Burning sensation in feet can be simply because you are tired and may go away after a good rest. However, burning feet can also be due to nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy), perhaps as a result of underlying chronic diseases like diabetes, HIV, hypothyroidism, vitamin B12 deficiency or exposure to certain toxins or chronic alcohol intake. There are several other causes of burning feet ranging from harmless temporary conditions to chronic diseases. In this article we’ll try to review few of the causes of burning sensation in feet and its management.
What Causes Burning Feet
The sensation of burning can be mild or severe with associated painful needle prick sensation. Some may also experience tingling sensation or sensation loss on affected area. When burning feet is so intense and painful that can interfere on your day to day activities and sleep, it can be as hell. Several conditions can cause such sensation on legs, some of which are listed below:
- Diabetes neuropathy
- Athlete’s foot (fungal infection)
- Vitamin B12 deficiency, Vitamin B5 and sometimes B6
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Chronic smoking
- Heavy metal poisoining like mercury, lead and arsenic
- Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Thyroid disorders (especially hypothyroidism)
- Lyme disease
- Several drugs like amiodarone, metformin, isoniazid and other chemotherapy drugs
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Amyloid polyneuropathy
- Edema or fluid retention
- Peripheral artery disease
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Complex regional pain syndrome
Proper Diagnosis of Burning Feet
Correct diagnosis of burning feet is very important in order to manage it effectively. In most of the cases when the cause is known (like diabetes) your doctor will diagnose it immediately. But when the burning sensation in feet is sudden, severe and worsening and the exact cause can’t be identified, additional lab tests may be needed in order to proper diagnose. These tests may include blood test, urine test, spinal fluid tests, nerve conduction studies, nerve biopsy and electromyography.
Treatment of Burning Feet
Treatment options are targeted towards avoiding the causative factors. If it was due to nerve damage it should be managed accordingly and prevent further damage. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar level under control by any means (exercise, diet and drugs) is very important. For other specific causes it may be managed accordingly as below:
When it is due to vitamin B12 deficiency, taking an oral or intravenous vitamin B12 will resolve the issue.
If you consume alcohol, stopping alcohol intake will prevents further nerve damage and allows nerves to heal.
If it was due to low thyroid level, taking oral thyroid hormone will balance the thyroid level and resolve neuropathy and burning feet.
If it was due to chronic kidney disease, dialysis might be needed to resolve the associated pain and burning feet.
For symptomatic treatment of burning feet several treatments may be prescribed by your health care provider. Some of which are listed below
- Pregabalin (Lyrica)
- Gabapentin (Neurotin)
Home Remedies for Burning Feet
- Take rest; when you rest or sleeps raise your feet.
- Wear confortable fitting shoes
- Wash or soak your feet with cold water, don’t use ice.
- Exercise regularly, especially regular walks can help improve peripheral circulation of the feet that can help improve the symptoms.
- Change your shoes and socks after exercise and allow it to dry.
- Massage your feet 1-2 times a day; this will also help in circulation.
- You may take pain relievers for temporary relief.
Contact Your Health Care Provider if:
- You continue to experience burning sensation of the feet, despite all home self-care measures.
- If you develop an open would in the foot.
- Feel that the sensation has spread upward toward legs and thighs.
- You feel sensation loss in any affected areas.