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Treatment for Neuropathy in Feet

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Approximately 50% of adults with diabetes will be affected by peripheral neuropathy at some point in their lifetime. Moreover, diabetic neuropathy (DN) has a mortality rate of around 25% to 50% within 5 to 10 years.

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    treatment for neuropathy in feet

    What Is Neuropathy In Feet?

    Neuropathy in feet is a condition characterized by damage or dysfunction of the peripheral nerves that supply sensation to the lower limbs. These peripheral nerves play a crucial role in transmitting signals between the brain and various parts of the body, including the feet. When these nerves are affected, it can lead to a range of symptoms and discomfort.

    There are several factors that can contribute to neuropathy in feet. One common cause is diabetes, which can result in nerve damage due to high blood sugar levels over an extended period. Vitamin deficiencies, infections, and traumatic injuries can also lead to neuropathic conditions affecting the feet.

    The symptoms of neuropathy in feet can vary from person to person but often include numbness, tingling sensations, burning pain, muscle weakness, and heightened sensitivity to touch or temperature changes. These symptoms can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and mobility if left untreated.

    Causes & Risk Factors Of Neuropathy in Feet

    Early intervention plays a vital role in managing neuropathy in feet effectively. By addressing the issue promptly, it becomes possible to prevent further nerve damage and alleviate symptoms more efficiently. Let’s look at the causes and risk factors:


    Neuropathy in the feet can be caused by a variety of factors, with diabetes being one of the leading underlying causes. High blood sugar levels over time can damage the nerves, leading to neuropathy.

    Alcohol Abuse

    Excessive alcohol consumption can have detrimental effects on various parts of the body, including the peripheral nerves in the feet. Prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to nutritional deficiencies and nerve damage, contributing to neuropathy.

    Vitamin Deficiencies

    Certain vitamin deficiencies, particularly those related to B vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin), can increase the risk of developing neuropathy in the feet. These vitamins play a crucial role in maintaining healthy nerve function, and their deficiency can result in nerve damage.

    Autoimmune Diseases

    Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are known to cause inflammation throughout the body, including the nerves. This chronic inflammation can eventually lead to neuropathy in various parts of the body, including the feet.


    Some medications, such as certain chemotherapy drugs used for cancer treatment, have been associated with an increased risk of developing peripheral neuropathy. While these medications may be necessary for treating serious conditions, it’s important to be aware of their potential side effects.

    Hereditary Conditions

    Inherited conditions like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) can also contribute to foot neuropathy. CMT is a genetic disorder that affects the peripheral nerves and leads to muscle weakness and sensory loss in various parts of the body, including the feet.

    Nerve Compression

    Nerve compression plays a significant role in causing foot neuropathy as well. Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, which involves the compression of the median nerve in the wrist, can affect nerve function not only in the hands but also extend to the feet. Similarly, herniated discs in the spine can put pressure on nerves, leading to neuropathy symptoms.

    Understanding the causes and risk factors associated with neuropathy in the feet is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. Identifying any underlying conditions or lifestyle factors that may contribute to this condition allows healthcare professionals to develop targeted treatment plans.

    Understanding Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy

    By understanding the symptoms, individuals can seek appropriate treatment for neuropathy in their feet and improve their quality of life.

    Numbness or Reduced Sensation in the Feet

    One of the most common symptoms experienced by individuals with peripheral neuropathy is numbness or reduced sensation in their feet. This occurs because nerve damage disrupts the normal transmission of signals from the feet to the brain.

    This lack of sensation can make it challenging to maintain balance and coordination, increasing the risk of falls and injuries.

    Tingling Sensations (“Pins and Needles”) Along with Burning Pain or Electric-Like Shocks

    In addition to numbness, many people with peripheral neuropathy also experience tingling sensations, often described as “pins and needles.” These sensations can be quite uncomfortable and may occur spontaneously or when pressure is applied to the affected areas.

