Numbness, tingling or burning in your feet is most often caused by peripheral neuropathy. Over 20 million people suffer with neuropathy in the United States; a number which continues to grow as we look worldwide.
Peripheral neuropathy has always been present, but is often under diagnosed, misdiagnosed, poorly understood or even just considered a secondary diagnosis of another problem.This problem is, however, very important and can be very debilitating.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a common term used to describe damage or disorders to the nerves, leading to malfunction or poor function. It may include conditions that only affect specific peripheral nerves or may be associated with conditions that affect multiple body parts. Symptoms often involve weakness, numbness, tingling, burning, electrical shocks, stabbing or aching pains to the extremities of the body. These symptoms are most commonly present in the arms, hands, legs and feet, but may also include other areas of the body, including the face.
Neuropathy symptoms can present as either pain or loss of function.These symptoms usually do not present themselves overnight, but develop slowly as the nerves fail to function properly. On a regular basis, we discuss the symptoms that present with patients and hear a wide range of descriptions of how their neuropathy feels:
"Tingling, like the feet are asleep..."
"Cotton between the toes..."
"Ice pick stabbing into the foot..."
"Electrical shooting pains..."
"Like a piece of leather on the bottom of the foot..."
"Numbness, like my foot is wrapped in plastic..."
"Burning, like walking on hot coals..."
"Shooting pains in the toes..."
"Like fire ants biting my feet all over..."
"Overly sensitive to touch, often causing pain..."
One thing remains constant in all the patients we see, their pain tends to get worse over time, if left untreated. Eventually, these symptoms may lead to balance problems, muscle weakness and even foot abnormalities, as a person suffers a complete loss of sensation in the lower extremities of the body.
To better illustrate how these symptoms are a continuum from normal sensation to absence of sensation, the following graph is utilized. Although this is not completely accurate due to varying nerve involvement and individual interpretation of pain and discomfort, it allows individuals to graph their current pain location.
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a complex problem, often directly linked to poorly managed diabetes. However, what many don't know is there are over 125 different causes of neuropathy, including diabetes, AIDS or HIV, toxins and metallic poisons, certain chemicals, alcoholism, vitamin deficiencies or nutritional imbalances.
It may also occur from systemic diseases, including kidney failure, liver disease, rheymatoid arthritis, abnormal blood proteins, cancer (especially when being treated through chemotherapy), leukemia and shingles. One key to understanding and treating you neuropathy is understanding the cause.
What are the Different Types of Neuropathy?
Careful evaluation allows us to diagnose the specific causes of a patient's neuropathy pain.Once we have varified the causes, we are able to determine what type of neuropathy they have and develop a treatment plan to suit their needs. Here are the different types of neuropathy:
- Deficiency Related Neuropathy
- Compression Neuropathy
- Small Fiber Neuropathy
- Toxic Neuropathy
- Autonomic Neuropathy
- Large Fiber Neuropathy
- Genetic Neuropathy
How Can I Treat my Neuropathy?
At Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute, we see patients struggling with the associated symptoms of peripheral neuropathy on a daily basis. Often, they have been told that there is nothing they can do to treat their pain and that it is something they are going to have to learn to live with. This was not an answer that Dr. Gibson liked, as he himself started to struggle with peripheral neuropathy in his extremities.
That is why,over a 13+ year process, Dr. Gibson has been seeking solutions for patients suffering with neuropathy. He has developed The Gibson MethodTM as a stepwise process to determine the influencial factors that could both cause and worsen neuropathy and its symptoms. Through this process, we are able to diagnose what type of neuropathy a patient has and determine the best course of action to follow.
This Comprehensive Treatment Plan will help decrease or completely eliminate pains steming from peripheral neuropathy. In some cases, treatments can even reverse some of the damage caused to the nerve..
Let us tell you a simple secret:
"Peripheral Neuropathy can be treated, can be improved and can still allow you to function as you desire throughout your life."
For more information about peripheral neuropathy check-out our #NeuropathyNugget videos and The Neuropathy News.