Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) , is a chronic, painful, and progressive neurological condition that affects skin, muscles, joints, and bones. The syndrome usually develops in an injured limb, such as a broken leg, or following surgery. However, many cases of RSD involve only a minor injury, such as a sprain. And in some cases, no precipitating event can be identified.
Pain may begin in one area or limb and then spread to other limbs. RSD/CRPS is characterized by various degrees of burning pain, excessive sweating, swelling, and sensitivity to touch. Symptoms of RSD/CRPS may recede for years and then reappear with a new injury.
Burning feet are a common complaint and can be caused by a number of conditions - some are local and minor, and some are more serious. Burning feet can keep people awake at night and be a source of continuous pain. It is more common in those over the age of 50 years, but a burning foot can occur in younger age groups. Burning feet are more common in those with diabetes as part of the neuropathy (nerve damage) that can develop. A burning foot may be mild and local and easily treatable or it may indicate a more serious general medical problem that needs further investigation.
The more common causes of burning feet are:
* many feet just ache and burn at the end of a long day, especially in those who are on their feet all day or are overweight (mechanical overload)
* hot and sweaty feet can cause a burning foot sensation (and may be related to the mechanical overload problem)
* the neuropathy that occurs in diabetes can cause a burning feet
* other types of neuropathy (nerve damage) that can cause a burning foot include those that occur in chronic alcoholism, vitamin deficiencies (usually B) and heavy metal poisoning
* blood disorders (eg thrombocytopenia, pernicious anemia) can cause burning feet
* Erythromelalgia is a rare circulatory disorder can can cause burning feet
* Reflex sympathetic dystrophy or complex regional pain syndrome can follow trauma (including surgery) and cause a burning foot sensation
* nerve entrapments, such as tarsal tunnel syndrome, which is the compression of a nerve at the inside of the ankle joint can cause a burning sensation
* a localized burning sensation may be due to other specific problems. If its in the forefoot only, it could be, Morton's neuroma or some other cause. Athletes foot or a fungal infection can also cause a burning sensation in the area of the infection.
* it could also be due to a sensitivity to chemical substances in socks and shoes (contact dermatitis)
The most important part of managing burning feet yourself is to get it checked to make sure it is not caused by one of the rare serious problems.
Once the cause is established, there are a number of things that you can do to help your burning feet, but this can depend on the cause:
* if its mechanical, good fitting shoes with support is a good place to start to help.
* if hot and sweaty, there are various self treatments for the sweaty foot
* some creams or ointments with cooling properties can help relieve the symptoms
* some relief in some people has been shown to occur with the use of magnets
* wear socks made of cotton rather than synthetic fabrics
* bath feet in cool water
* avoid prolonged period of standing
* cushioning or shock absorbing insoles may make standing more tolerable
Treatment of burning feet needs the cause to be established, so consultation with a Podiatrist, rheumatologist (arthritis doctor) or a neurologist (nerve doctor) is important. A full range of tests may need to be ordered to determine the cause if it is not simply a mechanical overload that is the problem.
Treatment of a mechanical overload problem with foot supports or orthotics are usually very successful in helping the mechanical overload (they will not help if mechanical overload is not the cause of the burning feet). Other local causes such as a fungal infection, nerve entrapment and sweaty feet can be also be treated.
Treatment of underlying conditions may bring relief (but this will depend on the cause).
Pain relief medication may be needed for the treatment of any of the chronic causes of burning feet.
If the problem is chronic, stratgies to help manage the symptoms will need to be discussed.
Foot and Ankle Center
1303 Sunset Drive
Johnson City, TN