Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Foot Pain Specialties
It is estimated that one in four diabetic patients will develop foot problems, with peripheral neuropathy being one of the most common. Peripheral neuropathy affects the way that nerves function, causing problems for muscles, skin, internal organs, and glands. The condition inhibits the ability to control muscles and movement, giving rise to muscle weakness, twitching, and cramps. Additionally, the patient’s feet may go numb and lose feeling.
Dr. Jamie Weaver is certified with the American Board of Podiatric Surgery, and has extensive experience treating patients with diabetic foot conditions in the South Florida region. Learn more about Dr. Weaver and schedule an appointment to discuss safe and effective avenues of treatment for peripheral neuropathy.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy has many causes; however, the most common include diabetes and the associated metabolic factors, such as high blood glucose and low levels of insulin. Other causes include autoimmune diseases, exposure to toxins, and vitamin deficiency.
The following conditions have been identified as potential causes of peripheral neuropathy:
- Autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, AIDS)
- Kidney disease
- Unhealthy diet and lifestyle (alcoholism, drug use, low levels of B12)
- Exposure to toxins, such as lead, mercury, glue, and solvents
- Poorly-fitting casts, splints, braces, or crutches that apply pressure on a nerve
- Bone fractures causing nerve damage
- Exposure to cold temperatures over a long period of time
Often, causes for peripheral neuropathy can be difficult to find. Patients should speak to a foot specialist, such as Dr. Jamie Weaver, to determine the causes of nerve dysfunction and establish a safe and effective treatment plan.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neruopathy
The following symptoms are associated with the diabetic foot condition:
- Pain and numbness in the foot
- Loss of feeling in the legs and arms
- Loss of motor function
- Digestion problems
Symptoms will vary depending on the patient and which nerve is damaged. As with all musculoskeletal disorders, it is best to consult a podiatrist to confirm nerve damage exists before seeking treatment.
Peripheral neuropathy can cause patients to lose feelings in the legs and arms, leading to pain and numbness. Patients may find it difficult to control muscles, causing buckling legs and tripping.
Patients may experience digestion problems, making it difficult to hold food down without vomiting. Additionally, the condition can lead to an onset of heartburn after eating only a few bites. Other digestive problems include, but are not limited to: bloating, irregular stool firmness, difficulty swallowing, and angina, a condition that causes severe pain in the upper body.
Diagnosing Peripheral Neuropathy
Foot specialists employ a number of tests to determine whether a patient suffers from peripheral neuropathy. Blood tests assessing nerve damage can help identify cases of the condition, as well as by checking activity in the muscles, or assessing how fast signals travel along nerves.
Patients have a number of non-operative choices for treating peripheral neuropathy. Patients may be able to manage the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy by following the following treatment options:
- Controlling blood sugar
- Alcohol cessation
- Mutlivitamin regimen
- Physical therapy to improve muscle strength
- Wheelchairs, braces, or splints to improve mobility
Additionally, because patients with the condition are at a heightened risk of falling, it is important to make the home as safe as possible.
As always, it is best to consult a physician before starting any treatment paths. Only a foot specialist, such as Dr. Weaver, can suggest a safe and effective treatment method that works for the patient's unique case.
Please schedule an appointment with the doctor to find out more about diabetic foot care and potential treatment options.