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Burning Feet Syndrome – Causes and Treatment

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The most popular cause of a burning sensation or feeling in your feet is nerve damage. This nerve damage is often related to diabetes. However, there are many other possible causes of burning feet.

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The pain from a burning foot can either be intermittent or constant and may range from mild aches to severe ones. Your feet may feel numb, hot, prickling, or tingling. For people who have burning feet, The pain they feel is often worse at night time.

There are a number of available treatment options for burning feet, but the opportunity to be adopted will primarily depend on the root cause.

Read further to learn more about the possible causes of burning feet and when you need to seek help.

Here are 15 causes of burning feet

The sensation people with burning feet feel can stem from a wide variety of conditions. It is essential to find out the cause so it can be easy for you to receive treatment.

Some of the most common causes, such as a foot fungus, athlete’s foot, or even wearing shoes that are too tight, have easy remedies easily. There are some cases where the cause of burning feet is unknown.

  1. Diabetic neuropathy

Many years of unchecked high blood sugar can slowly cause damage to a person’s nerves and blood vessels. High blood sugar is known to reduce signal transmission from the nerves.

This lack of transmission can affect sensation to a broad range of body parts, including the feet. Another thing that high blood sugar causes weakness of the blood vessel walls that transports nutrients and oxygen to the nerves.

The nerve damage can happen throughout a person’s body. Around 60 to 70 percent of individuals who have diabetes have one form of nerve damage or another, or they have neuropathy. Your risk for dealing with a neuropathy increases when you:

  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are obese
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Drink alcohol

When you have the nerve damage in your feet and legs, it is known as peripheral neuropathy. The most popular type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy.

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This type of neuropathy is one that can lead to a burning feeling in a person’s feet. Although a less frequent occurrence, peripheral neuropathy may affect a person’s arms and hands.

Some common additional symptoms that may accompany a peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
  • A feeling like you are putting on a tight sock
  • Stabbing, sharp pains
  • Heavy feeling or weakness in your legs or arms
  • Excessive sweating

It is a matter of importance to see a doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of neuropathy. One of the ways to prevent nerve damage or slow its course is to control your blood sugar.

One study has noted that cases of unexplained peripheral neuropathy could be a sign of undiagnosed or borderline diabetes.

  1. Small fiber sensory neuropathy (SFSN)

SFSN is a type of painful neuropathy that mostly results in burning and pains in the feet. Some other symptoms noticed in people with SFSN include total loss of feeling in the feet as well as short bursts of pain.

These feelings occur due to a loss of the myelin sheath that covers and offers protections to the nerve fibers. Although, in most cases, the cause isn’t known, diabetes may be involved.

  1. Heavy alcohol use

A case of heavy alcohol use may also lead to a type of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy. One of the obvious symptoms of this neuropathy is burning feet, and other symptoms include:

  • Muscle spasms, muscle weakness and loss of muscle function
  • Dizziness
  • Urinary and bowel dysfunction
  • Impaired speech

Stopping the use of alcohol can greatly help to prevent the worsening of the above symptoms. However, there is some nerve damage that may be irreversible.

  1. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT)

CMT is not just any nerve disease; it is the most common inherited nerve disease. CMT mainly affects the nerves that control our muscles. It is a progressive disease, which means that symptoms worsen with time.

One of the foremost symptoms of this disease is burning or pins and needles in the victim’s feet or hands. Some other common symptoms include muscle atrophy and clumsiness.

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An estimated 1 in 2,500 people living in the United States of America have CMT, according to available information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The condition is named after the three doctors who described it first in 1886.

The disorder also goes by other names, including hereditary motor, peroneal muscular atrophy, and sensory neuropathy.

  1. Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

CRPS is a condition that occurs in a limb, most likely after a surgery or an injury. The condition involves nerve damage that mainly affects the spine and signaling from the brain. Symptoms of CRPS include:

  • Swelling
  • Burning pain
  • Cchanges in skin color or texture

CRPS is serious enough to affect the immune system. The condition may also be influenced by genetics.

  1. Erythromelalgia

Erythromelalgia is not exactly a rare disease. It involves redness, hotness, and pain in a person’s feet without an identified cause. The condition is highly discomforting, but its severity is known to vary from person to person.

For an individual with Erythromelalgia, pain in the feet can worsen after:

  • Exercise
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Exposure to heat
  1. Nutritional deficiencies

Burning feet can be caused by malnutrition, but it was more common in the past than it is now. However, it is still reported in areas where people experience famine or other natural or human-made disasters.

During World War II, it was estimated that one-third of American prisoners of war living the Pacific dealt with burning feet syndrome that is caused by malnutrition.

In the population of today’s world, especially among the aged, nerve damage may be traced to deficiencies in:

These vitamin B deficiencies may cause burning feet as well as muscle coordination problems.

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Anemia is a deficiency in healthy red blood cells, which may also be as a result to vitamin B deficiencies. Some other noticeable symptoms anemia due to a vitamin deficiency includes dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

  1. Hypothyroidism

When there is an underactive thyroid, it is likely followed by changes in the balance of a person’s body hormones. This can lead to swelling that exerts pressure on a person’s nerves.

