Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that affects the arms, hands, legs and feet. The most common form of this condition is caused by diabetes. People with diabetes have unusually high levels of blood sugar and too little insulin to metabolize it.
When this happens, blood sugar can get into nerve tissue and damage the nerve. This is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. This can occur even if the patient is taking diabetes medications and eating healthfully. This damage cannot be reversed.
Longtime use of alcohol can also damage nerve tissue. This is called alcoholic peripheral neuropathy. It can lead to the same problems that people with diabetic neuropathy have. Alcoholic neuropathy can also be caused by exposure to pesticides and heavy metals.
As peripheral neuropathy gets worse, it affects the ability to tell the difference between hot and cold or sharp and dull. The feet will become increasingly numb and feel like they’re burning. And the chances of developing skin ulcerations and infections increases.
If you have diabetic or alcoholic peripheral neuropathy, you need to take certain precautions:
- Check your feet daily. Even simple things like a callous or accidentally cutting the skin could create problems.
- Don’t go barefoot.
- Don’t soak the feet in hot water or use heating pads.
- Check the inside of shoes before putting them on to make sure no object is inside.
Treatment for diabetic neuropathy includes:
- Keep your blood sugar levels within normal ranges.
- Stop drinking.
- Get shots of vitamin B12 if you have a vitamin B deficiency.
- Take prescribed medications that may ease the burning feeling in the feet.
- Put ointment on your feet if your doctor recommends it.
Other forms of treatment include magnetic therapy and electrical stimulation. But the results of these treatments vary and are difficult to measure.