What are burning feet?
Burning feet can result from a number of causes, including damage to nerves in the feet from exposure to extreme heat or cold or toxic substances. Burning feet might also result from a circulation problem that impairs blood flow to the feet, such as peripheral artery disease, a foot injury, or extensive walking or running.
Alternatively, burning feet may be caused by peripheral neuropathy, a disorder in which the peripheral nerves that relay signals between the body and the brain and spinal cord lose function. Peripheral neuropathy can be due to a number of specific diseases and disorders, including diabetes, alcoholism, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune nerve disorder. In many cases, peripheral neuropathy has no known cause.
Looking for a Doctor?
A burning feeling may be the only symptom experienced or it may be accompanied by tingling (paresthesia) and numbness. Depending upon the cause, burning feet may be felt at rest or while walking or moving around. The duration and course of feet burning sensation can vary widely, depending on the underlying condition. Feet burning sensation caused by injury often has a sudden onset, while feet burning sensation resulting from peripheral neuropathy develops slowly and persists or worsens over time.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) ifasudden feet burning sensation is accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of your body; a change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness; or the worst headache of your life as these can be signs of stroke. Also, if your burning feet are a result of a severe burn, seek immediate medical care (call 911).
If your burning feet sensation is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.
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- NINDS paresthesia information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/paresthesia/paresthesia.htm.
- Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/peripheralneuropathy/detail_peripheralneuropathy.htm.
- Tierney LM Jr., Saint S, Whooley MA (Eds.) Current Essentials of Medicine (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.
- Collins RD. Differential Diagnosis in Primary Care, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2012.