Peripheral Neuropathy is a term for a group of conditions in which the peripheral nervous system is damaged. The peripheral nervous system is the network of nerves that lie outside the central nervous system. It includes different types of nerves with their own specific functions, including:
> sensory nerves – responsible for transmitting sensations, such as pain and touch
> motor nerves – responsible for controlling muscles
> autonomic nerves – responsible for regulating automatic functions of the body, such as blood pressure and bladder function
Damage to the peripheral nerves can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on the specific nerves affected. The foot can be the first place to be affected and may present as:
> numbness and tingling in the feet or hands
> burning, stabbing or shooting pain in affected areas
> loss of balance and co-ordination
> muscle weakness, especially in the feet
These symptoms are usually constant, but may fluctuate. The sooner peripheral neuropathy is diagnosed, the better the chance of limiting the damage and preventing further complications. If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is important to see your GP as soon as possible.
Diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Poorly maintained blood sugar levels can damage the nerves. Controlling your blood sugar better, stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol may help. There are also some links with obesity and peripheral neuropathy so weight loss and leading a healthy lifestyle may help.
Treatment for peripheral neuropathy depends on the underlying cause and the type of symptoms you are experiencing. Only some of the underlying causes of neuropathy can be treated. Nerve pain may be treated with special prescribed medication as standard painkillers don’t usually work.
As podiatrists we do not specifically treat peripheral neuropathy but at David Brown Podiatry we treat the effects caused by the condition such as callus, corns, ulcers and concentrate on helping you prevent further complications. We can offer regular nerve assessments to monitor the progression and offer foot health advice to assist you in dealing with this condition.