. How to protect your feet

Have you been experiencing seemingly unexplained foot or ankle pain? The culprit might very well be Neuropathy. Never heard of it? Well, it can be defined as the spontaneous firing of damaged nerve fibers, but that’s medical jargon. You can just raise a red flag if you’re experiencing any one of a range of symptoms…from burning, tingling and numbness to loss of vibration/position sense, electric-like sensations or just plain, old, achy pain.

Red flag raised? Okay, let’s examine further. You may have noticed that your symptoms occurred gradually, or possibly you experienced a more sudden onset. Both are common. Perhaps you observed that the pain is more prevalent during certain parts of the day or while performing specific activities. Or, your symptoms may be constant without any pattern at all. Both here are common as well. One thing’s for certain, the pain usually progresses over time without proper treatment.

Before we get into that, let’s talk about the causes. For instance, uncontrolled diabetes is one of the most common triggers of neuropathic pain. Other offenders can include nerve entrapments, trauma, nutritional deficiencies, peripheral vascular disease, restless leg syndrome, HIV/AIDS, sciatica, cancer and certain medications, just to name a few.

I know, it’s a little off-putting, but not to worry. First thing’s first. A thorough, clinical exam is usually adequate to diagnose neuropathic pain and it’s causes. In some instances, urine testing, blood work, MRI, neurography, electromyography, nerve conduction studies, or a biopsy of a specific nerve may be needed to assist your clinician in confirming the diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, you’re on your way. Common treatments include tight glycemic control in diabetic patients. For others, oral and topical pain medications, shoe modification, weight reduction, nutritional supplements, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and physical therapy are in order. In some cases, I might recommend nerve decompression surgery – always as minimally invasive as possible, of course.

You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. Well, that’s the ticket here. The important thing for folks dealing with Neuropathy is to protect their feet and prevent even further conditions. For instance, if you’re suffering from numbness in your feet, you should be wearing proper shoes to avoid poor balance while standing or walking, as well as to prevent improper loading to certain parts of your feet. That can cause a host of other problems you don’t need. Also, avoid walking bare-footed to decrease the chances of injury and wounds, which can lead to infections.

The take-away is that if anything you’ve read here rings a bell, then please visit a podiatrist and ring his or her bell. You’ll be graciously welcomed, and the best part is, the doctor will treat your condition before it worsens. You’ll also get some relief, and in this case, no pain will be your gain.

Amyn Lakhani, DPM
DeLoor Podiatry Associates

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