The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says that approximately 20 million Americans suffer from some degree of peripheral neuropathy--that is, irreversible damage to the nerves supplying sensation and function to the hands and feet. Diabetics are particularly prone to neuropathy in the feet. That's why Dr. Stefanie Thomas and Dr. Ashley Blackwell of Premier Foot Clinic in Clinton and Jackson, MS, take a particular interest in neuorpathy and its impact on their patients' well-being. Do you suffer from neuropathy?
What is neuropathy?
It's a chronic and progressive condition of the nervous system, affecting the small nerves of the hands and feet. Characterized by a pins and needles sensation, numbness, burning pain and loss of functional ability (walking comfortably, keeping balance and more), neuropathy in Clinton and Jackson happens to people with autoimmune disorders, stroke and most notably, to people with poorly controlled diabetes.
Neuropathy complicates the diabetic's ability to keep his or her feet healthy. Other common problems associated with high glucose levels in the blood are decreased peripheral circulation, peripheral artery disease (PAD) and increased chance of skin infection. Diabetics who cannot perceive what's happening to their feet often miss injuries, blisters and sores that other individuals feel right away. So infection may develop, creating wounds on the feet that are deep and difficult to treat and in the worst of cases, lead to wound debridement or even amputation.
What can be done?
Unfortunately, once a nerve is damaged, it's damaged. However, Dr. Thomas and Dr. Blackwell offer treatments for neuropathy that can slow its progress and relieve the many uncomfortable symptoms.
Some medications work on the painful burning and tingling. Topical capsaicin is one, and over the counter ibuprofen is another. Doctors may advise prescription antidepressants and anticonvulsant medications such as gabapentin.
However, podiatrists take a simpler approach to controlling peripheral neuropathy. Dr. Blackwell and Dr. Thomas offer TENS treatments. Also called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, this simple therapy involves attaching electrodes near the source of symptoms. A mild electrical current stimulates the nerves, helping them function more normally.
Additionally, the podiatrist offers customized shoe inserts and specialized diabetic shoes constructed to take pressure off areas of the feet that are prone to pain. Relieving pressure points allows proper nerve conduction and blood flow so the feet are properly stimulated and supplied with oxygen and nutrients.
Finally, Dr. Blackwell and Dr. Thomas ask to see their diabetic patients on a regular basis. Partnering with them in routine visual inspections of their feet and helping them track their neuropathy symptoms leads to better function and overall well-being.
You can have a good life even if you have peripheral neuropathy. The capable staff at Premier Foot Clinic in Clinton and Jackson, MS can help. For an appointment with one of our podiatrists, please call (601) 926-1500.