Neuropathy (nerve damage), is a common symptom of diabetes and can cause tingling and numbness in the feet. But numbness and tingling in the feet is not always as a result of nerve damage and could be a sign of other conditions.

Raynaud’s Syndrome

Raynaud’s Syndrome, also known as Raynaud’s disease, causes some areas of your body — such as your fingers and toes — to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress. With Raynaud’s syndrome, smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin become narrowed, limiting blood circulation to the affected areas. Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud’s Syndrome, and it appears to be more common in people who live in colder climates.

Treatment of Raynaud’s Syndrome depends on its severity and whether you have other health conditions. For most people, Raynaud’s Syndrome isn’t disabling, but can affect quality of life.

Signs and symptoms of Raynaud’s depend on the frequency, duration and severity of the blood vessel spasms that underlie the disorder. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Cold fingers or toes

  • Color changes in your skin in response to cold or stress
  • Numb, prickly feeling or stinging pain upon warming or stress relief

During an attack of Raynaud’s, affected areas of your skin may turn white. The affected areas often then turn blue and feel cold and numb; and as you warm and circulation improves, the affected areas may turn red, throb, and tingle or swell.

Although Raynaud’s most commonly affects your fingers and toes, the condition can also affect other areas of your body, such as your nose, lips, ears and even nipples. After warming, it may take 15 minutes for normal blood flow to return to the area.

It is advisiable to see your doctor if you suspect you may suffer from Raynoud’s Syndrome, and if you have a history of Raynaud’s and develop a sore or infection in one of your affected fingers or toes – see your doctor immediately.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. With multiple sclerosis the auto-immune response destroys the myelin sheath that insulates nerve fibres in the brain and the spinal cord. The reason that this auto-immune response occurs is unknown.

As well as protecting the nerves, the myelin sheath assists in the conduction of electronic signals or messages from the brain along the nerves. With multiple sclerosis , the myelin sheath becomes scarred (sclerosis), causing the messages from the brain to become slowed or blocked and resulting in the symptoms characteristic of the condition:

  • tingling and numbness in the feet and hands
  • muscle spasms
  • loss of balance
  • problems moving arms and legs

MS is most common among women between 20 and 40 years of age, but doctors do not know why this happens or to what degree genetics and the environment influence a person’s chance of developing MS. Currently there is no cure for the disease but much can be done to help manage symptoms. Treatment will vary depending on the symptoms experienced. As the course of multiple sclerosis is unpredictable, ongoing monitoring of the condition is required. Changes in needs and disability may require treatment changes.

If multiple sclerosis is suspected, a referral to a neurologist (a doctor who specialises in the nervous system) will be recommended.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

We’ve all heard about carpal tunnel syndrome, but what about tarsal tunnel syndrome?
The tarsal tunnel is a narrow space that lies on the inside of the ankle next to the ankle bones. The tunnel is covered with a thick ligament that protects and maintains the structures contained within the tunnel (arteries, veins, tendons, and nerves). One of these structures is the posterior tibial nerve, which is the focus of tarsal tunnel syndrome.

Also known as tibial nerve dysfunction, tarsal tunnel syndrome is a compression, or squeezing, on the posterior tibial nerve within a confined space. It is caused by anything that produces compression on the posterior tibial nerve, such as:

  • Flat feet – the outward tilting of the heel that occurs with “fallen” arches can produce strain and compression on the nerve.
  • Varicose vein, ganglion cyst, swollen tendon or arthritic bone spur – an enlarged or abnormal structure that occupies space within the tunnel and compresses the nerve.
  • An injury (such as an ankle sprain) – may produce inflammation and swelling in or near the tunnel, resulting in compression of the nerve.
  • Systemic diseases (diabetes or arthritis) – can cause swelling, thus compressing the nerve.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome produces symptoms anywhere along the path of the nerve running from the inside of the ankle into the foot. Along with numbness and tingling sensations, other symptoms include pain and a weakness or burning sensation in the foot muscles. Sometimes the symptoms of the syndrome appear suddenly, but often they are brought on or aggravated by overuse of the foot, such as in prolonged standing, walking, exercising, or beginning a new exercise program.

It is very important to seek early treatment if any of the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome occur. If left untreated, the condition progresses and may result in permanent nerve damage. In addition, because the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome can be confused with other conditions, proper evaluation is essential so that a correct diagnosis can be made and appropriate treatment initiated.

If you are at all concerned about the condition of your feet, book an appointment with one of our Healthy Steps podiatrists in Auckland today – they will thoroughly examine your feet, diagnose and treat any immediate problems, and if necessary, refer you on to the right health professionals.