Pins and needles in your hands or feet? Tingling and numbness in your fingers or toes? It could be a very common condition called neuropathy, formally peripheral neuropathy, a condition that occurs when your peripheral nerves become damaged or disrupted. Neuropathy causes weakness, numbness and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet, and affects just less than three percent of the general population.
What causes neuropathy?
The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. High blood sugar levels cause damage to the walls of the tiny blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the nerves in the ends of the hands and feet, and the essential organs in the body. As a result, skin can become damaged, and the loss of sensation only makes the skin of the feet more prone to damage.
In the U.S., diabetic neuropathy is the primary cause of diabetic foot problems and ulcers. It is estimated that about half of people with diabetes have diabetic neuropathy.
What are the symptoms of neuropathy?
The most commonly reported symptoms of neuropathy are tingling and numbness or a “pins and needles” sensitivity. Some patients report increased pain and even a loss of ability to feel pain or detect changes in heat and cold. Other symptoms include burning, stabbing or shooting pain – which may be worse at night. Some patients develop foot and leg ulcers as well as wounds that won’t heal and become infected.
What are the treatment options for neuropathy?
Treatment goals for neuropathy include management of the condition causing the neuropathy and relief of symptoms. Treatments may include certain antidepressants, pain medications, anti-seizure medications and pain-relieving creams.
If your doctor has ruled out an underlying cause requiring treatment, he or she might suggest some tips to help manage your neuropathy including taking care of your feet, exercising, quitting smoking, eating healthy foods, avoiding excess alcohol and monitoring your blood glucose levels.
If you think you might be suffering from neuropathy, talk to your primary care physician.
The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.