Burning in the feet can be caused by a variety of reasons and depending on those reasons can be cured or something you will have to live with for the rest of your life. There are ways to reduce the severity of the burning sensation within your feet but that comes down to the underlying cause of your condition.
Obviously the main symptom is burning pain but there are other common symptoms such as redness and a localised temperature increase around the affected area. Other symptoms that you may suffer from will be specific to the condition that has caused the burning sensation in your feet.
Diagnosing Burning Feet
Diagnosing of burning feet takes many different forms. Commonly us podiatrists will conduct a variety of neurological tests to see if we can identify any abnormalities. This is heavily linked with those with diabetes and in particular the ones who poorly control their blood glucose levels.
A skin inspection will also be conducted, looking at areas of different colour and temperatures. Skin that is dry or flakey will also be closely looked at. For those suffering as a fungal infection such as tinea pedis (known as athlete’s foot), then appearance itself can provide the diagnosis. This can be taken a step further if we are not 100 percent convinced we could send a sample of the skin for testing within a laboratory. A biomechanical assessment can also be conducted to assess if your burning is a result of loading issues. This includes assessing your walking and running styles. Palpation can also be used to identify if there may be any potential nerve compressions occurring.
There are also another range of assessments that are conducted by other health professionals. These include a nerve biopsy where part of a nerve is removed and examined. Electromyography (EMG) is a test of muscle function using recordings of electrical activity inside the muscles. A needle may be inserted into the muscle or a probe may be placed on the skin, for an EMG test. Another option is a nerve conduction study. This involves testing the ability of nerves to transmit impulses. A nerve is stimulated, and the response in the muscle controlled by that nerve is measured. Blood tests, urine test and spinal fluid tests can also be conducted.
Causes of Burning Feet
As mentioned earlier there are a variety of potential causes of burning in the feet. These can be fixable conditions or some permanent changes. Not all cases are as simply defined as lifestyle or health condition causes. Those involved in a major accident can commonly suffer from burning in the feet due to nerve damage sustained. This can be linked with accidents where there is injury to the spine in particular.
Underlying Health Conditions
Diabetes is a condition that can be strongly linked with burning in the feet due to the impact it can have on the nerves if poorly controlled. Blood sugar levels that are too high can lead to nerve damage and loss of sensation in diabetics. This can then be labeled as diabetic peripheral neuropathy. It is possible to suffer from peripheral neuropathy without being a diabetic due to other underlying health conditions. These can include autoimmune diseases and hereditary conditions. Side effects from chemotherapy can also cause some peripheral neuropathy. Infections and chemical exposure can also lead to peripheral neuropathy. One condition that can be strongly associated with burning in the feet is Charcot Marie Tooth disease. Charcot Marie Tooth disease is a hereditary condition that can be defined as a degenerative nerve condition. There are many other neurological disorders but these are not as common.
There are a few lifestyle factors that can result in burning in the feet. Most commonly is alcoholic neuropathy which is a result of heavy use of alcohol on a regular basis. By reducing your alcohol consumption then this can reduce burning sensations. However this is not always the case as if you have stopped too late then the damage done may be permanent. It has also been shown that individuals who are deficient in vitamin b can be subject to burning sensations. In particular vitamin b-6, vitamin b-12 and vitamin b-9 are the most likely to lead to these sensations if in deffencinacy. Working with chemicals is also a risk factor as long exposure to industrial chemicals and heavy metals can also lead to some peripheral neuropathy. Footwear can also contribute to burning in the feet. Shoes that are too tight can result in compression of the nerves in the feet. It’s important to check your shoes to ensure they have adequate room for your feet and that there are no areas that feel like your feet are being crammed.
Musculoskeletal and skin conditions
Tinea pedis or athlete’s foot as it is commonly referred to can result in burning in the feet, this is an infection of the skin itself. This a fungal infection commonly affected the soles and in between the toes leaving the skin looking red, peeling and feeling itchy or burning. A morton’s neuroma is a commonly seen condition within podiatry that can lead to a burning sensation within the feet. A morton’s neuroma is inflammation of a nerve which is typically seen up around the metatarsals. The burning sensation is a result of the swelling which leads to compression of the nerves within the area. The way our body moves and functions can also lead to areas of nerve compression. Another common musculoskeletal condition that can result in a burning sensation is tarsal tunnel syndrome. This is a compression of the main nerve that runs on the inside of the ankle known as the posterior tibial nerve. This nerve aims to stimulate the foot so if compression occurs as it runs through the ankle then this can result in a burning sensation.
Treatments for Burning Feet
Treatments for a burning sensation within the foot varies depending on what the cause of the sensation itself is. For burning as a result of a fungal infection like tinea pedis then an anti fungal cream can be used to help clear the infection. Ensuring all cuts are covered with a bandaid and drying well between your toes can reduce the chance of infection by preventing a portal of entry for infection. It also recommended to check your feet frequently to make sure there are no cuts or signs of infection. For a morton’s neuroma we will look to use padding to offload the affected digit. This can be used in combination with an orthotic in order to alter the position of the foot and ankle in an attempt to reduce compression within an area. An orthotic can also be used to help treat tarsal tunnel syndrome. It is also effective at aiding those who suffer from a burning sensation as a result of their biomechanics. Having your footwear assessed regularly can also help as ill fitting and tight footwear can lead to burning in the feet. Bring those shoes down to a podiatrist and they can help to determine if the shoes themselves are the cause of your problem.
In some cases, medication may be required to help reduce the burning sensation in your feet. This is something that we leave more in the hands of your general practitioner or neurologist. Diabetics should be monitoring their blood glucose levels daily to ensure they are at a safe level. This level should be determined with your podiatrist, nutritionist or diabetes educator. This can be done via exercise, diet and medication. Diet is very important for those who are suffering due to vitamin deficiencies, we recommend seeing a naturopath or dietician to see how you can improve your vitamin b intake. For those with large and excessive alcohol intakes then reducing both the amount and frequency of alcohol you are consuming is the only treatment method for you.
There are also some home remedies that can help but this is very dependent on the individual case. Soaking the feet in either cold water or an ice bath can provide some relief from the burning sensation. Massaging your foot with some sort of ball, lacrosse or tennis ball as an example, can help to relieve some pain. Simply roll the ball under your foot nice and slowly.
Who Is Most Likely to Suffer From Burning Feet?
Those most likely to suffer are ones with some peripheral neuropathy already, diabetics or those with poor circulation. This is due to the common nature of these conditions. There are some other likely ones but all that has been discussed up above in the causes of burning feet section.
When To See A Professional
You should seek out a podiatrist immediately once you begin to experience any form of burning sensation in your feet. The earlier we can assess and diagnose it, the easier it will be on you from a pain perspective and a reduced duration of healing time. If you are someone who likes to wait and see if something goes away by itself then you should wait no longer than a week before coming in to have it assessed. The main reason for early intervention is that if there is some sort of nerve damage occurring then the longer you wait the worse it potentially will get. Another point is if you have just bought a new pair of shoes and you are now experiencing a burning sensation, it’s recommended to bring in the shoes so they can be assessed with your feet.