Neuropathy is a condition where the nerves which run from the spinal cord to the muscles, skin and blood vessels have become damaged. These damaged nerves may cause muscle weakness and loss of feeling, often affecting the hands and feet. This nerve damage may also cause symptoms such as burning, tingling and pain in the areas.
Neuropathy is often associated with diabetes. It is not known why, however it seems that people who have had diabetes for a long period of time, or those who do not control their blood sugar suffer from more severe nerve damage. It has also been found that people who use alcohol or smoke cigarettes are at higher risk of developing neuropathy.
The nurse at the Wound Center will do a short test to see if you have symptoms of neuropathy. This is a painless tests and involves the use of a thin plastic wire called a monofilament. This wire is touched at places along the foot to see if the nerves have been damaged, preventing you from being able to feel the pressure of the wire.
Problems can arise if the feeling in your feet has been destroyed, as you may be unaware of even mild pressure such as walking with a rock in your shoe, or rubbing a blister. These can quickly lead to foot wounds which are hard to heal. Because of this high risk for foot wounds, it is very important for people who have neuropathy to take very special care of their feet, by checking them and their shoes daily, always wearing socks and proper fitted shoes, and never exposing their feet to extreme heat or cold.
To date, there is no treatment which will heal the damaged nerves caused by neuropathy. Instead, managing the symptoms and preventing further damage are the goal. Prevention of neuropathy requires reaching and staying at your ideal weight, following a regular exercise program, and keeping your blood sugar within the recommended range.