What Is Neuropathy and Why Does It Happen?
Put simply, neuropathy is a technical term for nerve damage. When the word “peripheral” precedes “neuropathy,” we are specifically taking about damage to the peripheral nerves.
In podiatry, we tend to be more concerned with those peripheral nerves. The reason for this comes from the fact your body’s nervous system has two subsystems – the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
Your central nervous system consists of your brain and spinal column. The nerves in this subsystem process information and send out directives.
The peripheral nervous system is a vast network of nerves running throughout the body. Your peripheral nerves perform essential communication, sending and receiving messages to and from the spinal column (which then are transmitted to your brain).
When everything goes as it should, the transfer of information is smooth. This isn’t always the case, however, and neuropathy is often to blame.
When this occurs, you will likely experience sensations that shouldn’t exist—pain, tingling, burning—or, even worse, no sensation at all. Numbness can be particularly concerning for individuals who have autoimmune disorders and conditions like diabetes.
The causes of nerve damage are quite varied. They include such factors as:
- Diabetes. Over half of those affected by this disease experience some form of neuropathy.
- Infections. Various bacterial or viral infections—Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, Lyme disease, hepatitis C—can affect the nervous system.
- Trauma. Accidents and injuries can damage or severe peripheral nerves and create a disconnect in the system or result in faulty messages being sent.
- Tumors. Whether cancerous or benign, a tumor that grows on a nerve or presses against one can lead to peripheral neuropathy issues.
- Poor nutrition. A lack of B vitamins, vitamin E, and niacin can impair nerve health.
Other diseases, medications, and inherited disorders also can cause peripheral neuropathy.
When neuropathy accompanies diabetes, it can be a dangerous combination. Unfortunately, the high blood sugar situation created by the disease injures nerve fibers, so this is particularly common. The primary concern is that injuries or conditions can develop without the diabetic individual being aware. This presents the opportunity for otherwise minor issues to develop into serious problems that could potentially necessitate in an amputation or even be life-threatening.
If you have diabetic neuropathy, it is essential that you have a diabetic foot care plan in place that contains a daily inspection of your feet. Doing so will enable you to recognize issues at the earliest possible stages and prevent them from becoming critical situations.
Our team at Wilks Advanced Foot Care is committed to providing exceptional podiatric services and treatment experiences for every patient who walks through our front door. If you are having nerve issues in your feet or ankles—or have been diagnosed with diabetes and need to create a diabetic foot care plan—contact us for an appointment.
Either take advantage of our online form or give us a call at (541) 673-0742 today!