When there is damage to the nerves in the feet, neuropathy can develop. There are several causes of neuropathy in the feet, including metabolic disorders, hormonal problems, vitamin deficiencies, trauma, and alcoholism. Various types of blood disorders may also lead to neuropathy. Some people may also have hereditary neuropathy in the feet.
Symptoms of neuropathy in the feet include pain, tingling, burning, difficulty walking, and a loss of balance. Since sensation may decrease, people with foot neuropathy may not realize when they develop sores or blisters. Infections can develop and go unnoticed, which can prevent needed treatment.
One of the most common causes of neuropathy in the feet is diabetes. Over time, the nerves in the feet become damaged from the blood sugar in the body becoming too high. Blood vessels may also constrict easier in people with diabetes, leading to diabetic neuropathy.
Additional causes of neuropathy in the feet include a lack of certain vitamins. Vitamin B6, B12, and E are needed for proper nerve function in the body. When there is a deficiency in these vitamins, the nerves in the feet can be affected and symptoms of neuropathy in the feet can develop.
Alcoholism can also lead to foot neuropathy. People who have alcoholism may have poor nutrition, which leads to vitamin deficiencies. In addition, drinking excess alcohol in itself may cause damage to the nerves and subsequently neuropathy develops.
Entrapment neuropathy is neuropathy in the feet caused by compression of the nerves leading to the feet, such as the posterior tibial nerve. The nerves may become compressed due to trauma to the feet or conditions such as flat feet or arthritis. Both cancerous and benign tumors that press on the nerves to the feet can also lead to compression neuropathy. The damage to the nerve may also be caused by inflammation surrounding the nerve. This may occur with medical conditions that cause inflammation in the joints, such as arthritis.
Depending on the cause, once damage to the nerves in the feet has occurred, it may not be reversible. The goal may be treating the underlying cause and preventing the condition from becoming worse. In diabetics, blood sugar levels should be kept in control through diet, exercise, and insulin. Vitamins may be recommended for people with nutritional deficiencies.
Additional treatments may include surgery. In these procedures, constricted nerves are located and decompressed to improve blood flow. Surgery will not be an option in all cases of neuropathy.