Peripheral Neuropathy: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment options

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The peripheral nervous system joins the central nervous system with the rest of your body. This system sends signals about physical sensations to your brain. If this network of nerves is damaged, either as a result of chronic disease or trauma, it results in neuropathy. There are different types of neuropathy, but nerve damage that affects any of your peripheral nerves is referred to as peripheral neuropathy.  

Causes

Neuropathy is very common, with more than 60% of patients with some form of diabetes have peripheral neuropathy. Of those with viral actions such as HIV or hepatitis C, about 30% have some form of nerve damage. Over 100 different types of peripheral nerve damage exist. As such, the causes are vast, but this condition can result from:

  • Injury or trauma
  • Systemic illnesses such as diabetes
  • Infections such as HIV or Hepatitis C
  • hormonal imbalance
  • As a side effect of taking specific medication such as anticonvulsants or those used to treat cancer. 
  • Malnutrition or a vitamin deficiency
  • Exposure to toxins
  • As an inherited disorder such as Fabry disease or metachromatic leukodystrophy.

Symptoms 

The symptoms will vary depending on the type and location of the nerves affected. They can appear suddenly(acute neuropathy) or develop over time (chronic neuropathy). However, no matter which nerves are affected, here are a few common signs and symptoms of neuropathy. They include:

  • A tingling, pin-and-needle-like sensation or numbness, especially in your hands and feet, that can spread to your arms and legs.
  • Changes in sensation, for instance, experiencing severe pain or sensitivity or inability to feel pain, temperature, pressure, or touch.
  • Sharp burning or stab like pain
  • Loss of muscle tone and control leading to an inability to move a certain part of your body or even paralysis.
  • Excessive sweating or not sweating enough depending on the temperature or how much you exert yourself.
  • Bladder control issues
  • Digestion issues such as bloating, nausea, vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Unintended weight loss

Diagnosis 

Peripheral neuropathy affects people older than 50 who have diabetes, pulmonary conditions, vitamin deficiencies, or prolonged alcohol abuse. Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy requires taking a physical exam and taking your medical history. These diagnostic tests are required to find the underlying causes of the symptoms you might be exhibiting. Additional tests can include MRI and blood tests to determine what is causing your symptoms.

Treatment options

Treatment for peripheral neuropathy Focuses on treating the underlying disorder that caused the nerve damage in the first place. If diabetes is the culprit, the focus is on controlling your blood sugar. If you have a vitamin deficiency, supplementing your diet with a multivitamin or a nerve support https://www.neuro-health.net/formula enriched with vitamins can help. 

Pain management is a pivotal part of treating peripheral neuropathy. A combination of rest exercise and medication is used to help manage extreme pain caused by peripheral nerve damage. You can use over-the-counter oral pain medication or prescription meds to help control your pain. Alternatively, you could try transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation to disrupt faulty nerves from transmitting pain signals to the brain. If you experience muscle weakness, splints can help support the part of your body that’s in pain. 

Aside from pain medication, a bit of self-care can go a long way in easing your symptoms. Trying different holistic treatments can offer relief where traditional medicine can’t.  If your nerve damage is caused by a condition that’s treatable, you are in luck. However, if this isn’t the case, carefully managing your symptoms can make life a lot easier. Consult your healthcare professional to figure out the best course of treatment for you.

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