The concept of the “frontier” is one of the most romantic and enduring themes in our storytelling, whether we’re retelling stories of the Old West or thinking about outer space, the “final frontier” of Star Trek fiction. The frontier represents the farthest point you can get from the populated centers of civilization, operating at the boundaries of the untamed wilderness.
Within the universe of your own body, the feet represent something of a frontier—as far as you can get from both the brain, spinal cord, and the heart, the command centers of circulation and nerve function. Unfortunately, that also means that feet are often the first place you notice signs of nerve damage—tingling, burning, numbness, etc. Peripheral nerves are smaller and not physically protected by bones like the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system), leaving them more susceptible to damage from injuries, toxins, compression, and other problems.
A wide variety of factors can contribute to nerve damage in feet. The most prevalent is diabetes: elevated sugar levels in the bloodstream act are toxic to peripheral nerves in the feet—and because diabetes also slows your circulation (and circulation is already weakest in the extremities), oxygen and other vital nutrients are found in increasingly short supply.
But diabetes is not the only possible contributing cause to nerve damage in feet. Other possibilities include:
- Injuries from sports, falls, accidents, or other incidents that cause direct trauma on exposed nerves.
- Repetitive motions, such as crossing legs or crouching, that pinch and compress nerves.
- Vitamin deficiencies, particularly nerve-nourishing vitamins such as niacin, Vitamin E, and many of the B vitamins.
- Alcohol abuse.
- Certain medications, particularly chemotherapy drugs.
- Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Kidney problems, which prevent effective filtration of toxins from the bloodstream.
- Viral or bacterial infections.
Nerve damage is not always reversible, although treatments do exist to stop the spread of damage, alleviate uncomfortable symptoms and improve some function. As always, the earlier you seek help, the better your outcome is likely to be.
That’s why it’s so critical to visit our office as soon as you notice any pattern of tingling, prickling, or other nerve problems in the lower limbs. Let us help you find out out what’s wrong and take the proper countermeasures while symptoms are still minor. To set up your appointment, please give North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute a call at (512) 593-2949.