Apart from burning feet, other symptoms of hypothyroidism include dry skin, fatigue, and weight gain.

  1. Infectious diseases

Burning feet sometimes may be one of many symptoms that accompany various infections, including:

If you think you have been found to have an infection and are dealing with burning feet, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

  1. Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot a fungal infection that is contagious and often seen in athletes. The condition is also called tinea pedis, and it can also affect the hands and toenails.

One of the most common symptoms of the athlete’s foot fungal infection is a burning, itchy, or tingling sensation between on the soles, or between the toes of the feet. Other symptoms you may likely experience include:

  • Cracks and peeling skin between your toes or on the soles of the feet
  • Itchy blisters on your feet
  • Dry or dead skin on the corners or soles of your feet
  • Raw skin on your feet
  • Toenails that randomly pull away from the nail bed, or look discolored, thick, and crumbly
  1. Kidney disease

Once a person’s kidneys can no longer function properly, there becomes a build-up of toxins in the blood. This build-up can lead to itching and swelling of the feet. It can also cause:

  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Reduced urine output
  • Seizures
  • Fatigue
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  1. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease, also called PAD, has to do with a narrowing of the arteries that transports blood to the feet and legs. The symptoms of PAD can be similar to the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, which includes burning legs and feet. The pain is usually brought on by exercising or walking.

  1. Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition that happens when the nerve that runs from a person’s ankle to the foot becomes squeezed as a result of swelling or an injury. This condition can lead to some severe pains and burning in the foot. Such pains may extend up the leg.

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It is vital to get treated for this condition early before the nerve damage turns permanent.

  1. Toxin exposure

When exposed to heavy metals and some other industrial chemicals for an extended period, it can lead to several peripheral neuropathy symptoms. Some medications are used for the treatment of certain conditions, such as HIV or seizures, and can also lead to nerve damage.

  1. Chemotherapy

Therapeutic chemicals that are used for the killing of cancer cells may have specific side effects, including peripheral neuropathy. Other muscular and nervous system side effects of chemotherapy may include the following:

  • Slowed down reflexes or motor skills
  • Tired, achy, or shaky feeling in the muscles
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain

Diagnosing a burning feet

See your doctor if you notice any pains, or if you have burning feet.

The first thing your doctor will do is to carry out a physical exam. What a physical exam is carried out, it can indicate:

  • Fungal infection
  • Structural problems in your feet or legs
  • Reflexes
  • Reddened or pale skin
  • Lack of feeling or sensation

Your doctor will then make inquiries about your medical history and about any medications you may be taking. They will ask you questions like when your symptoms occur and how long they last.

Your doctor will likely run a test for diabetes, especially because it is one of the most prevalent causes of burning feet.

They will also want to find out if you have a history of alcohol use, as that also is another cause for this symptom. Your doctor may also order that you do blood tests for:

Doctors may also order imaging tests if they suspect a tarsal tunnel syndrome. Your doctor may take a look at your shoes and tell you to walk while they watch you see if you are wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes too.

Your doctor will also ask about the other symptoms you may be dealing with to determine if there is an infection or an injury involved.

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Possible treatment options for burning feet

The treatment for burning feet will depend on the underlying cause.

Often, the treatment for burning feet can be straightforward. You may require:

  • Vitamin B supplements
  • An anti-fungal prescription for athlete’s foot
  • More comfortable shoes
  • A corrective insert in your shoes
  • Thyroid supplements

If your doctor finds out that diabetes is involved, you may have to change your diet or the medications you use completely. Your doctor may likely prescribe certain drugs to assist with relieving nerve pain.

For severe cases of nerve pain, there may be a need for nerve stimulation, such as:

  • Electrical nerve stimulation
  • Laser therapy
  • Magnetic therapy
  • Light therapy

Home remedies for pain relief

You must see your doctor whenever you feel this type of pain. However, there are certain things you must try at home if you want temporary relief:

  • You can soak both feet in cold water or in ice baths for a few minutes.

Nevertheless, this home remedy is not recommended for individuals with erythromelalgia. Their skin may get damaged if they do this.

  • Soak both feet in water containing Epsom salts or in an apple cider solution. For people who have diabetes, it is a must that you ask your doctor before you try this remedy.
  • Try a turmeric supplement. Turmeric contains curcumin, which may temporarily provide relief for nerve pain. In case you don’t know the benefits of Curcumin, it is known to possess protective anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects. It is also believed to help with neurological symptoms.
  • Apply a recommended topical cream that has lidocaine or capsaicin. If you are feeling creative, a homemade ginger or turmeric solution should also work. One source claims that a lidocaine patch was found to be very effective for relieving pain from erythromelalgia.
  • You can also massage your foot to help with improving blood flow and circulation.

The conclusion

When you feel that your feet are burning up, it can lead to pains that range from mild and intermittent to severe pains that are chronic and life-disrupting. It is essential to work closely with your doctor to discover and treat the root cause.

If the reason for your burning foot is nerve damage, we are sorry, but it may be permanent in some instances. However, there are available treatments for the prevention of further damage.

We hope this article has been helpful. Please leave a comment below.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.
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