When Is Pain Your Friend?

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 millions feel who are suffering from peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that commonly affects people with diabetes. It can also be caused by a result of chemotherapy, alcoholism, autoimmune disorders, and a host of other conditions that we may not even know about.

So why does it happen? That answer's not so simple. Neuropathy as a complication of diabetes is caused by microvascular disease. That's the small vessels that branch of from the main pipeline arteries. They stop sending blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients, to the nerves and they begin to fail. So how do we correct this? Not easily. If that's the reason, sometimes the individual needs a procedure to restore circulation. Other times, when the main circulation is in good shape, there may be other modalities. One therapy is called MicroVas, which is a non-invasive treatment that stimulates the microvascular circulation to reverse diabetic neuropathy. It is effective based on the cause of the neuropathy. Studies have shown it to be very effective for diabetic patients, but less so for those that have neuropathy due to other reasons.

For other conditions, the cause of neuropathy is unclear. If we don't know the cause, then it's really hard to find a solution. Sometimes the cause is a compression of the nerve, sometimes a nutritional deficiency, and sometimes for a reason that cannot be determined.

So 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 back because your brain reacts to the pain even before you can feel it. And 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. If you had no pain, you'd keep walking. What if you had a pebble in your shoe. Again, the pain would cause you to take care of it. 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 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 is 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 and it be nothing than let it go and let it develop into a problem.

The research documents that a comprehensive foot care program can reduce the rate of amputations in people with diabetes 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.


Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist in Houston, TX and is the medical director of Tanglewood Foot Specialists. He treats all injuries and conditions of the foot and ankle. For more information and many informative videos, visit http://www.tanglewoodfootspecialists.com and his blog at http://tanglewoodfootspecialists.blogspot.com
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.