Neuropathy is a collection of disorders that occurs when nerves of the peripheral nervous system (the part of the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord) are damaged. The condition is generally referred to as peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy usually causes pain and numbness in the hands and feet. It can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic disorders, and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes of neuropathy is diabetes. Of the 16 million Americans with diabetes, 25% develop foot problems related to the disease. This is primarily due to a condition called neuropathy. Diabetic Neuropathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the nerves. The most common type of diabetic neuropathy is called peripheral neuropathy and affects the peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves are the nerves that go out from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin, internal organs, and glands. Peripheral neuropathy impairs proper functioning of these sensory and motor nerves.
NEUROPATHY COMMON SYMTOMS/COMPLAINTS Symptoms depend on the specific nerve affected, and may include:
Loss of sensation Paralysis Tingling, burning, pain, abnormal sensations Weakness Nerves of the footNeuropathy can affect nerves that control muscle movement (motor nerves) and those that detect sensations such as coldness or pain (sensory nerves). In some cases – autonomic neuropathy – it can affect internal organs, such as the heart, blood vessels, bladder, or intestines.
Pain from peripheral neuropathy is often described as a tingling or burning sensation. There is no specific length of time that the pain exists, but symptoms often improve with time – especially if the neuropathy has an underlying condition that can be cured. In the United States, about 20 million people suffer from neuropathy. Over half of diabetes patients also suffer from the condition.
Motor nerve damage usually leads to symptoms that affect muscles such as muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms. It is not uncommon for this type of neuropathy to lead to a loss of balance and coordination. Patients may find it difficult to walk or run, feel like they have heavy legs, stumble, or tire easily. Damage to arm nerves may make it difficult to do routine tasks like carry bags, open jars, or turn door knobs.
Nerve damage and low blood flow
Sensory nerve damage can cause various symptoms, such as an impaired sense of position, tingling, numbness, pinching and pain. Pain from this neuropathy is often described as burning, freezing, or electric-like, and many report a sensation of wearing an invisible “glove” or “stocking”. These sensations tend to be worse at night, and can become painful and sever. On the contrary, sensory nerve damage may lead to a lessening or absence of sensation, where nothing at all is felt.
Autonomic nerve damage affects internal organs and involuntary functions and can lead to abnormal blood pressure and heart rate, reduced ability to perspire, constipation, bladder dysfunction, diarrhea, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and thinning of the skin.
HOW IS NEUROPATHY CAUSED? There are nerve endings(part of the peripheral nervous system)leading from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) that take messages to and from your feet. When these nerves suffer damage from degeneration, the interruption of vital messages to and from your feet can occur.
About 30% of neuropathy cases are considered idiopathic, which means they are of unknown cause. Another 30% of neuropathies are due to diabetes. In fact, about 50% of people with diabetes develop some type of neuropathy. The remaining cases of neuropathy, called acquired neuropathies, have several possible causes, including:
Trauma or pressure on nerves, often from a cast or crutch or repetitive motion such as typing on a keyboard Nutritional problems and vitamin deficiencies, often from a lack of B vitamins Alcoholism, often through poor dietary habits and vitamin deficiencies Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome Tumors, which often press up against nerves Other diseases and infections, such as kidney disease, liver disease, Lyme disease, HIV/AIDS, or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) Inherited disorders (hereditary neuropathies), such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and amyloid polyneuropathy Poison exposure, from toxins such as heavy metals, and certain medications and cancer treatments Diabetic Neuropathy can cause insensitivity or a loss of ability to feel pain, heat, and cold. Diabetics suffering from neuropathy can develop minor cuts, scrapes, blisters, or pressure sores that they may not be aware of due to the insensitivity. If these minor injuries are left untreated, complications may result and lead to ulceration and possibly even amputation. Neuropathy can also cause deformities such as Bunions, Hammer Toes, and Charcot Feet. It is very important for diabetics to take the necessary precautions to prevent all foot-related injuries. Due to the consequences of neuropathy, daily observation of the feet is critical. When a diabetic patient takes the necessary preventative foot care measures, he or she reduces the risk of developing serious foot conditions.
HOW IS NEUROPATHY TREATED? The goal of treatment is to allow you to use the affected body part as much as possible. There are a variety of treatments available for peripheral neuropathy. They range from traditional pills and creams to special diets and therapies that stimulate the nervous system. Regardless of the treatment used, frequent checking of your feet is crucial to managing any type of neuropathy.
MEDICATIONS: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine may be needed to control pain (neuralgia). Prescription medications such as gabapentin, pregabalin, phenytoin, carbamazepine, or antidepressants such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline, or duloxetine may be used to reduce stabbing pains. Whenever possible, avoid or minimize the use of these drugs to reduce the risk of medication side effects. Other Treatments: Physical therapy exercises to maintain muscle strength Orthopedic braces, splints, or other appliances Vocational counseling, occupational therapy, occupational changes, job retraining The most successful way to prevent diabetic neuropathy from occurring is to control diabetes. It is important to maintain blood sugars at normal levels and maintain normal blood pressure. In addition to this, it is important to:
Stop smoking Limit the amount of alcohol you drink Have regular physical exams Have regular blood and urine tests Exercise regularly, according to your doctor’s recommendation It is important for diabetics to treat their feet properly to avoid any future problems. Footwear and foot orthotics play an important role in diabetic footcare. Footwear that fits poorly can cause irritation and injury. Orthotics are also frequently recommended.
Diabetic footwear should also provide the following benefits: High, wide toe box (high and wide space in the toe area) Removable insoles for fitting flexibility and the option to insert orthotics if necessary Firm Heel Counters for extra and support and stability. It is important for diabetics with neuropathy to take the necessary precautions to prevent injury and keep their feet healthy. If you have diabetes and are experiencing a foot problem, immediately consult with your foot doctor.
BEST SHOES FOR NEUROPATHY We carry a wide variety of shoes and sandals for neuropathy. Many of the supportive shoes and sandals we carry have great support and soft linings. The best shoes for neuropathy will be specially fit by a trained pedorthist. Additionally, shoes for neuropathy will have special linings to help ease the burning sensation often times associated with neuropathy. We carry shoes with cushioned soles that reduce the impact on your feet which reduces the stress on feet. Often times, the best shoes for neuropathy have a wider toe box to accommodate your toes.
BEST ARCH SUPPORTS FOR NEUROPATHY We have a wide variety of arch supports for neuropathy. The best arch support for neuropathy will have good shock absorption, control pronation, and evenly distribute pressure across the foot. This helps take the pressure off your feet and reduce the pain associated with Neuropathy. We have over the counter arch supports and custom molded orthotics which helps reduce the pain associated with neuropathy. Make an appointment today with a specialist to find out which neuropathy arch support is best for you!