The first step in receiving a diagnosis for peripheral neuropathy involves recognizing the signs that something is wrong and seeking out treatment from a doctor. In order to confirm that a patient has the condition, a podiatrist may complete a number of different steps.
Gathering a Comprehensive Medical History
Neuropathy can result from a number of different causes, such as:
- Traumatic injuries
- Metabolic problems
- Exposure to toxins
- Alcohol use disorders
- Nutritional deficiencies
Completing a Physical Examination
Common neuropathy symptoms in the legs, feet, hands, and arms include:
- Pain that is sharp, jabbing, throbbing, or burning in nature
- Pain when there should not be pain, such as when the feet are under a blanket or the person is just bearing their own weight
- Lack of coordination
- Feeling like there are socks or gloves on the feet or hands when there are not
- Inability to move
Because neuropathy is the result of issues within the peripheral nervous system (which is why it is also sometimes referred to as peripheral neuropathy), it can also create issues that extend beyond just the limbs of the body. It can present with symptoms that also include:
- Digestive issues
- Urination difficulties
- Heat intolerance
- Sexual dysfunction
- Excessive or insufficient sweating
- Lightheadedness or dizziness resulting from blood pressure drops
Even though it might seem like the symptoms in other parts of your body wouldn’t be related to discomfort in your feet and legs, if you do experience any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to report them to your podiatrist, in order to ensure they have a complete picture of your condition.
Ordering Diagnostic Tests
There are a number of different tests that can be completed to diagnose neuropathy.
This is a diagnostic test that can check the functioning of a patient’s muscles and nerves. It measures the response of the muscles to electrical stimulation.
Nerve Conduction Study (NCS)
This may be completed alongside an EMG, to measure the flow of electrical current through a nerve.
Sound waves are used to allow doctors to see where nerves have damage, trauma, or inflammation.
Nerve or Skin Biopsy
A small portion of the nerve could be removed and examined for indicators of neuropathy.
A karyotype test is one way for doctors to analyze a person’s chromosomes using their blood or bodily fluids.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
This is a scan that uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to produce images of the inside of your body.
Treatments for Neuropathy Offered by Our Idaho Podiatrists
Canyon Foot + Ankle offers a couple of different treatment options for neuropathy in your feet.
Neurogenx uses electronic signals sent through damaged nerves to help them heal and become less inflamed. This treatment typically works best with several brief, regular sessions spread out over the course of several weeks. For example, you might have one or two weekly sessions of roughly 20 to 30 minutes over the course of four to six weeks.
MLS Laser Therapy
MLS laser therapy uses painless lights to stimulate cell regeneration and tissue repair. The laser we use features fine-tuned computer control over power and pulse rate to allow us to tailor the treatment to the specific needs of each patient.
Self-Care for Neuropathy
In addition to the treatments offered by Canyon Foot + Ankle at our Twin Falls and Burley locations, it is likely that patients diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy will be advised to make lifestyle changes.
Eating a Healthy Diet
This will include eating a good amount of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins while cutting out sugar, saturated fats, and other unhealthy foods. In addition, it is important for patients with neuropathy to consume plenty of vitamins and nutrients, especially:
- B vitamins
- Lipoic acid
- Omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish oils)
Avoiding Drugs and Alcohol
Cigarettes, alcohol, illicit drugs, and misused prescription medications can all make peripheral neuropathy symptoms worse.
This is advice that is best followed under the guidance of a medical professional, as some exercises are not suitable for people with certain medical conditions. Options that are considered low-impact and safe for most patients include:
- A brisk 30-minute walk several days per week
- Strength training