Davis Podiatry Center - foot clinic foot surgeon


Peripheral Neuropathy and Peripheral Arterial Disease:
What’s the Difference?

Many diabetics and non-diabetics can suffer from painful peripheral neuropathy of the feet or poor blood supply to the feet and legs (known as peripheral arterial disease). Some persons may have both conditions present.

The signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and peripheral arterial disease can overlap and mimic each other. Symptoms can include tingling, pain, burning, numbness, shooting sensations, cramping, or a sensation of “thick skin” or that the part is “asleep”. The symptoms may vary with positioning and activity level.

Although the conditions may imitate each other, the causes are often unrelated. It is imperative to distinguish between peripheral neuropathy and peripheral arterial disease because the treatments are quite different.

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY (“PN”) occurs when nerves traveling through anatomical tunnels become “pinched” in these tunnels due to scarring or nerve swelling. Initially the toes and feet may tingle and burn but, if left untreated, can eventually become numb. Skin ulcers and bone infections may result when patients don’t realize their skin is breaking down. Many people have been told there is no treatment besides antidepressants or anti-seizure medication which may help mask symptoms but not stop the progression of the disorder.

There is now available a new form of surgery to relieve neuropathy pain and restore sensation to the feet. The procedure is called peripheral nerve decompression surgery and is performed by about 300 trained and certified surgeons across the United States. The procedure is similar to carpal tunnel surgery in that it opens the tunnel that houses the pinched and compressed nerve. Dr. Ferragamo has been performing this procedure since 2000.

PERIPHERAL ARTERIAL DISEASE (“PAD”) occurs when the arteries supplying oxygenated blood to the legs and feet become stenosed, or partially plugged up with plaque or calcium deposits. This in turn starves the feet and legs of oxygen causing pain, burning and/or cramping as well as the possibility of ulcerations and gangrene. This is usually a progressive disease and the longer it is left untreated, the more invasive the cure. Fortunately, there is a relatively new minimally invasive procedure to literally “clean out” the arteries to restore blood flow. Dr. Ferragamo performs in-office state-of-the-art screening lower extremity arterial vascular testing. If the results are indicative of PAD, the patient is directly referred to a medical group that may do further evaluation.

Dr. Ferragamo is skilled and experienced in diagnosing and differentiating PN and PAD as well as other foot conditions. After a thorough examination and non-invasive in-office nerve testing, vascular testing, and other testing as necessary, the doctor will be able to identify which condition the patient is suffering with.

The surgical procedure to relieve neuropathy takes about one hour and is performed on an out-patient basis. The patient is usually back in shoes 3 weeks following the procedure. Pain relief is often immediate although it can take several months for symptoms to stop. Patients diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease are directly referred to a vascular medical group for further consultation and evaluation. The vascular specialists are experienced with non-invasive and other vascular procedures needed to restore blood flow. Each patient is treated on an individual basis

For an evaluation, call Dr. Ferragamo’s office at The Davis Podiatry Center (530) 753-9080. Most insurances accepted.


Peripheral Neuropathy vs. Peripheral Arterial Disease

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