The condition of nerve damage in the foot is also known as Neuropathy. The term neuropathy is made up of two different words “œneuro” which means the nerve and the second word “œpathy” which means indicating disease. In the condition of Peripheral neuropathy the nerves located on the outer side of the central nervous system, mostly those present in the legs and arms are involved.
Nerves are the lines of communication of the body through which electrical signals sent from the brain travel. These electric signals carry instructions from the brain to various parts of the body. On the other hand, the body collects information from its surroundings through senses and sends it back to the brain through the nerves.
The sensations of feel like pain, touch, and temperature are felt due to the peripheral nerves present in the body. There are millions of nerve endings that are present in the hands, fingers, feet, and toes which are designed to prevent the person from danger and keep them away from the things which are cold, hot, sharp, etc.
The nerves present in the feet and hands are helpful in controlling the number of small muscles and carrying out complicated movements in these parts of the body. For example, it would be difficult to walk if you do not know where your feet are standing or how can one pick things up if he had no idea about how hard is it gripped.
The cells of the peripheral nerve can be divided into three main parts:
- Cell body
- Dendrites or terminal
The condition of nerve damage or neuropathy occurs when the outer protective covering or sheath (also known as myelin) of the nerve cells degenerate. In the absence of this protective sheath, the electrical signals cannot be transferred properly.
In case the condition of nerve damage worsens, the nerves either start sending fabricated signals (i.e. tingling and pain) or lose their ability to transmit signals (i.e. numbness in the affected part).
In case the signals are not to flow through the nerve and the affected part is not able to receive messages then it results in numbness. So in the condition of Neuropathy, the nerves have excessive damage and there is noticeable pain, numbness, or tingling.
Causes of Nerve Damage:
Most diabetics suffer from this condition and it is the major complication associated with this condition. This condition is caused due to the presence of higher levels of sugar in the body of the diabetic. There are some other reasons also which can be responsible for this condition to arise. They are:
- Intake of alcohol
- Autoimmune disorders
- Metabolic disorder or Amyloidosis
- The presence of the condition of cancer
- Various treatment methods of cancer
- Bell’s palsy
- Treatment of Chemotherapy
- The presence of the condition of Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Charco Marie-Tooth disease
- Chronic failure of kidney
- Compression neuropathy
- Intake of foods that are toxic
- The presence of the conditions of Diabetic Mellitus, herniated disc
- Failure of liver
- The presence of infectious diseases like leprosy, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B
- Treatment through radiation
- Undertaking surgeries that could damage a nerve
- Vitamin deficiencies like anemia, pernicious
- Copper deficiency induced by Zinc
Reasons for Nerve Damage:
The process of nerve damage starts when the nerves do not get oxygen insufficient amount or the process of anoxia is there. Apart from this, there are several other reasons too. They are:
The presence of too much insulin or sugar in the blood
The presence of nutritional deficiencies
Intake of too many medicines
Introduction to toxic substances through drugs, food, chemicals, pollution, or water
Through radiation therapy and chemotherapy which is a means of cancer treatment
Physical injuries or trauma caused to the nerve
To lie in one position for a long time it could result in entrapment, compression of the nerve
Due to some injury which is caused at the time of surgery
The presence of infections which could block oxygen which is received by the nerve cells
Compression can be caused to wearing of inappropriate footwear for a long time
Sometimes too many free radicals, present in the blood, could attach oxygen to them, making it unavailable for the cells. The other times, inflammation present in the area of the sciatic nerve or lower back of the buttocks could also block the flow of blood, thus preventing the cells from getting blood.
Intake of medicines like statins which are meant for reducing cholesterol could also destroy myelin sheath. This happens because most part of the myelin sheath is made up of
Similarly, intake of medication of high blood pressure could also destroy nerves by reducing the flow of blood in outer extremities like hands or feet.
Symptoms of Nerve Damage:
The symptoms of nerve damage depend on the type of sensory, motor, or autonomic and the extent up to which they are damaged. Some of the symptoms of nerve damage include:
Tingling, numbness and pricking sensations, sensitivity can be felt in touch or muscle weakness. This could cause numbness in the fingers and tingling and pain in the left arm
Burning pain can be felt especially at night, shooting pain, paralysis, muscle wasting, dysfunctioning of the organ or gland. This happens due to the damage caused to the motor nerves which in turn affect the muscles and affect their control and coordination.
As nerve damage can be caused in any part of the body, this condition could cause nerve pain and mild symptoms initially, which could go unnoticed in the beginning.