    Alongside tingling, burning pain or sharp electric-like shocks are frequently reported by those suffering from neuropathy. These pains can range from mild discomfort to severe agony.

    Muscle Weakness or Loss of Coordination

    The impact of peripheral neuropathy on the nerves can extend beyond sensory symptoms. Many individuals with this condition also experience muscle weakness or loss of coordination. The loss of coordination can make simple tasks, such as buttoning a shirt or tying shoelaces, feel like an uphill battle.

    Diagnosing and Testing for Peripheral Neuropathy

    Proper diagnosis is essential for developing an effective treatment plan for neuropathy in feet. Medical professionals may conduct various tests and usually involve a comprehensive medical history review, a thorough physical examination, and various tests such as nerve conduction studies or blood work to pinpoint the specific cause contributing to the neuropathic condition.

    Comprehensive Medical History Review

    To begin the diagnostic process, your doctor will ask about your medical history. They will ask you about any symptoms you have been experiencing, such as numbness, tingling, or pain in your feet. It’s important to provide detailed information about when these symptoms started, their frequency and intensity, and any factors that seem to worsen or alleviate them.

    They may inquire about other relevant aspects of your health history. Conditions like diabetes or autoimmune disorders can contribute to peripheral neuropathy. Your doctor will also want to know if you have a family history of neuropathic conditions or if you have been exposed to toxins or medications known to cause nerve damage.

    Physical Examination

    After reviewing your medical history, your healthcare provider will conduct a physical examination focused on assessing sensory polyneuropathy in your peripheral nerves. They will check for signs of muscle weakness or atrophy by evaluating muscle tone and bulk in your legs and feet.

    Furthermore, they’ll perform a series of tests aimed at assessing sensory function. These may include checking reflexes using a reflex hammer and examining the sensitivity of different areas on your skin to light touch, pinpricks, temperature changes, or vibration.

    Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS)

    One common test used in diagnosing peripheral neuropathy is nerve conduction studies (NCS). NCS measures the speed and strength of electrical signals transmitted through the nerves. During this test, small electrodes are placed on specific points along the affected nerves. A mild electric current is then applied to stimulate the nerves, and the resulting electrical signals are recorded.

    By analyzing the speed and amplitude of these signals, doctors can determine if there is any nerve damage or dysfunction. NCS helps to differentiate between various types of neuropathy and assess the severity of the condition.

    Electromyography (EMG)

    In addition to NCS, your doctor may recommend electromyography (EMG) as part of the diagnostic process. EMG assesses muscle activity by recording electrical impulses generated by muscle fibers.

    Treatment for Neuropathy in Feet

    Living with neuropathy in the feet can be challenging, but there are various treatment options available to manage symptoms, slow down disease progression if possible, and improve overall quality of life. A comprehensive treatment plan often involves a combination of medications, lifestyle modifications, physical therapy exercises, and alternative therapies. Read this article to explore whether diabetic neuropathy can be reversed.

    Medications for Relief

    One of the key components of treating neuropathy in the feet is medication. Different types of medications may be prescribed depending on the specific symptoms experienced by each individual. Pain relievers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate discomfort and reduce inflammation. These medications work by blocking certain chemicals in the body that contribute to pain and swelling.

    In addition to pain relievers, antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to address nerve-related pain commonly associated with neuropathy. These medications work by altering brain chemistry and can help relieve chronic pain caused by damaged nerves. Similarly, anticonvulsant drugs are often used because they stabilize nerve signals and can provide relief from tingling sensations or shooting pains.

    For localized relief, topical creams containing capsaicin or lidocaine may be recommended. Capsaicin cream works by temporarily desensitizing the skin’s pain receptors, providing a soothing effect. Lidocaine creams numb the affected area temporarily, reducing discomfort and allowing individuals to experience temporary relief from their symptoms.

