Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral Neuropathy Overview

Peripheral neuropathy is a neurological disorder that results in damage to the peripheral nervous system, causing weakness, pain, and numbness, usually in your hands and feet. As per the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, over 20 million people of all ages in the United States suffer from some form of peripheral neuropathy.

Your nervous system comprises the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system. Peripheral nerves act as a communication network, allowing for the exchange of information between the central nervous system and the rest of your body. Peripheral neuropathy distorts and interrupts the messages between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of your body.

How can peripheral neuropathies be classified?

There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, each one has its own symptoms and prognosis. If one nerve is damaged, the condition is referred to as mono-neuropathy. If multiple nerves are involved, it is called polyneuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathies are due to damage to the axons, or the myelin sheath. They may also be caused by both axonal damage and demyelination.

What causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

Poor dietary choices by alcoholics can lead to vitamin deficiencies (particularly of vitamins B-1, B-6, B-12, E and niacin)

Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy

More than half of diabetes mellitus sufferers develop some kind of neuropathy during their lives

Exposure to toxic substances such as industrial chemicals and heavy metals like mercury and lead.

Viral or bacterial infections such as Lyme disease, shingles, hepatitis C, leprosy, diphtheria and HIV

Physical traumas from automobile accidents falls or sports injuries can damage peripheral nerves

Medications, especially ones used to treat cancer

Inherited disorders such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, bone marrow disorders, and other diseases like kidney and liver disease can increase the risk of peripheral neuropathy

What are the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy can be a mild annoyance or a serious condition. The symptoms depend on the type of nerves affected and the severity of the damage.

If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, you might experience the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Sharp, throbbing pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Numbness, prickling, and tingling
  • Paralysis
  • Heat intolerance
  • Sweating profusely or not sweating at all
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Digestive problems

How would you know if you have Peripheral Neuropathy?

Following tests might be performed by your neurologist:

  • Blood tests to detect medical conditions of the patients such as vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, liver and kidney dysfunction, or other conditions that can cause peripheral neuropathy
  • Imaging tests, for example, MRI or CT scans
  • Nerve conduction testing such as (NCS/NCV) and electromyograms (EMG)
  • Nerve biopsy
  • Skin biopsy

How is Peripheral Neuropathy treated?

Some of the treatments to help ease the signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy such as:

  • Oral medications such as painkillers, anti-seizure medications, and antidepressants
  • Injections of medications such as a local anesthetics and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Nerve blocks can help reduce pain symptoms
  • Various therapy and procedures such as Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), physical therapy, and surgery
  • Treatment of an underlying diabetic condition
  • Adoption of healthy lifestyle habits such as eating a balanced diet, cutting down on alcohol, maintaining weight, avoiding exposure to toxins

When should you see a Neurologist Doctor?

It is necessary to address signs of peripheral neuropathy early to prevent symptoms from worsening. If you believe you or a loved one suffers from any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with us at Manhattan Medical Arts.

We believe in providing accessible, cost-effective and efficient care that meets the expectations of our clients and strive to maintain the highest standards of safe and quality health care in all our facilities, for all our patients.

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