Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the nerves to the peripheries. This results in the loss of feeling and temperature sensation to the affected area.
The reason for numbness in the feet (peripheral neuropathy) in people with diabetes is still largely unknown. It is believed to be associated with high blood sugar levels and unstable diabetes affecting the nerve sheath fibres and message impulses. The longer you have had diabetes the greater risk of peripheral neuropathy.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy (Numbness in the Feet):
- Medical conditions such as diabetes & alcoholism
- Hereditary conditions
- Metabolic conditions such thyroid dysfunction, kidney and liver failure
- Malnutrition – vitamin B12, B6, niacin and folate deficiency
- Physical conditions – trauma or injury to nerves, Sciatica is a common one
- Drugs and medication – cytotoxic drugs (chemotherapy)
- Exposure to toxins or heavy metal contamination – lead or mercury
Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy (Numbness in the Feet):
- Numbness and tingling in the feet.
- Sharp shooting pain.
- Feeling of swollen feet.
- Sensation of wearing socks or stockings when not.
- Burning or freezing sensation.
- Dry skin and lack of sweating.
- Bounding foot pulses, yet cold toes.
- Muscle weakness in legs.
- Loss of normal sensation (unable to detect trauma).
- Hyper-sensitivity to touch (painful).
- Symptoms are often more severe at night.
Management of Peripheral Neuropathy (Numbness in the Feet):
There is not official treatment for peripheral neuropathy, as the nerve damage is irreversible. However, there are several ways to manage the symptoms including:
- Good blood sugar level control.
- Reduce consumption of caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol – these often increase symptoms.
- Undertake regular, moderate exercise.
- Massage feet gently to improve circulation.
- Apply cool tap water for 10-15 minutes or cooling gel before going to bed.
Assessment for Peripheral Neuropathy (Numbness in the Feet):
An annual diabetes assessment by a Podiatrist is essential in determining any sensation loss and the risks of undetected foot injury. If you have not yet scheduled your 12-month diabetic assessment review please contact us for an appointment.
S-T-R-E-T-C-H of the Month: Calf Stretch with Towel
Begin this calf stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated (figure 2). Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free.
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