Neuropathy of the feet is a disorder known as peripheral neuropathy. This disease of the nervous system is often associated with diabetes, although there are other, less common causes. Neuropathy of the feet may cause tingling, numbness and even pain in one or both feet. Although there are treatments available, most of them target symptom relief. Presently, there is no cure for peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy, the most common type of neuropathy, typically is the cause of neuropathy of the feet. However, symptoms of foot neuropathy can be caused by other types of nerve disorders, particularly autonomic neuropathy. Because autonomic neuropathy can manifest itself in myriad systems of the body, it is often named as the culprit when more specific neuropathies, such as peripheral neuropathy, cannot be identified.
It is estimated that 30 percent of all peripheral neuropathy symptoms in the foot are caused by diabetes. Although specific symptoms vary from patient to patient, most people with neuropathy of the feet complain of pain, tingling and/or numbness in the legs and/or feet or impaired balance in the legs or feet. The duration of an individual's diabetes and the quality of blood glucose control are strong determinants regarding whether or not neuropathy of the feet is inevitable. In cases not caused by diabetes, neuropathy of the feet may be easier to manage.
Neuropathy of the feet typically is diagnosed after a series of tests, including electromyography and nerve conduction studies. These tests are useful in helping physicians determine the depth and breadth of neuropathy that may be present. Also, physicians can gently rub fine filaments against the patient's foot to determine the extent to which foot neuropathy is bothersome.
Medication can be used to relieve neuropathy symptoms, but there is no medication that provides a cure. Depending on a variety of factors, different classes of drugs may be utilized, including analgesics, antidepressants and/or anitconvulsants Additionally, two relatively new drugs, Cymbalta and Lyrica, have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of neuropathic pain.
Noninvasive treatments, such as wearing support stockings and supportive, cushioned shoes, are effective for many sufferers.