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Family Foot & Ankle

Peripheral Neuropathy

Have you ever wondered why a boiling pot feels hot? Why snow feels cold? Why sandpaper feels scratchy? You don’t really feel with your skin—not entirely. Your peripheral nerves take the signal—the object or sensation you’re supposed to feel—and transmits it to the central nervous system. Your brain is what interprets that signal and tells you whether you’re supposed to feel hot, or cold, or pain, as well as where you’re supposed to feel it. That’s why nerve problems can be so serious.

Disconnected Wires—Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

Nerve Damage from NeuropathyWhen the peripheral nerves become damaged, those signals can get mixed up, scrambled, or just plain lost on the way to the brain. They may even start sending signals even when they’re not supposed to. The result can be tingling, burning sensation, and numbness in your extremities, particularly your feet and legs. The nerves that reach all the way to your toes are the longest in your body, so they’re the most susceptible. You may even feel sharp pain in the foot, like stabbing, and experience difficulty walking or balancing. If motor nerves are affected it may cause weakness or even paralysis. The numbness also means you’re less likely to notice injuries or trauma to your feet—from blisters all the way to broken bones, opening up the risk of infection or other complications.

Diabetes is the most common cause of nerve problems like peripheral neuropathy. Too much sugar in the blood makes it more difficult for nerves to transmit information to the brain. But it can also develop from other causes, including alcohol abuse, injury or trauma, infection, auto-immune disease, poisoning, vitamin deficiency, metabolic issues, and more.

Stabilizing the Network—Treatment and Prevention

Nerve damage is not usually reversible, so call us at Cincinnati Family Foot and Ankle Center right away if you begin noting any numbness or tingling. Because peripheral neuropathy is less a disease itself and more a set of symptoms with many potential causes, we will ask you some questions and perform a full examination to determine the cause of your nerve problems. A blood test can spot problems like vitamin deficiency or blood sugar, while an imaging test can determine if anything is pressing on a nerve.

In the immediate term, we can recommend safe and effective over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatories to help you manage any pain you may be experiencing. If that isn’t enough, we may also prescribe tougher medications. More significant treatments range from the simple, such as ergonomic casting worn overnight while you sleep, to more involved therapies like transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS) and blood transfusions.

Often, however, the best way to manage peripheral neuropathy symptoms is lifestyle modification. If you have diabetes, staying on top of managing your blood sugar can prevent nerves from being damaged. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco or alcohol abuse can have a hugely positive effect on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, reducing painful symptoms and improving muscle strength. Activities like yoga and massage are great for symptom management.

Insulating the Wires—Making Your Home a Safe Environment

If you’re experiencing numbness due to peripheral neuropathy, remember that it puts you at increased risk of accidents, including those that go unnoticed. Always wear shoes (even inside) and keep your floors clear of objects that you could step on or trip over. Consider handrails and anti-slip mats for the bathroom, and check water temperature with a part of your body that isn’t numb, like an elbow. Also, be sure to move around throughout the day—staying in one position for too long can place damaging pressure on affected nerves.

Getting Help

If you notice any symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy, don’t wait—contact us today. Nerve damage is progressive, so the longer you wait to get expert help and make the necessary lifestyle changes, the more aggressive the condition will become and the more difficult it will be to live a normal life. You don’t want pain, numbness, weakness, poor balance, and heightened risk of complication and infection getting in your way.

Cincinnati Family Foot and Ankle Center has six convenient locations in the metro area to serve you, including one in Kentucky. Reach us through the contact form on this website or by calling (513) 728-4800 or (859) 282-1572.