Neuropathy is nerve damage. Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the peripheral nerves that travel to your legs and arms. Damaged nerves will not transmit messages to the brain and therefore patients will have abnormal or decreased sensation in their toes and fingers.

The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. Other causes include heredity, advanced age, arthritis, certain medications, alcoholism, injury and neurological disorders like fibromyalgia and spina bifida.

Symptoms

Any change to the sensation in toes or fingers may indicate peripheral neuropathy. Patients often suffer from burning, tingling, numbness or stabbing pain in the toes or fingertips.

The pain and numbness of neuropathy often can be the first sign of diabetes.

Treatment

Those who suspect they have peripheral neuropathy must inspect their feet regularly. With decreased sensation, you might not notice a minor injury which can worsen into a serious sore or ulcer. Ask a family member to help check the bottom of the feet. Report anything unusual to your podiatrist.

Patients with neuropathy should wear shoes that fit properly. Protect your feet by not walking barefoot.

There is no cure for neuropathy. Treatment goals are to slow the progression of the disease while maintaining foot health. Oral medication can help relieve any pain.

Patients with neuropathy should visit their podiatrist at least once a year for a thorough examination to check for damage and infection.

Prevention

Keeping blood sugar levels under control can help prevent neuropathy. The degree of neuropathy parallels blood sugar control: The better your blood sugar control, the more sensation you will be able to keep in your toes.

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