There are a number of foot problems that I see routinely in my office, including plantar fasciitis, bunions, hammertoes, peripheral neuropathy and neuromas. The most common used to be hammertoes and bunions. Today we still see those problems, but an increasingly more common complaint is peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms include pain, tingling, and burning in the feet. The pain usually starts at the toe and then moves up, like you’re pulling up a sock. Eventually peripheral neuropathy patients can lose feeling in their feet. It can make them unable to feel injury, leaving them susceptible to infections, hospitalization, and eventually amputation.
About 25 percent of the peripheral neuropathy I see is the result of diabetes. Thyroid dysfunctions, vitamin deficiencies (especially vitamins B12 and B1), chemotherapy aftermath, old frostbite, and harsh environments (including exposure to heavy equipment or extreme heat and cold) can also cause peripheral neuropathy. There was a time when syphilis and leprosy were common causes of peripheral neuropathy. While that is no longer the case in the United States, you do still see it in other parts of the world.
Almost 50 percent of peripheral neuropathy is idiopathic, which is a fancy way of saying the cause is unknown, but may be diagnosed later. It can also be hereditary.
Although the growing number of diabetics can account for some of the increase in peripheral neuropathy patients, it doesn’t explain it all. We really don’t know all the causes for the higher numbers.
If you show signs of peripheral neuropathy, see a physician or podiatrist to try to determine the cause and create a treatment plan.
Dr. Kent Burton has provided free foot screenings at the Dixie Regional Medical Center Health Fair, now the LiVe Well Expo, for many years. Look for them at the LiVe Well Expo on Saturday, March 2, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Dixie Regional Health & Performance Center on the east side of the River Road Campus. For more Expo information, call (435) 251-2159.