If you have diabetes and have pain or loss of feeling in your feet, you likely have peripheral neuropathy, a type of nerve damage commonly experienced by diabetics. As you may know, this condition can increase the likelihood of foot ulcers and even amputations, so you want to take extra care of your extremities if you have neuropathy.
Why Do You Lose Sensation In Your Feet
Pain. Everyone seeks to avoid it. No one likes physical pain. We choose our relationships and hope to avoid emotional pain. Generally speaking we seek a life without pain...then you get your wish and realize that you miss it.
That's exactly how the millions of peripheral neuropathy sufferers once the condition sets in. Peripheral neuropathy commonly affects people with diabetes, but can also be caused by chemotherapy, alcoholism, autoimmune disorders, and a host of other conditions
So, why does it happen? The answer's not so simple. Neuropathy as a complication of diabetes is caused by microvascular disease (affecting the small vessels that branch off your main pipeline arteries.) With this condition, your small vessels stop sending blood, rich in oxygen and nutrients, to your nerves, so they begin to fail. That is when loss of sensation begins to set in.
Managing Peripheral Neuropathy
How can we correct neuropathy due to microvascular disease? Unfortunately, there’s not one easy fix. If microvascular disease is causing your neuropathy, you may need a procedure to restore circulation. Other times, if your main circulatory systems are still in good shape, you may find relief from MicroVas, a non-invasive treatment that stimulates the microvascular circulation to reverse diabetic neuropathy. Studies have shown it to be very effective for diabetic patients, but less so for those whose neuropathy is due to other reasons.
Why Neuropathy Must Be Managed
You may be wondering—big deal, why is this so important? Well, think about your reaction when you touch a hot stove. Your reflex is to quickly draw your hand away; your brain reacts to the pain even before you can feel it. Well, what if you had no pain? You'd get a pretty nasty burn.
Now think about your feet. We wedge them into shoes every day. What if your shoes didn't fit? The average person would take them off and figure out why they were uncomfortable. If you had no pain, however, you'd keep walking. What if you had a pebble in your shoe? Again, the pain would cause you to take off your shoe and dump it out. If you were walking barefoot, and stepped on a piece of glass? You see where this is going...
People with diabetes will not feel these minor injuries and can therefore develop sores, blisters, and skin ulcers. These ulcers can become infected easily, spread to the bone, and cause major problems. More than 60% of non-traumatic amputations in this country are due to complications from diabetes. This is why all people with diabetes should be familiar with a podiatrist. I routinely tell my diabetic patients that they should check their feet daily before they go to sleep and call me if they see anything that wasn't there the night before. I tell them that I'd rather they call me for a false alarm than ignore a small issue that will then develop into a big problem.
Research documents that a comprehensive foot care program can reduce the rate of diabetic amputations by 45%-85%. With those numbers, you should run (carefully) to your podiatrist's office. It's the first step in keeping you walking for years to come.
Easy Ways to Stop the Progression of Neuropathy
Here’s another piece of information that may help you cope with the loss of sensation in your feet: light to moderate exercise can prevent neuropathy or delay its progression. Because peripheral neuropathy leads to decreased sensation, however, you have to be very careful when exercising, since you may not detect a foot injury like a bruise or blister. As we just reviewed, leaving even these small injuries untreated could be devastating for a diabetic. So, how can you exercise while maintaining your diabetic foot health?
Foot Care is an Every Day Necessity
When you are exercising regularly, make sure you inspect your feet daily and take extra precautions to ensure an excellent fit with your athletic shoes. You should also choose special athletic socks that reduce rubbing and keep your feet dry.
Exercise Caution before Lifting Weights
If you have any type of ulcer or foot injury, you shouldn’t lift weights. If you have severe neuropathy, you should probably avoid weight bearing activities at any time; stick to walking even if you don’t have any open sores or ulcers. Before you embark on any exercise plan that involves weight bearing, thoroughly discuss it with your Houston podiatrist.
Be Aware of Balance Issues
Peripheral neuropathy can compromise your balance when you lose sensation, and can increase your risk of falling during exercise. Make sure that you feel safe, sturdy and comfortable before trying any type of exercise.
Exercising is important for everyone, and especially for diabetics with neuropathy. If you have diabetes and want to take proactive steps to maintain your foot health, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider today to create an individual health plan that will fit your needs.