Why do my feet burn at night when I'm trying to go to sleep?

A feeling that your feet are burning when you are lying in bed at night could be a sign of peripheral neuropathy -- nerve damage. About half of all people with diabetes develop some form of nerve damage when excess glucose injures the walls of the blood vessels that feed the nerves. Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include numbness, tingling or pain in the feet, or a decreased ability to feel pain, hot or cold there. Your doctor may be able to do some tests to determine if your nerves are functioning normally. Treating peripheral neuropathy involves taking steps to keep your blood glucose levels in a normal range, pain management and good foot care.

You feel burning because the nerves in your feet have been affected by your diabetes. "Painful neuropathy" is a term used to describe diabetic feet that are painful without an obvious cause. People with painful neuropathy usually describe a "pins and needles" sensation or a dull burning in the feet and legs that is more apparent at night (when there are few other things to distract you). You may also experience frequent leg cramps. Because painful neuropathy is difficult to cure once it is established, the best treatment is to prevent it by controlling your blood glucose. These nerve problems occur more frequently in men and in people who have had diabetes for many years, are tall, smoke, or have poor blood glucose control.

If you already have painful neuropathy, there are treatments available that provide some relief for about 50% of people. These treatments include the use of antidepressant medicines, certain heart medications, and creams made from chili peppers (capsaicin). These creams are rubbed on the feet to desensitize them. If you do not get relief from one of these treatments, the good news is that the pain from this neuropathy often lessens over time.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.