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Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to your peripheral nerves, the nerves in your hands & feet. Damage to these nerves interrupts the important sensory information pathway between the limbs and the brain, resulting in changes to what you feel. While nerve damage can affect any part of the body, in the lower limbs the primary cause for neuropathy is diabetes.

What causes neuropathy?

In diabetes, it is the prolonged exposure to high levels of blood sugar that result in nerve damage. It is estimated that almost half of people with diabetes will develop neuropathy. Other causes of neuropathy can include:

  • Nerve injury

  • Infection

  • Alcoholism

  • Systemic conditions, autoimmune and other diseases

  • Exposure to toxins

  • Side-effects of particular medications

  • Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy come on gradually and worsen over time. They affect the feet and toes and can include:

  • Numbness

  • Tingling

  • Burning

  • Pins and needles

  • Reduced ability to detect hot and cold sensations

  • Pain

  • Muscle weakness

  • Impaired reflexes

  • Absence of sensation

Any interference with the ability to feel places the affected person at an increased risk of complications such as infection and ulceration.

How is it treated?

Because damage to the nerves is generally irreversible, it’s all about managing the symptoms, preventing their onset if possible and delaying their progression once they start. With diabetes, this is done by keeping your blood sugar in check and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.

It’s also important to take care of the symptoms that neuropathy is having on your feet. If you’re experiencing numbness that is limiting your ability to detect any cuts or wounds, a daily check of your feet will greatly reduce your risk of infection and complications. Other safety measures you can take include:

  • Checking your feet daily

  • Wearing shoes outside the house and slippers inside the house

  • Staying aware of any new or unusual symptoms (to report to your foot specialist and GP)

  • Wearing good, comfortable shoes

  • Keeping your feet clean

  • Being careful when cutting toenails to not accidentally damage the skin

  • Managing any other conditions that affect sensation, such as callus and dry skin

If you do notice anything abnormal, it’s important that you report it to us at Reflex Foot Care and your GP. We perform annual foot screenings that assess your sensation. This must be done regularly due to the progressive nature of neuropathy, so you stay aware of all of your risks and how to best manage them.

Some medications can assist in reducing the symptoms and exercises may be prescribed to improve function, stability and strength.

Diabetes and Caring for Your Feet

How to care for your feet, if you have Diabetes

Reflex Foot Care Diabetes Infojpg
Diabetes can really be a red flag when it comes to foot care! Even the smallest cut can result in serious consequences! Diabetes can cause nerve damage and take away the feeling in your feet, make injuries harder to heal and infections harder to fight. 

Because of these problems, you may not notice if you were to step on something sharp, if a foreign object got stuck in your shoe, or worse, in your foot! You could then develop a blister or a sore, infection or non healing wound and put you at risk of an amputation. Scary huh?!

I have put together some guidelines for you to follow, to help you avoid some serious foot problems that could result in losing a toe, foot or leg!

Inspect and check... 
  • Check for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling or any nail problems. If you can't see your feet close up then ask a family member to inspect for you, or use a magnifying hand mirror to look at the bottom of your feet. Call your Foot Health Professional (that's me!) if you notice anything that shouldn't be there!
Bathe gently and dry thoroughly...
  • Keep your feet clean by washing them in lukewarm water, never hot water as you may scald them - use the temperature you would use for a newborn baby! Use a soft flannel or sponge and dry them by blotting or patting, take extra care between your toes!
  • Use a good moisturiser every day to keep dry skin from flaking, itching or cracking. Don't moisturise in between your toes as that could encourage a fungal infection.
No Bathroom Surgery!
  • It is much safer to seek out a Foot Care Professional that will be able to cut your toenails and remove any callus or corns. If you do cut your own toenails, cut straight across and file the edges. Don't cut too short, we don't want any ingrown toenails!