Most people know what it’s like to have their foot fall asleep. Maybe you’ve been sitting cross-legged on the couch for a few hours, and when you finally get up it takes a few moments for that tingly, prickly, feeling to go away.
Peripheral neuropathy can be very much like that, except all the time. When nerves in your feet and legs have been damaged, the result can be persistent sensory and even motor control issues that could cause pain, tingling, burning sensations, or even total numbness. Because the feet endure many stresses, are located far from the brain and heart, and receive relatively little circulation, they are often the first area to experience neuropathy symptoms.
A Variety of Symptoms
There are many different types of neuropathy and many possible symptoms. It all depends on the type and location of the nerves that are affected, as well as the extent of the damage.
When sensory nerves are damaged, your ability to “feel” and process sensations such as touch, temperature, and pain are impaired. This may manifest as tingling, prickling, burning, jabbing, or freezing pain, or even complete numbness. Conversely, it might also produce dramatically heightened sensitivity to touch.
If motor nerves are damaged, it can affect muscle movement. You may feel weak or unstable, have difficulty moving your legs and feet, and lose coordination. And if autonomic nerves are impaired, your body may begin to have difficulty regulating “automatic” systems such as sweating, bowel or bladder function, digestion, and blood pressure.
Causes of Neuropathy
By far, the most common cause of neuropathy is diabetes and prediabetes. High blood sugar levels have a toxic effect on nerve health, so it’s unfortunately not surprising that about half of all people with diabetes (or more) will ultimately deal with some form of neuropathy.
Other causes may include:
- Dietary deficiencies (particularly a lack of vitamins such as B6, B12, E, and niacin)
- Alcohol abuse
- Direct trauma or injury to nerves
- Certain medications, including chemotherapy
- Auto-immune disorders
In around 5 percent of cases, the root cause of neuropathy remains unknown.
Treatment for Neuropathy
Unfortunately, neuropathy can be a lifelong condition. However, seeking treatment—especially if you go early, before symptoms are severe—can help you keep the problem from getting worse, relieve symptoms, and in some cases even heal nerves and restore function.
At our office, we use a combination of medications and state-of-the-art laser therapy to help you overcome your neuropathy pain. In addition to both over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, other medications (including those originally developed to treat seizures or depression) have also proven effective relieving nerve pain.
In addition to traditional medications, the MLS Laser system is an exciting new option for people with neuropathy. The machine uses beams of light at two different wavelengths—one tuned to provide an analgesic effect, and the other an anti-inflammatory—that penetrate into the tissues at the site of the injury and produce a powerful therapeutic effect. Metabolism and vascular activity in the cells increase, speeding up the healing process and increasing nerve conduction. This can actually regenerate the nerve fibers themselves, restoring lost function.
Take Good Care of Your Nerves
A combination of medical treatment and simple, healthy lifestyle habits can make a big difference in both managing neuropathy pain and preventing continued progression of the disease. Carefully managing any underlying conditions (such as keeping your blood sugar in check if you have diabetes) along with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking or alcohol abuse is a huge part of the battle.
Another critical component? Making sure you have a foot care specialist ready to take action at the first sign of problems. Early intervention is the best way to guarantee a good outcome and enjoy a lifetime of healthy peripheral nerves. To schedule an appointment with Wilks Advanced Foot Care, please call us today at (541) 673-0742.
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