A neuropathy is a condition that develops when nerves become damaged or irritated, resulting in symptoms like burning pain, aching, numbness or weakness, both locally and in the areas affected by the nerve. Neuropathy can occur anywhere in the body, but it's especially common in the feet. Sometimes, it's referred to as peripheral neuropathy.
Occasionally, neuropathy can be caused by a traumatic injury to the nerve or the tissues surrounding it. More often, neuropathy develops as a result of nerve injury caused by an underlying condition like diabetes (sometimes called diabetic neuropathy), autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, hypothyroidism or connective tissue disorders. Vitamin deficiencies, bone marrow diseases, tumors and even alcohol abuse can cause nerve damage that can result in neuropathy. Another common cause of neuropathy in the feet is nerve compression that develops when repetitive pressures cause inflammation in the tissues surrounding the nerves.
Morton's neuroma is a painful condition that occurs when the nerve tissue in the ball of the foot (the fleshy portion on the bottom of the foot below the toes) becomes irritated and the nerve and the sheath surrounding it become abnormally thick. Morton's neuroma most commonly affects the third and fourth toes, causing pain and numbness in the ball of the foot and the toes. Neuromas can also occur in the heel.
Treatment for disease-related neuropathies like diabetic neuropathy begins with the management of the underlying disease. Routine podiatric visits and foot care are essential for treating diabetic neuropathy which, without proper care, can eventually lead to amputation. Other neuropathies that develop as a result of inflammation and irritation usually can be successfully treated with injections of corticosteroid medications to relieve inflammation and the use of custom orthotics to reduce pressure on the nerve. Custom orthotics can be especially useful in treating and preventing the recurrence of neuromas. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy also can be used to stimulate natural healing responses in the tissues surrounding the nerve.
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