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Tingling Toes and Numb Fingers: Here's why you're experiencing this

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Does that pin and needles feeling in your hands and feet ever linger a little too long? It might not just be a temporary inconvenience – it could be a sign of peripheral neuropathy. This condition affects the nerves outside your brain and spinal cord, and while it sounds scary, with a little understanding, you can take charge of your health and manage it effectively.

There are billions of nerve cells called neurons acting as small wires which carry electrical messages to and fro our brain and spinal cord and every other part of our body. These signals make us feel things like touch, temperature or pain. They also control our muscles enabling us to move or react to what is happening around us. What peripheral neuropathy does is interfering with this vital communication system. This occurs when nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord are damaged thus making signals, they transport become distorted or blocked completely. As a result, different complications may arise most often felt in hands and feet but occasionally affecting other parts too.

What Causes the Trouble?
The biggest culprit for peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage your nerves. Other potential causes include vitamin B12 deficiency, injuries, infections, and even certain medications.

Who's More Susceptible?

People with diabetes, a family history of neuropathy, or those who suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency are more likely to develop this condition. Additionally, as we age, the risk of peripheral neuropathy increases.
Signs to Watch Out For:
The telltale signs of peripheral neuropathy often start subtly. Here's what to keep an eye out for:
Numbness, tingling, or prickling in your hands and feet, which can sometimes spread upwards towards your legs or arms.
Feeling like you're wearing gloves or socks even when you're not.
A strange sensitivity to touch, where even light pressure feels uncomfortable.
Sharp or burning pain in the affected areas.
Difficulty with coordination or balance, which can lead to falls.

Getting a Diagnosis:

If you're experiencing these symptoms, it's important to see your doctor. They will likely ask about your medical history, including any existing conditions like diabetes. A physical examination will check your reflexes, balance, and sensation in your hands and feet. Additionally, they might recommend a test called an electromyogram (EMG) to measure the electrical activity in your nerves and muscles.
Living with Neuropathy: Treatment Options
There's no cure for peripheral neuropathy, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Here are some treatment options your doctor might discuss:
Medications: Pain relievers can help with mild discomfort, while stronger medications like antidepressants or anti-seizure drugs can be used for more severe pain.

Therapy: Physical therapy can help improve strength and balance, making daily activities easier. Massage therapy can also be beneficial, promoting circulation and offering temporary pain relief. Massaging the hands and feet can improve circulation and temporarily relieve pain. It’s also important to check your feet daily for any signs of bruises or cuts to prevent further complications.
Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial. Regular exercise helps maintain muscle strength and balance, while a balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients supports your nerves and blood vessels. If you have diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels is especially important.
Protecting Your Feet: For people with neuropathy in their feet, it's essential to take extra care. Check your feet daily for cuts, blisters, or other injuries, as you might not feel them right away. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes that offer good support.
Living a Fulfilling Life with Neuropathy:
Peripheral neuropathy can be a frustrating condition, but with proper diagnosis, treatment, and some lifestyle changes, you can effectively manage it and live a full, active life. Remember, early diagnosis and intervention are key. Living with peripheral neuropathy often requires lifestyle changes. Regular physical activity can improve muscle strength and balance, while a balanced diet supports nerve health. Managing blood sugar levels is crucial, as high blood sugar can damage nerves over time. With proper diagnosis, treatment, and lifestyle changes, individuals can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

(Article Courtesy: Dr. Narendra BS, Lead Consultant – Endocrinology & Diabetology, Aster Whitefield Hospital, Bengaluru)


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