As mentioned, many issues can cause burning feet and these would need to be excluded in order to determine and manage the correct cause. These issues may include the following:
- Diabetic neuropathy - this is nerve damage which is caused by excess glucose levels that damage the arteries supplying blood to the nerves of the feet.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency - results in dysfunction of the nerves. Can occur in patients with gastrointestinal malabsorption disorders.
- Chronic kidney injury.
- Certain medications such as chemotherapeutic and anti-tuberculosis drugs.
- Athlete's foot - a fungal infection which affects the skin of the feet.
- Alcohol misuse - may cause vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Thyroid disease such as hypothyroidism.
- Complex regional pain syndrome - caused by a dysfunctional nervous system.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome - compression of the nerves which supply sensation to the feet may be affected.
- Immunosuppressive diseases such as HIV/AIDS can lead to nerve damage.
- Burning feet syndrome - will be discussed at the end.
When to see a doctor
The following scenarios warrant immediate medical attention and patients are encouraged to present to an emergency room as soon as possible.
The burning sensation in the foot/feet occurs suddenly, especially if a patient may have been exposed to a toxin.
If a patient is diabetic and an open wound, which is infected, is noticed.
It is suggested to consult a doctor if patients experience the following:
- The foot related symptoms are becoming more painful and intense.
- Patients are still experiencing burning sensations in the feet despite performing self-care for a few weeks.
- There's the feeling that the toes and/or fingers are tingling or becoming numb.
- The burning sensation has started spreading up the legs.
The following self-care procedures are suggested for patients who are experiencing burning feet:
- Make use of open and comfortable shoes which don't compress the feet.
- Rest the feet and elevate them when sitting or lying down.
- Clean the feet with cool water.
Burning feet syndrome
Also called Grierson-Gopalan syndrome, burning feet syndrome is associated with the following symptoms:
- Burning and aching sensation limited to the soles of the feet.
- Increased sensitivity of the feet as well as a feeling of 'pins and needles'.
- Vasomotor changes which can result in excessive sweating.
- This condition can also affect the eyes which may result in issues such as amblyopia or scotomas.
The cause of this syndrome can be linked to a genetic predisposition or due to pressure being exerted on the feet and thus the nerves.
This syndrome has also been associated with auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and hypothyroidism.
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