What Is Neuropathy of the Feet?

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Neuropathy of the feet is a condition where the nerves in the feet are damaged and cannot send proper signals to the brain. The result can be numbness, prickling or tingling, pain, muscle weakness, or difficulty walking.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Every part of the body, including the feet, has nerves (called peripheral nerves) that are responsible for sending signals to the brain. When these nerves are damaged and unable to do their jobs properly, the result is peripheral neuropathy.

Causes

Diabetes and other blood circulation problems are common causes of neuropathy of the feet. However, many other possible causes include hereditary disorders, infections, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, toxic chemical exposure, poor nutrition, kidney failure, chronic alcoholism and some medications, according to the University of Chicago's Jack Miller Center for Peripheral Neuropathy. Sometimes, the cause is unknown.

Types of Peripheral Nerves

The three types of peripheral nerves are motor, sensory and autonomic. Motor nerves send signals that control the muscles. If the foot's motor nerves are damaged, a person can have muscle weakness and difficulty walking. Sensory nerves send signals that involve feeling sensation, so if they are damaged, the result is tingling, numbness, pain and sensitivity to touch. The feet do not have autonomic nerves, which are responsible for involuntary functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure.

Treatment

Peripheral neuropathy has no known cure. The Miller Center lists many possible treatments to reduce symptoms of neuropathy, including pain medications, corticosteroids, nerve blocks and Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation (TENS). The center also mentions alternative therapies such as biofeedback, acupuncture and relaxation techniques.

Prevention

The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that you can reduce the risk of neuropathy by eating a balanced diet, drinking alcohol in moderation, and controlling diabetes and any other medical conditions.

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