Various body systems play certain roles when it comes to foot health. The skeletal system provides structure, the circulatory system provides nourishment, and the muscular system enables movement. The nervous system undergirds all of these, and when peripheral neuropathy enters the picture, it can lead to serious issues.
In order to better understand neuropathy, we need to start by looking at the nervous system, including its two subsystems – the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system has the responsibility of processing information and consists of the brain and spinal column. The peripheral nervous system is charged with the task of collecting the information that will ultimately be processed by the brain. This subsystem is formed by an extensive network of peripheral nerves that run throughout the body.
The focus with neuropathy is on those nerves in your extremities and their ability to relay signals to the central nervous system. In particular, transmitting painful sensations when damage has been sustained is quite important for allowing the brain to orchestrate everything necessary for healing processes to be effective.
An Introduction to Neuropathy
When everything performs as intended, you likely won’t give much thought to your peripheral nerves; they simply transmit messages and allow the central nervous system to do its job. When these nerves are damaged—which we call peripheral neuropathy—it can result in several issues.
Damaged nerves can misfire and send faulty messages, such as tingling, burning, or painful sensations when none should be present. Even more concerning, though, is when the nerves are unable to convey messages back to the spinal cord and brain that indicated the presence of physical damage that needs to be addressed.
Potential Causes of Nerve Damage
Neuropathy is commonly linked to diabetes, but there are actually several possible causes of the condition. Infections, physical trauma, vitamin deficiencies, tumors, autoimmune disorders, various diseases, and certain medications can all result in this problem.
There are some risk factors that make it more likely that an individual will have peripheral neuropathy, and these include:
- Exposure to toxins
- Family history
- Repetitive movements
- Alcohol abuse
- Poor dietary habits/vitamin deficiencies
Complications of Neuropathic Conditions
While nerves that send faulty signals of burning, tingling, and pain sensations can certainly be an issue for patients with neuropathic conditions, nerves that send no signals at all can lead to more serious consequences. This creates a situation wherein damage can be sustained in your body, but it is not noticed and does not receive the treatment it needs. Left untreated, minor injuries and infections can become major problems.
Neuropathy Treatment and Prevention
There are generally two main goals when it comes to neuropathy treatment: relieving symptoms and managing the root cause of the nerve damage. Treatment options that can be used to achieve these objectives include medication, plasma exchange, intravenous immune globulin, physical therapy, electrical stimulation, and surgical procedures.
It is preferable if a neuropathic condition can be prevented in the first place, and fortunately there are ways of doing so. A primary preventative measure for neuropathy is to manage any of the medical conditions that increase risk. Alcoholism, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are all examples of medical issues that need to be properly managed to prevent a cause of neuropathy from developing. Additionally, healthy lifestyle choices (regular exercise, healthy diet) can lower the risk of peripheral nerve damage.
Comprehensive Diabetic Foot Care in Clifton Park, NY
Peripheral neuropathy certainly affects individuals who do not have autoimmune disorders, but the condition is especially concerning for patients who have diabetes. This disease has wide-ranging effects on the health of your lower limbs, so make sure you have a diabetic foot care plan in place that includes daily foot inspections so you can stay safe. If you don’t have a foot care plan, consult Capital District Podiatry and we will help you!
Schedule an appointment with either our Clifton Park or Troy, NY office if you recognize any of the neuropathy symptoms. We will evaluate your condition and then create an appropriate treatment plan. Call us at (518) 273-0053 if you have any questions or take advantage of our online request form to set up a time to come in and see Dr. Pandya.