Untangling Peripheral Neuropathy


Nerve damage or disease is labeled under the general heading of “neuropathy.” When we talk about diabetic peripheral neuropathy, we’re lumping together all the things that can happen to the nerves inside a diabetic patient’s feet. Unfortunately, that lump can seem like a mountain if you’re not armed with the right info. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy affects more than 50% of all diabetics and is something we see and treat quite often here at Westfield Foot and Ankle, LLC. Read on to understand the basics of this disease.

What is a peripheral nerve and what do they do?

Any nerve outside of your brain or your spinal cord is known as a peripheral nerve. They carry messages from the brain to all the other parts of your body. When peripheral nerves don’t function properly, those messages get lost in translation. For example, let’s say you stepped on a small piece of glass near the pool. Your foot gets sliced open, but you don’t notice because your nerves aren’t carrying the pain message to and from your brain. This is incredibly dangerous for our diabetic patients, as that open sore could eventually lead to an ulcer that could potentially lead to foot amputation.

What happens when a peripheral nerve is damaged?

Peripheral nerves cover a lot of your body, and peripheral neuropathy can affect them selectively throughout your lower extremities. For example, damage to the sensory nerves will affect your sense of temperature, pain, and other sensations. Motor neuropathy can affect the way your foot moves or even your foot’s shape. Autonomic nerves control your body’s auto-responses like sweating, so damage to them can cause something like dry skin.

How is neuropathy linked to diabetes?

Neuropathy occurs in your body for many reasons, but the most common is diabetes. High blood sugar has been linked directly to nerve damage. A loss of sensation in the feet is one of the most important reasons that diabetic patients need to keep a regular relationship with their podiatrist.

Dr. David R. Sullivan here at Westfield Foot and Ankle, LLC, is a board-certified podiatrist who can help diagnose any foot complication and set you on a path to treatment. If you’re a diabetic patient, or if you’ve ever noticed a loss of sensation in your foot, it’s important to get on a regular schedule of appointments with your podiatrist. To schedule an appointment, contact us today. You can call our conveniently located Westfield, IN office at 317-896-6655.