    Lifestyle Modifications for Management

    Alongside medication, making certain lifestyle modifications can significantly contribute to managing neuropathy symptoms in the feet. For instance:

    1. Taking good care of your feet: Regularly washing your feet with warm water and mild soap helps maintain cleanliness while preventing infections that could potentially exacerbate neuropathic symptoms.
    2. Wearing comfortable shoes: Opting for well-fitting shoes made from breathable materials reduces pressure on your feet and minimizes discomfort.
    3. Maintaining proper foot hygiene: Keeping your toenails trimmed and feet moisturized helps prevent complications such as ingrown toenails and dry skin.
    4. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption: Alcohol can worsen nerve damage, so limiting or avoiding its intake is crucial for managing neuropathy symptoms effectively.
    5. Managing blood sugar levels: For individuals with diabetic neuropathy, maintaining stable blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and medication is essential to prevent further nerve damage.

    Effective Treatments for Neuropathy in Feet

    Physical Therapy Exercises: Stretching and Strengthening to Improve Balance and Mobility

    One of the most effective treatments for neuropathy in feet involves physical therapy exercises that focus on stretching and strengthening. These exercises not only help improve balance and mobility but also reduce the pain associated with neuropathy.

    Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): Blocking Nerve Signals to Relieve Pain

    Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is another valuable treatment option for those suffering from neuropathy in their feet. TENS uses low-voltage electric currents delivered through electrodes placed on the skin to block nerve signals responsible for transmitting pain sensations. TENS is a non-invasive and drug-free method that can be used safely at home under proper guidance from healthcare professionals.

    Red Light Therapy: Promoting Nerve Regeneration and Reducing Pain

    Red light therapy, or low-level laser therapy has shown promising results as a treatment for neuropathy in feet. This non-invasive procedure utilizes focused light energy to stimulate cellular activity within damaged nerves, promoting regeneration and repair.

    Red light therapy sessions are painless and can conveniently be conducted at home. Many patients have reported significant improvements in their neuropathy symptoms after undergoing laser treatment.

    Home Remedies for Neuropathy in Feet

    Living with neuropathy in your feet can be challenging, but there are several home remedies that can help alleviate symptoms and improve your overall well-being.

    Managing Blood Sugar Levels

    For individuals with diabetic neuropathy, managing blood sugar levels is crucial. This involves adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and adhering to prescribed medications. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent further nerve damage.

    Temperature Therapy

    Temperature therapy is another effective way to temporarily relieve the discomfort caused by neuropathy. Warm foot baths can enhance blood flow and relax the muscles in your feet, providing soothing relief from pain and tingling sensations. Simply fill a basin with warm water (not hot) and soak your feet for 15-20 minutes. You may also consider adding Epsom salt or essential oils like lavender for added relaxation.

    Alternatively, cold packs applied to the affected areas can help numb the nerves temporarily and reduce inflammation. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas in a thin towel and apply it directly to your feet for about 10-15 minutes at a time.

    Choosing Comfortable Footwear

    Wearing proper footwear plays a crucial role in managing neuropathy symptoms. Opt for shoes that provide adequate cushioning and support to reduce pressure on your feet. Look for designs with extra padding, shock absorption, and a wide toe box to accommodate any swelling or deformities.

    Avoid high heels, tight-fitting shoes, or those made of synthetic materials that can cause discomfort and exacerbate nerve pain. Instead, choose shoes made from breathable materials like leather or mesh that allow your feet to breathe and prevent excessive sweating.

    Surgical Interventions for Severe Neuropathy Cases

    When conservative treatments fail to provide relief for severe cases of neuropathy in the feet, surgical interventions may be considered as a potential solution.

    Decompression Surgery: Relieving Nerve Compression

    One surgical option for severe neuropathy cases is decompression surgery. This procedure focuses on relieving nerve compression by removing or repositioning structures that are putting pressure on the affected nerves. By alleviating this compression, the hope is to restore proper nerve function and reduce pain and discomfort.

