What is Foot & Ankle Neuropathy ?
In medical terms, we can define Neuropathy as the spontaneous firing of damaged nerve fibers. Patients can actually experience any one of a range of symptoms…from burning, tingling and numbness to loss of vibration or position sense, electric-like sensations or just plain, achy pain. They may also notice that their symptoms occurred gradually, or possibly they experienced a more sudden onset. Both are common.
We also look at whether the pain is more prevalent during certain parts of the day or while performing specific activities. Or, symptoms may be constant without any pattern at all. Both here are common as well. One thing’s for certain, the pain usually progresses over time without proper treatment.
Uncontrolled diabetes is one of the most common triggers of neuropathic pain. Other offenders can include nerve entrapments, trauma, nutritional deficiencies, peripheral vascular disease, restless leg syndrome, HIV/AIDS, sciatica, cancer and certain medications, just to name a few.
A thorough, clinical exam is usually adequate to diagnose neuropathic pain and its causes. In some instances, urine testing, blood work, MRI, neurography, electromyography, nerve conduction studies, or a biopsy of a specific nerve may be needed to assist in confirming the diagnosis.
Once diagnosed, common treatments include tight glycemic control in diabetic patients. For others, we might recommend oral and topical pain medications, shoe modification, weight reduction, nutritional supplements, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and physical therapy.
In some cases, we might recommend nerve decompression surgery – always as minimally invasive as possible, of course.
The important thing for folks dealing with Neuropathy is to protect their feet to prevent further conditions. For instance, if they’re suffering from numbness in their feet, they should wear proper shoes to avoid poor balance while standing or walking, as well as to prevent improper loading to certain parts of their feet. That can cause a host of other problems they don’t need. They should also avoid walking bare-footed to decrease the chances of injury and wounds, which can lead to infections.