Neuropathy & Burning Feet
Abnormal sensations, such as numbness, tingling, burning or pain in the feet can be caused by dozens of medical conditions. The most common is diabetes which is often accompanied by a loss of sensation starting at the toes and gradually progressing up the foot and lower leg called peripheral neuropathy. This can lead to the development of wounds and further complications. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy typically occurs 7-10 years after diagnosis and can be delayed by keeping your blood sugars in check. Your foot specialist can examine you to determine if you have lost sensation in your feet.
Other common causes of burning feet include:
Alcohol use, nutritional deficiencies such as too little vitamin B, hypothyroid disease, anemia, exposure to heavy metals, side effects associated from the use of various medications, sciatica from a slipped disc in your back.
Though rare, other types of neuropathy include: immune-mediated or inflammatory, infectious, vasculitis, tumor and chemotherapy related neuropathy, toxic, drug induced and nutritional neuropathy, cold & radiation induced neuropathy. It is important to see your family doctor for blood tests that could rule out some of the common causes. Your family doctor may choose to refer you to a neurologist for further testing such as NCS (nerve conduction velocity studies) or EMG (electromyogram).
Biomechanical causes of burning feet include metatarsalgia (pain in the balls of the feet) which can be caused by your inherited foot structure. A tight Achilles tendon can result in more pressure being placed on the balls of your feet. Morton’s neuroma is an irritated nerve that may result in numbness of the middle toes as well as electric shock type pains. Nerves in your ankle can become compressed by a ligament and become damaged, a condition called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome which is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the wrist.
Treatment options range from topical creams and gels used to temporarily alleviate symptoms of burning feet and to reduce pain messengers. Oral medications have been used with some success and are often started if topical medications prove ineffective. Several alternative therapies have also show to help with some patients symptoms.
It is important to note that all of the above treatments will not reverse nerve damage but are aimed at helping reduce symptoms and improve comfort and quality of life.
– If you have thick skin (callouses) on the bottom of your feet, your podiatrist or chiropodist can trim this for you since it may cause a burning sensation if it gets too thick
– Bathe your feet in cool or cold water when they start to burn
– Athlete’s foot (fungus) infections can cause burning. Flaking skin on the bottom of your feet or between your toes may need to be treated with an antifungal lotion.
– Wear socks made of materials that wick away moisture. Change your socks frequently if you have sweaty feet and avoid non-breathable materials such as nylon. Shoes should be made of leather, not vinyl to permit breathing.