Burning feet: causes and how to deal with them

Feeling weak and tired, wounds that don’t heal quickly, frequent urination, and weight loss without putting in any effort are just some of the symptoms that diabetics may face. Some even feel a burning sensation in their feet. But if you suffer from burning feet, does that just mean you have diabetes? It turns out that diabetes is not the only cause of burning feet.

Burning feet is a common condition in neurological practice, says Dr Mirza Masoom Abbas, Consultant – Neurology, Manipal Hospital, Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru.

Causes of burning feet

Burning feet result from damage to the small sensory nerve fibers that carry pain and temperature sensation to the brain. Here are some causes:

1. Diabetes

It is the most common cause of burning feet, says the expert. Diabetes can cause nerve damage throughout your body because high blood sugar damages nerves over time.

Burning feet have many causes. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Hypothyroidism

An underactive thyroid is a health condition that causes discomfort in the feet. It changes the balance of hormones in your body and can lead to symptoms including nerve damage.

3. Infections

Nerve damage can occur due to various infections, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Lyme disease, and syphilis, and this can cause burning feet.

4. Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in people who follow a strict vegetarian diet, and can cause burning feet, says Dr. Abbas. But too much vitamin B1 and vitamin B6 can also lead to burning feet.

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5. Autoimmune diseases

In autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjögren’s syndrome, the body’s immune system damages its own organs such as skin, joints and nerves.

6. Excess alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol and being exposed to toxins such as arsenic in a water source that is contaminated can lead to a burning sensation in the feet.

7. Kidney disease

Toxins build up in your blood once your kidneys stop functioning properly. One of the symptoms is a burning foot, which can be painful.

8. Athlete’s foot

This type of fungal infection causes dry, flaky skin. You may also notice that the soles of your feet turn whitish and that you experience burning feet.

Evaluation and correction of the underlying cause remains an important first step.
Burning feet usually disappear within a few weeks if the underlying condition is resolved. Vitamin supplements can provide relief, as can oral therapy with gabapentin, tricyclic antidepressants and topical application of capsaicin, the expert says. In the case of diabetes or excessive alcohol consumption, it is all about keeping the conditions under control and making efforts not to damage the nerves further.

Soak feet in water
Soaking burning feet in cold water may provide some relief. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Home remedies for burning feet

When you suffer from burning feet, your feet not only feel warm, but there is also a sharp pain. You feel like someone is sticking you with needles. To get some relief, you can try these home remedies, but consult your doctor first.

• Soak your burning feet in cold water for a few minutes.
• Soak your feet in water with Epsom salt, which is often used to relieve health problems, including muscle pain.
• Massage your feet as this helps improve blood flow and circulation, but do not apply too much pressure.
• Exercise regularly as this can help improve blood circulation and deliver more oxygen to your feet.

The burning sensation in your feet can be mild or severe, but don’t wait for it to disrupt your life.

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