What is Peripheral Neuropathy? Its Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Peripheral Neuropathy is an outcome of damage to the nerve located outside of the brain and spinal cord.
This health condition often leads to numbness, pain, and weakness in the feet and hands. However, not only limited to this, the disease can also affect the other body functions and areas, including circulation, urination, and digestion.
The peripheral system sends the information from the spinal cord and brain to the rest of the body. These peripheral nerves send all the sensory information to the central nervous system.
This illness can result from infections, traumatic injuries, inherited reasons, toxin exposure, and metabolic issues. However, one of the most common causes is diabetes.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Every nerve in the peripheral system has a particular function, and therefore the symptoms of the health condition depend on the nerve types affected. These nerves are further classified into:
- Motor nerves: controls the muscle movement
- Sensory nerves: receive sensations like pain, vibration, etc
- Autonomic nerves: control functions like heart rate, blood pressure, etc.
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The common symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy include:
- Throbbing or burning pain
- Gradual numbness onset
- Tingling or prickling in feet or hands
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Lack of coordination
- Pain during performing activities that should not cause pain
- Muscles weakness
- Feeling like you are wearing socks or gloves when you are not actually wearing it
In case the autonomic nerves are affected, the common symptoms may include:
- Excessive sweating
- Heat intolerance
- Drops in blood pressure lead to light-headedness or dizziness
- Bowel or digestive issues
When do you need to see a medical doctor?
Seek medical care immediately if you notice weakness, pain, or tingling in the feet or hands.
Early diagnosis of the illness gives a better chance of controlling the symptoms.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral Neuropathy generally refers to nerve damage caused due to various conditions. The health conditions that can lead to Peripheral
- Autoimmune disease
- Inherited issues
- Bone marrow disorders
- Other diseases
Several other causes of peripheral Neuropathy
- Exposure to poisons
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Injury or pressure on nerves
Risk Factors Included!
Peripheral Neuropathy leads to various risk factors. This includes:
- Alcohol misuse
- Infections like HIV, Lyme disease, etc
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Autoimmune disease
- Toxins exposure
- Family history of Neuropathy
- Repetitive motion
- Kidney, thyroid, or liver disorder
The complications of the disease include:
- Skin injuries
- Burns on the person’s skin
- Infection in which the patient’s feet or other areas lack sensation
- Loss of sensation and weakness may be linked with falling and lack of balance.
Prevention From Disease
One of the best ways to prevent yourself from the disease is to manage the debilitating health conditions that put a person at a higher risk of getting the illness.
To prevent yourself from peripheral disease, you must make some healthy choices. This includes:
- Eat a diet rich in veggies, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains to keep the nerves healthy.
- Avoid the factors that may lead to nerve damage
- Exercise regularly.
Diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy
The disease has several potential causes. And besides the physical examinations, the diagnosis of the disease generally requires:
- A complete medical history
At this stage, the medical doctor will thoroughly review the medical history, including the toxins exposure, symptoms, lifestyle, family history, and drinking habits.
- Neurological examination
The medical doctor will verify the tendon reflexes, muscle strength, tone, a patient’s ability to feel specific sensations, coordination, and posture.
The medical doctor may also suggest several tests, including:
- Blood Tests
Blood tests are recommended to detect diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, abnormal immune functioning, and many more that can lead to the disease.
- Imaging Tests
MRI scan or CT scan is recommended to check the abnormalities affecting the bones and blood vessels.
- Nerve functioning Tests
The EMG records electrical activity in the brain muscles to detect nerve damage.
- Other Nerve Tests
The other nerve functioning tests may include an autonomic reflex screen which records the autonomic nerve fiber functioning, sensory tests, and sweat tests.
- Skin Biopsy
The doctor removes a small skin portion to check out the nerve endings reduction.
- Nerve Biopsy
The doctor will remove a small nerve portion to check the abnormalities.
Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy
The treatment is generally focused on managing the health condition that may lead to Neuropathy and relieving the symptoms.
If the lab tests indicate no underlying conditions, the doctor might recommend watchful waiting to check if the condition improves.
Besides the medications required to treat the diseases associated with peripheral Neuropathy, the medicines to relieve the peripheral neuropathy symptoms include:
- Pain relievers
- Over-the-counter pain medicines like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve mild symptoms.
- Anti-seizure medications
- Medicines like pregabalin and gabapentin may help relieve nerve pain.
- Several specific depressants like nortriptyline, doxepin, and amitriptyline can relieve the pains that interfere with the chemical processes in the spinal cord and brain.
- Topical treatments
- Capsaicin cream containing a substance in hot peppers can improve peripheral neuropathy symptoms.
Several therapies can also help ease the symptoms of peripheral Neuropathy. This includes:
- Plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
- Physical therapy
Home remedies and lifestyle changes
To manage peripheral Neuropathy, these home remedies or lifestyle changes may help you manage the symptoms.
- Take care of your feet, specifically if you have diabetes
- Quit smoking
- Exercise daily
- Avoid excessive alcohol
- Eat healthy meals
- Monitor your blood glucose levels
What can you do before seeing a doctor?
- Note down your symptoms
- Pen down your personal and medical information
- Share all the medications you are currently having
- Any other doubts
What can you ask your doctor?
The basic questions you can ask your doctor include:
- What is the cause of my symptoms?
- What tests will diagnose the condition?
- Are there any other possible causes?
- What side effects can I expect from the treatment?
- I have other health conditions (if any). How can I manage them together?
- Are there any alternative medications?
- Can lifestyle changes or natural remedies help?
The questions your doctor may ask you!
- Do you have any other health issues?
- When did you first experience the symptoms?
- How severe are the symptoms?
- Does anyone have the same medical condition?
- Did you find relief in anything that can ease the symptoms?
The treatment is wholly focused on relieving the symptoms and managing the disease causing it. However, you must seek immediate medical attention if you believe that you are experiencing the symptoms associated with the disease.