It’s hard to go about your day when your feet feel like they’re on fire. Burning feet can be an isolated symptom or part of a set of symptoms that can include:
- foot pain
This burning sensation is often due to nerve damage caused by a condition like diabetes or other underlying conditions. It can also arise out of a foot injury or infection.
It may take some time to figure out where the concern originates. If you wonder what type of doctor you need to contact, you may want to start with your primary care doctor. They can assess your symptoms and refer you to the appropriate specialist if needed.
You may be able to temporarily ease foot pain and discomfort. But you probably won’t achieve lasting relief until you treat the cause. You may have nerve damage or an undiagnosed health condition.
Sometimes, the pain you feel in your feet can actually be referred pain. That means that although you feel pain in your feet, the pain lies elsewhere. Getting the right treatment depends on getting the right diagnosis.
Primary care provider
A burning sensation in your feet has many potential causes. That’s why a primary care provider (PCP) should be your first point of contact in most cases. This doctor will review your:
- medical history
Along with a basic physical exam, this might lead to a diagnosis. When needed, a PCP will refer you to the appropriate specialist for diagnosis or treatment. They will also coordinate all your medical care.
- corrective devices
- physical therapy
You might start with a podiatrist if you have a foot deformity or have recently injured your foot.
If you already have a neurologist due to a previously diagnosed nervous system condition, you can start here.
They also diagnose and treat other causes of burning feet:
Vascular specialists focus on diagnosing and treating circulatory system conditions. A PCP may refer you to a vascular specialist if it appears that there’s a concern with arteries or blood vessels.
A rheumatologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats arthritis and other conditions involving:
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, for example, you probably already have a rheumatologist to manage the condition. If that’s the case, you can start here.
An endocrinologist specializes in conditions involving hormones, including thyroid conditions and diabetes. If your PCP suspects that you have a hormonal imbalance, they will refer you to an endocrinologist.
If you’ve previously been diagnosed with diabetes and are experiencing burning feet, you may have developed diabetic neuropathy, so an endocrinologist can be your first stop.
You probably don’t need to contact a doctor for a fleeting experience with burning feet. Or if simply changing your shoes or extra foot care measures help. Do schedule an appointment soon if:
Consider burning feet a medical emergency if:
- it’s possible that you’ve been exposed to toxins
- the burning sensation came on suddenly and severely
- you have an open wound that might be infected, particularly if you have diabetes
Symptoms of infection include:
- formation of pus
- redness or discoloration, tenderness
- skin that is warm to the touch
Burning feet syndrome is also known as Grierson-Gopalan syndrome. It can also involve:
The most likely cause of burning feet is, peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathies can develop due to:
- alcohol use
- chemotherapy drugs
- autoimmune diseases
- infectious diseases
- vitamin B deficiencies
- physical injury
- peripheral artery disease
- hormonal imbalances
- kidney disease
- liver disorders
- exposure to toxins
Some other causes of burning feet are:
- athlete’s foot
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- complex regional pain syndrome type II (causalgia)
- Fabry disease
- Raynaud’s phenomenon
- reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- tarsal tunnel syndrome
You can help the process along by talking with your doctor about:
- all your symptoms, even if they seem unrelated
- previously diagnosed conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
- recent injuries
- potential exposure to toxins
- medications you take
- remedies you’ve already tried
This will help determine the next steps, which could include:
- physical examination of your skin to look for symptoms of rash or infection
- examination of the structure of your feet and legs
- X-ray or other imaging tests to look for bone abnormalities
- nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG) to evaluate nerve and muscle function
An untreated burning sensation in your feet can quickly become a quality-of-life issue. It can also be a symptom of an undiagnosed condition, such as diabetes, that can worsen without treatment.
You don’t have to put up with burning, itching, and foot pain. Contact a PCP for an appointment as soon as possible. It may require a referral to a specialist to make the diagnosis. Then you can start treatment for any underlying conditions and for relief of foot pain and discomfort.