Tingling or pain, numbness can be there in the ankles, feet or legs, after several years which could result in burning feet or weakness in muscles of the feet.
Diabetic neuropathy is the condition in which appears suddenly and affects specific nerves in affected individual, which could result in drooping eyelids or double vision, or atrophy and weakness of the thigh muscles.
Nerve damage which is caused due to diabetes after many years could result in problems related to the sexual organs and digestive tract, which in turn could cause diarrhea or constipation, indigestion, bladder infection, dizziness and impotence.
As the treatment of chemotherapy could result in neuropathy as side effect, so the presence of this condition could result in lack of coordination, as the motor nerves are affected and could even cause chemo-brain due to nerve damage.
The loss of sensation in the feet will there which in turn increase the chances of foot injuries. The formation of lesions or ulcers on such foot can become infected and could result in trouble with coordination.
Treatment of Nerve Damage:
Some of the treatment methods for nerve damage include:
Intake of Medications:
Some medicines like Lyrica and Cymbalta act as pain killers. Lyrica is an anti-seizure medication which prevents the nerves from talking with each other. It is the same reason that the pain is not felt. But the intake of this medication for a long time carries side effects. Similarly, another medicine called Cymbalta is taken which is an anti-depressant is used to lower the awareness of the person about pain.
Footbath can be taken along with the electric current. This will help in opening up of the nerve channels and stimulate the circulation of blood to the affected part. Application of the alpha-lipoic acid (an anti-oxidant) can be done to protect the nerves and prevent the body from any further damage. This application will reduce the symptoms but will not repair the nerves.
The use of Glutamine & B6:
The use of these two vitamins is supposed to reduce the symptoms caused due to chemo induced nerve damage symptoms. But these seem to stimulate the growth of tumor in the body.
The application of infrared light tends to enhance the circulation of blood and stimulates the production of nitric acid. This also relaxes the arteries and eliminates free radicals. Pads are placed all over the injured part. This is supposed to reduce pain and increase the circulation of blood and nitric oxide in the blood.
Natural Treatment for Neuropathy:
As most of the above mentioned treatment methods carry some side effects, so here are some of the natural methods which could be followed to get effective results without any side effects.
Intake of Thiamine or Vitamin B1: It has been noticed that the increased levels of Thiamine or Vitamin B1 in the stream of blood is very effective in reversing and reducing the effect of neuropathy. It is required by the body to heal the damage of nerve. But as the oral intake of Vitamin B1 is not possible because the intake of Thiamine above 5 mg reduces its availability in the body for use and it is flushed out of the body immediately through urine. It is for the same reasons it injected directly into the blood stream at an interval of few days. It has to be taken at regular intervals because Thiamine is water soluble and cannot be stored in the body and is flushed out after 4-5 hours of it being taken.
Intake of Vitamin B12: The intake of Vitamin B12 supports the covering of the nerve cells and protects them. Moreover, studies have also proved that its presence in the blood promotes the growth and regeneration of the nerve cells too. It is for the same reason that its intake in good amount is very helpful in reducing the condition of nerve damage. Unlike Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12 can be stored in the body as it is not readily absorbed by the body. There are many supplements of Vitamin B12 which can be taken like Cyanobalamine. This supplement can be absorbed in a very small quantity by the body. So in order use it the body transforms it into Methylcobalamine which could be absorbed easily by the body.
Tips to Exercise if you have Nerve Damage:
It is very important for the person suffering from nerve damage to exercise. But as this condition results in the pain and numbness in the feet so it becomes difficult for the person to exercise. So here are a few tips which can be followed while exercising in the condition of nerve damage. They are:
Avoid weight-bearing exercises like walking, running on treadmill etc. especially if you suffer from high degree of nerve damage.
As there are chances of foot injuries while exercising, so it is advisable to stick to using stationary bicycle or swimming.
Check your feet carefully after exercising and in case any irritation or sore formation is felt then it must be addressed at once to avoid infections. This is because infections could increase the risk of amputation.
Although regular exercise helps in reducing the risk of diabetic neuropathy but is advisable to carry them out on the areas of body which are affected by the nerve damage. According the exercise programs must be designed and carried out.
Before, you start with your exercise program it is advisable to consult with your doctor. He will perform a thorough check up of your feet and legs and judge the signs of peripheral neuropathy. Moreover, also ensure that you wear footwear of proper fitting, which will protect your feet from any further injury.
Before beginning an exercise program, ask your doctor to do a thorough exam of your legs and feet for signs of peripheral neuropathy. In addition, make sure you have properly fitted shoes to protect your feet from injury.