We know that the nervous system is the main organ system that is responsible for sending messages to and from the brain, as well as to the spinal cord. Nerves, specifically, are the ones that carry the message from a part of the body to another, in the form of electrical signals. Therefore, our nerves are very important to our bodies. Anything that may affect our nerves’ function may be a big problem. One condition that may affect the nerves is peripheral neuropathy. This condition often usually occurs in the hands and feet and causes the nerves to get weak, numb, and painful. In this article, you’ll get to know the causes, symptoms, and treatments for peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral Neuropathy: What is It?
It is a nerve disorder that is distant from the spinal cord and the brain. Those who have the condition may experience unusual sensations, burning pain, weakness, numbness, as well as tingling sensations in the affected area. Frequently, the symptoms of the condition are involved and symmetrical in both the hands and feet.
Peripheral neuropathy may involve various types of nerves, such as sensory nerves, autonomic nerves, and/or motor nerves.
Neuropathy may appear with a number of different symptoms, including different types of pain, numbness, loss of balance, or even weakness, depending on what type of nerve is actually involved. The autonomic nerves are the ones that control the bodily functions that we don’t think of consciously, like emptying of the bladder and bowel, controlling heart rate, as well as digesting food. Because of that, the autonomic neuropathy exhibits symptoms that affect the loss of control in those bodily functions.
Certain nerves may have an involvement in neuropathy. When a specific nerve is getting involved, the symptoms may be limited to the dissemination of that particular nerve. The most common nerve to get involved in peripheral neuropathy is the median nerve, which becomes entrapped and may cause symptoms of neuropathy to appear.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Here are some of the possible causes of peripheral neuropathy:
- Statin medications
- Rare diseases like hereditary amyloidosis, autonomic neuropathy, hereditary sensory, Tangier disease, and Fabry disease
- Cancer therapy medications
- Exposure to toxins
- Inherited disorders or conditions
- Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc.
- Vitamin deficiency (folate and/or vitamin B12)
- Diabetes mellitus
In some cases, there is no cause that can be identified.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Each and every nerve in the peripheral system has specific functions. Hence, symptoms mainly depend on what type of nerves are affected. The nerves are classified into the following groups:
- Autonomic nerves: Control the function of blood pressure, bladder, digestion, and heart rate.
- Motor nerves: Control the movements of the muscles.
- Sensory nerves: Receive sensations from the skin, such as pain, temperature, touch, and/or vibration.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include:
- Paralysis or muscle weakness
- Lack of bodily coordination or falling
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Burning, freezing, throbbing, jabbing, and sharp pain
- Gradual inception of tingling, prickling, or numbness in the feet or hands, which may spread up to the legs and the arms
If the autonomic nerves are being affected, the symptoms include:
- Changes in blood pressure levels, causing lightheadedness or dizziness
- Digestive, or bowel problems
- Excessive sweating and heat intolerance
Treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy
The treatments for peripheral neuropathy either target the underlying cause or aims at providing symptomatic pain relief that prevents any further damage. In diabetic neuropathy, increasing blood sugars may help in preventing nerve damage. On the other hand, in toxic causes, getting rid of the toxin(s) can be beneficial.
Various medications may help in relieving pain, as well as in reducing the burning, tingling, and numbness sensations.
Drug treatments for neuropathic pain:
- Opioid painkillers
Various treatments for peripheral neuropathy:
- Topical treatments
- Anti-seizure medications
- Pain relievers
Therapies for peripheral neuropathy
- Physical therapy
- Intravenous immune globulin and plasma exchange
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
- Monitoring blood sugar levels
- Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol
- Eating healthy meals
- Quitting smoking
- Regular exercise
- Taking care of the feet
- Amino acids
- Alpha-lipoic acid
Prevention of Peripheral Neuropathy
Even if you have a family history of the condition, you may prevent possible onset by doing the following:
- Avoid inhaling toxins, like glue
- Protect your feet during sports and other activities
- Understand what toxins you may be exposed to at school or work