Neuropathy can affect the hands, arms, feet and legs. It develops in the extremities when the nerves become damaged. The indications of the disease differ depending on which nerves are affected and so the ones mentioned here may not be accurate to your case. Although this article is about neuropathy in the feet, the information below may also help if you suspect that you have it in your hands.
Symptoms of neuropathy in the feet
A few signs and symptoms of neuropathy are as follows:
- Sensitivity to touch
- Lack of coordination and falling
- Gradual onset of numbness, tingling or prickling in your feet, this can spread to your legs
- Throbbing, jabbing, burning or freezing pain
- Muscle weakness
If autonomic nerves are affected, the symptoms can include:
- Bladder, bowel or digestive problems
- Altered sweating and heat intolerance
- Changes in blood pressure, light-headedness or dizziness
Neuropathy can affect one nerve, two nerves in different areas or a lot of nerves. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a prime example of neuropathy in one nerve. Most people with the condition have nerve problems in a lot of different areas; this is called polyneuropathy.
Causes of neuropathy in the feet
- Neuropathy is not caused by one condition, instead, it can be caused by multiple conditions, including:
- Diabetes – over half the people with diabetes in the UK develop neuropathy.
- Alcoholism – Poor dietary choices made by people consuming a lot of alcohol can lead to vitamin deficiencies and neuropathy.
- Medications – certain medication like those that are used to treat cancer can cause neuropathy
- Exposure to poisons – exposure to things like heavy metals or chemicals
- Autoimmune diseases – rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and more can cause neuropathy
- Inherited conditions – conditions like Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease are hereditary versions of neuropathy.
- Infections – Shingles, Lyme disease, diphtheria and HIV, for example.
- Bone marrow diseases – abnormal protein in the blood, bone cancer, amyloidosis and lymphoma may cause neuropathy
- Trauma or pressure on the nerves – car accidents, sports injuries and falls, for example.
- Vitamin deficiencies – vitamins B, E and niacin are crucial to maintaining healthy nerves.
- Tumours – growth, cancerous or not, can develop and press on the nerves causing neuropathy.
- Other conditions like liver and kidney disease, an underactive thyroid or connective tissue disorders.
Some risk factors of getting neuropathy in the feet include:
- Alcohol abuse
- Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Diabetes, especially if your sugar levels are unstable and poorly managed
- Exposure to toxins
- Family history of neuropathy
- Infections like shingles, Lyme disease, hepatitis C, HIV and Epstein-Barr virus
- Kidney, thyroid or liver disorders
- Repetitive motion like performing certain jobs.
When to see your GP
If you notice any tingling, pain or weakness in your feet, seek medical care right away. An early diagnosis and treatment provide the best chance for controlling the symptoms and preventing any further damage to your nerves.
We hope this article about neuropathy in the feet has helped you understand the condition. If you have an issue with your feet that you now think isn’t neuropathy, you can find more articles on our website about other common foot conditions that might be of use to you.