Burning Feet Syndrome and Vitamin Deficiency: Cause and Cure

If you’re experiencing burning sensations in your feet, especially your toe pads, heels or soles, it could be from a medical condition. This problem can cause mild discomfort, affect your sleep and movement or be the source of chronic, debilitating pain. Some causes can be from nerve damage or neuropathy, and can be common in those with diabetes. If you have a vitamin B deficiency, it can also be the source of your burning feet as well as other symptoms. This deficiency can be from medical problems, or an unbalanced diet. This can affect how your body uses vitamin B12. Talk to your family physician to help find a diagnosis for your burning feet.

Burning Feet Syndrome Due to Vitamin Deficiency

Deficiency of the B-Vitamins

Burning feet syndrome and vitamin deficiency are common enough that it should be addressed. There are two vitamins that are related closely to nerve dysfunction and may at times, be at the root of burning feet. These vitamins are B6 and B12. The latter is more strongly correlated to foot problems. It can cause a variety of degenerative nerve changes; some are permanent depending on how long the deficiency was. If you are lacking vitamin B6 you may have sensory neuropathy, but likely not as bad as in cases where B12 is lacking.

These deficiencies happen more commonly in vegans and vegetarians. B12 is more commonly derived from animal products and B6 can be found in grains, nuts and some vegetables. Those who are older, suffer from alcoholism or who have digestive tract diseases may be at a greater risk. How bad your feet burn and what other neurological symptoms you say are dependent on the duration and severity of the deficiency. B12 is often associated with anemia, so may cause peripheral neuropathy, which can cause burning feet.

Tests and Treatment

Your physician may recommend a blood test to help find out which vitamins are at play with your symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms typically of vitamin B6 or B12 deficiency, or have a history of it, your doctor may suggest supplementation without further testing. If your symptoms improve, it can confirm the suspicion of vitamin B deficiencies.

Other Causes of Burning Feet

You may have a burning sensation in your feet because of nerve damage in your legs, and this is neuropathy. Diabetes is the most common cause of this. In these cases, treatment focuses on preventing more damage and pain reduction. If your nerves are damaged they are more likely to misfire and be overactive. They will send pain signals to the brain, even without a wound. Those with neuropathy, often have leg damage first, which can cause numbness and tingling in the feet. There are many who say their feet are too sensitive to touch, which is called hyperesthesia, which can come with different levels of pain. It is described from mild to severe.

Alcohol and diabetes are the most frequent causes of neuropathy. There are other conditions that can cause a burning sensation in your feet, such as:

  • Small fiber neuropathy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Lyme disease
  • Low thyroid
  • Drug side effects, such as from chemotherapy, HIV meds, overdoses, amiodarone, metformin and others.
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Vasculitis
  • Erythromelalgia
  • Heavy metal poisoning
  • GBS or Guillain-Barre Syndrome
  • CIDP or Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy

Inflammation and infections, in addition to neuropathy can cause burning feet syndrome. This happens with athlete’s foot, as the infection comes from a fungus. PAD or Peripheral artery disease commonly causes burning feet. This can make for poor circulation in the feet, which can cause burning, tingling and even pain, especially when walking.

There are some who experience burning feet a few weeks or months after they have had gastric bypass surgery. This is because they aren’t absorbing their vitamin B very well.

When You Should See a Physician

You should look for medical care if:

  • Your burning feet syndrome came on quickly, especially if you could have been exposed to something.
  • If there is a wound in your foot that looks infected, this is very important if you have diabetes.

Get an office visit if:

  • You still have burning feet syndrome after a few weeks of home care.
  • The symptoms are more painful and intense.
  • The burning has started to climb up your legs or radiate.
  • You are beginning to lose feeling in your feet or toes.

If you can’t find any particular reason your feet are burning, your doctor may need to do a few tests to find the cause and to be certain peripheral neuropathy isn’t behind the trouble. 

Treatment for Burning Feet

One treatment may seem obvious, if your burning feet syndrome is from neuropathy, stop doing further cell damage. There are some instances where treatment can provide improvement, such as with small fiber neuropathy. If no cause is found, your doctor will focus on treating symptoms.

For those who have diabetic neuropathy, blood levels should be kept in the normal range. This may mean dietary changes, medicine or insulin injections. Some specific conditions and their treatment include:

  • Taking more vitamin B12 to help with any deficiencies.
  • Stop drinking excessively. This will help to prevent further nerve damage and allow yours to heal.
  • Chronic Kidney disease may mean dialysis to remove toxins which could be at the root of neuropathy and burning feet syndrome.
  • CIDP and GBS, both of which need specialized treatment such as plasma exchange or IVIG, which is immune globulin therapy.

Treatments are often to help with pain. Some prescriptions often given include:

  • Carbamazepine
  • Amitriptyline
  • Duloxetine
  • Desipramine
  • Gabapentin
  • Pregabalin
  • Venlafaxine