Trust us: a little neuropathy know-how goes a long way.
You see, under ordinary circumstances, the peripheral nerves in your feet and legs are responsible for sending sensory information back to the brain, as well as carrying out orders from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). But if you have peripheral neuropathy, these signals get crossed. You might start to experience “phantom” pain that isn’t really there—or find that you feel nothing at all after injuries that should be very painful. As a consequence, your risk of severe complications like infected ulcers and Charcot foot skyrocket, and if you aren’t careful you could be looking at an amputation.
Fortunately, peripheral neuropathy develops slowly over time. That means with a little know-how, you can manage the condition and slow its progression. Unfortunately, any nerve damage that has already occurred may be permanent. However, if you understand the causes of neuropathy and the risks it poses, you can still protect yourself against the worst potential complications.
- Manage your blood sugar. This is the big one. Peripheral neuropathy is strongly associated with diabetes since elevated blood sugar is poisonous to nerve health. If you have diabetes, test your sugar regularly and keep it within a healthy range as much as possible.
- Eat right. Your diet should be packed with fruits veggies, lean protein, and whole grains. Supplement with a little fish, eggs, low fat-dairy, and/or fortified cereals to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B-12. Your doctor may recommend further supplements to make sure you’re getting enough critical nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin E, and niacin.
- Get moving. Talk with your physician to put together a healthy, safe exercise plan—one that will help you improve your fitness and circulation without risking damage to already-vulnerable feet. Shoot for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 3 times a week, and build from there.
- Avoid repetitive motions or overuse. Repetitive motions and impacts can pinch, compress, or otherwise traumatize nerves, particularly those in and around joints. If you notice your feet “falling asleep” or transmitting strange sensations after certain activities or even sitting in a certain position, avoid those activities as much as possible.
- Quit smoking and avoid alcohol abuse. Tobacco and alcohol can poison nerves or otherwise prevent them from getting the nutrition they need. One beer or glass of wine is fine, but don’t overindulge and definitely don’t smoke.
- Check your feet every day. Since you may not be able to feel an injury, you’ll have to inspect your feet (both visually and with your hands) at least once a day, so that you can identify and treat minor problems before they become major ones.
- Get a prescription for diabetic footwear. Diabetic or therapeutic shoes are specially designed to accommodate custom inserts and give the feet space, support, protection, cushioning and other features (such as seamless liners) they need to avoid ulcers and other complications.
- Check in with your podiatrist regularly. The Associates in Podiatry team offers comprehensive diabetic foot and neuropathy checkups and care to ensure you’re doing everything you can to remain as healthy as possible. To schedule an appointment in Princeton, please call (609) 924-8333. For Roselle Park, dial (908) 687-5757.