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What That Pain in Your Foot Could Mean

As a Mississippi podiatrist who treats diabetes-related illnesses on a daily basis, I believe it is vitally important to educate more of our state residents about Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN), a serious diabetic related condition that damages nerve fibers.
Diabetic nerve pain (Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy) can vary from mild (tingling, burning, stinging sensation) to more severe forms (muscle weakness, difficulty in walking, foot deformities). Some patients may have a sense of altered foot temperature, known as “cold toes.” Patients sometimes notice an increase in symptoms at night making it difficult to sleep. Additionally, diabetic nerve pain may make it difficult to stay physically active, a critical component of diabetes management. Symptoms of DPN can be very annoying causing interruption of daily activities.
Mississippians are more prone to DPN since as diabetes is a serious problem in this state. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, Mississippi ranks second nationally for diabetes prevalence with more than 276,000 having Type 2 diabetes. Of that number, approximately 60-70% will suffer from DPN. The ailment accounts for more diabetes related hospitalizations than any other complication.
In addition to the pain caused by this disease, diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in Mississippi (1,039 deaths in 2012) and many more live with complications, including lower extremity amputations, end stage renal disease, blindness, loss of protective sensation, heart disease and premature death.
It is much worse in certain communities. African-Americans are 77 percent more likely than whites to be diagnosed with diabetes, and one in four African-American women older than 55 has diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association and the American Podiatric Medical Association, patients with diabetes should be screened for DPN at diagnosis, and at least annually. It is important that people with diabetes be aware of the dangers and warning signs of diabetic peripheral neuropathy and make lifestyle choices to delay or slow the progression of this life changing condition.
The best way to stop nerve damage/DPN caused by diabetes is to maintain a normal blood sugar. To do this, a person with diabetes should work with their doctor and other healthcare providers to:
– Design a nutritional and overall healthy diet
– Blood test to determine sugar levels in the blood stream
–Learn how to check your feet for any injuries or infection
Peripheral neuropathy is common in people with diabetes, but the degree of neuropathy generally corresponds to the degree of blood sugar control. Someone whose blood sugar is kept under tight control will usually have much better sensation in their fingers and toes than someone with poorly controlled diabetes.
There is no known cure for peripheral neuropathy. The goals of treatments are to slow the progression of the disease, maintain foot health, decrease pain and improve the quality of life. If you have pain, doctors have a variety of therapies available to help patients treat new or existing nerve damage.
Even if symptoms seem mild now, nerve damage may get worse over time and lead to serious problems. Make sure you talk to your doctor at the first sign of any symptoms. Taking action early on could help alleviate pain down the road.
By: Stefanie M. Thomas,
DPM, MBA, treasurer and secretary of the Mississippi Podiatric Medical Association and practices at the Premier Foot Clinic, P.C. in Clinton.