Peripheral neuropathy usually afflicts the feet and hands first in most individuals. The first sign of the disease is often a tingling, burning, or prickly sensation in the feet. If the underlying cause of neuropathy is not treated quickly, the symptoms will eventually spread to other parts of the body.
Why does neuropathy affect the feet first?
Neuropathy is caused by damage to the peripheral nerves that extend from the central nervous system to the extremities of the body. The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord. The peripheral nerves extend the length of the limbs to give us control and feeling in our hands and feet.
Signals from the feet must physically travel the farthest of any part of the body to reach the brain. Therefore, nerve signals from the feet are more susceptible to interference, so to speak, because of the long distance they must travel.
Damaged peripheral nerves are not able to transmit electrical impulses as efficiently as healthy nerve cells. The damage is somewhat analogous to having “static on the line” on a telephone call. The tingling and burning sensations felt in the feet are a direct result of this nerve damage.
The underlying cause of neuropathy must be treated
Because neuropathy is a progressive disease, the underlying cause must be diagnosed and treated to prevent the symptoms from spreading to other parts of the body. If not, the painful symptoms of neuropathy in the feet will eventually move up to the legs, and the hands and arms will also be afflicted.
Neuropathy in feet can have many different causes. One of the most prevalent today is diabetes. Tingling in feet can be a sign that a person has developed type II diabetes, and has possibly been living with the disease, unbeknownst to them, for many years. The neuropathy symptoms are often an impetus for the person to go to the doctor and find that they do in fact have diabetes.
Other prevalent causes of feet neuropathy include toxic substances in the body including heavy metals, vitamin deficiencies, and alcoholism. Your doctor can run lab tests to test for diabetes and all secondary causes of neuropathy in the feet.
Will the tingling neuropathy go away?
Nerve cells do have a limited ability to regenerate and heal themselves if the damage has not progressed to far. Quick action and a proper diagnosis of the underlying cause can often lead to an improvement or remission of symptoms.
Do not ignore the tingling, burning, or prickling sensation in your feet or hands. Delay will only lead to further damage to the peripheral nerves and the progression of painful symptoms.
The doctor can prescribe medication to ease the pain. Topical ointments can be applied directly to the feet to mitigate the suffering. Additionally, vitamin D supplements are often prescribed when appropriate.