    During decompression surgery, the surgeon carefully identifies and releases any constrictions or entrapments affecting the nerves in the feet. This can involve freeing up tight spaces between bones, ligaments, or other tissues that may be compressing the nerves. By creating more room for these nerves to function properly, patients may experience a reduction in their neuropathic symptoms.

    Nerve Grafts or Transfers: Repairing Damaged Nerves

    In cases where neuropathy has caused significant damage to peripheral nerves in the feet, nerve grafts or transfers may be performed as part of surgical intervention. These procedures involve using healthy donor nerves from other parts of the body to repair damaged ones.

    Nerve grafts typically involve taking a segment of a healthy nerve and using it to bridge a gap where a damaged nerve needs repair. The healthy nerve acts as scaffolding, guiding regrowth and allowing for improved communication between nerve endings.

    On the other hand, nerve transfers involve redirecting a functional nerve from one area of the body to another site where a damaged nerve needs replacement. This technique utilizes existing neural pathways and helps restore sensation and motor function to affected areas.

    Both grafts and transfers have shown promising results in restoring some degree of functionality in severe neuropathy cases. While not all patients will be suitable candidates for these procedures, they offer hope to those who have exhausted other treatment options.

    Spinal Cord Stimulation: Blocking Pain Signals

    Another surgical approach for severe neuropathy in the feet is spinal cord stimulation. This procedure involves implanting a device that delivers electrical impulses to the spinal cord, helping to block pain signals from reaching the brain.

    During spinal cord stimulation surgery, a small device called a neurostimulator is implanted near the spinal cord. This device generates electrical pulses that interfere with pain signals traveling along nerve pathways.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the best shoes for neuropathy in feet?

    Comfort is key. Look for shoes with ample cushioning and support to alleviate pressure on sensitive areas. Opt for wide toe boxes to prevent irritation and choose shoes made from breathable materials to keep your feet cool and dry. Consider orthotic inserts or custom-made shoes that provide extra cushioning and support tailored to your specific needs.

    Can exercise help with neuropathy in feet?

    Absolutely! Regular exercise can be beneficial for managing neuropathy symptoms. Engaging in low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or cycling can improve blood circulation and reduce pain. Start slowly and gradually increase intensity as tolerated. Remember to wear supportive shoes and listen to your body’s signals during exercise. Consulting with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program is always recommended.

    Are there any natural remedies for neuropathy in feet?

    While there is no cure-all natural remedy for neuropathy in feet, some people find relief through alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal supplements like alpha-lipoic acid or evening primrose oil and red light therapy.

    How long does it take to see improvement with treatment for neuropathy in feet?

    The timeline for improvement varies from person to person depending on the underlying cause of the neuropathy and individual factors. Some individuals may experience relief within weeks of starting treatment, while others may require several months before noticing significant improvements. It’s important to be patient and consistent with your chosen treatment plan while closely monitoring any changes in symptoms.

    Can surgery cure neuropathy in feet?

    Surgery is not a cure for neuropathy in feet, but it can be an option for severe cases that do not respond to conservative treatments. Surgical interventions aim to address specific underlying causes of neuropathy, such as nerve compression or structural abnormalities. However, the success and outcomes of surgery vary depending on individual circumstances, and it’s crucial to discuss the potential risks and benefits with a qualified healthcare professional.

    Is neuropathy in feet a lifelong condition?

    Neuropathy in feet can be a chronic condition for some individuals. While treatment options can help manage symptoms effectively and improve quality of life, complete resolution may not always be possible. It’s important to work closely with healthcare professionals to develop a long-term management plan that includes regular monitoring and adjustments as needed.

    Can neuropathy in feet lead to other complications?

    Untreated or poorly managed neuropathy in feet can potentially lead to various complications. These may include foot ulcers, infections, balance problems, and even amputation in severe cases. That’s why early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for preventing further complications associated with neuropathy.




    William Carter, MD
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