Some people are afflicted by a condition in which there is a sensation of burning, tingling, pain or numbness (paresthesia) in the feet. There are a number of potential causes for burning feet. They range from peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) due to underlying conditions or to exposure to harmful substances.
The symptoms of burning feet may be mild or severe, acute or chronic in nature. The sensation can vary in intensity and under certain conditions it can be accompanied by a pins, needles or numbness. In some cases, the pain may prevent you from sleeping. In addition to the burning feet, you can also experience swelling, profuse perspiration, peeling skin, or dull aches.
Burning feet is most common among adults of over 50 years of age.
What causes burning feet?
Most commonly, the sensation of burning feet is attributed to peripheral neuropathy, in which the nerves have been damaged. These damaged nerves aren’t regulated normally and can be overly active and misfire to cause these sensations. They can send pain signals to the brain even though there is no physical injury.
Of the many possible causes, diabetes is probably the most prevalent trigger for peripheral neuropathy. When blood sugar becomes consistently elevated, it can damage the blood vessels supplying the nerves with oxygen and other nutrients. This affects the way the nerve transmits signals, leading to the symptoms.
More possible causes of burning feet:
- Excessive alcohol intake; exposure to toxins like solvents or pesticides
- Drug side effects, especially chemotherapy drugs, HIV medications, and anti-consultants
- Diseases/disorders: Hypothyroidism, chronic kidney disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease
- Vitamin deficiency (vitamin B12, B6, and folate)
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Dermatological conditions: athlete’s foot, shoe allergy
Because of the many potential underlying causes, an accurate diagnosis should be sought to ensure proper treatment. It’s important to note that while a dermatological condition can be tolerated if you choose not to seek immediate treatment, any of the other items on the list may be causing long-term nerve damage if ignored.
Treatment of Burning feet
Treatment of burning feet depends on the cause. For athlete’s foot, treatment can be as simple as using a topical anti fungal ointment. When it occurs as a result of damaged nerves (neuropathy), it must be treated by preventing further damage. For example, this may mean better management of blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, or supplementing thyroid function with the right type and dose of medication. In these scenarios, medicine plays a stabilizing role, but long-term lifestyle changes can be equally important. Lifestyle changes include nutritional improvements, dietary changes, increasing exercise and activity levels, and limiting or eliminating alcohol intake.
At Houston Foot and Ankle Care, Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS, has treated everything from athlete’s foot to diabetic neuropathy. Dr. Maislos is also a board-certified podiatric surgeon, with extensive experience in tarsal tunnel release surgery. If burning or tingling sensations of the feet are causing concern, please call (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- chronic burning sensation of the feet
- tingling or numbness, even while at rest
- pain or itchiness anywhere on the foot