The peripheral nervous system is responsible for sending information from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to your organs and limbs. The central nervous system also receives sensory information from the peripheral nerves. Neuropathy affects these peripheral nerves. In this condition, a person may feel pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area.
What is peripheral neuropathy?
In peripheral neuropathy, the peripheral nerve cells, known as neurons, get damaged or destroyed. This affects how different neurons communicate with each other. It also affects the communication between the affected nerves and the central nervous system (comprising the brain and the spinal cord). Neuropathy can be limited to just one nerve or can affect an entire nerve type or a combination of nerves in a particular region.
Peripheral neuropathy will present itself differently based on the nerves affected. There are three types of peripheral nerves. These are:
Motor nerves: These nerves carry impulses from the central nervous system to the muscles in your body.
Sensory nerves: The five senses of your body (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) send messages to your central nervous system through these nerves.
Autonomic nerves: These nerves control all the bodily systems without your direct control, such as breathing, blood circulation, and digestion.
What are the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy?
The signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy that affect motor and sensory nerves include:
- Numbness and tingling of the feet and hands, which gradually moves up the arms and legs.
- Sensitivity to touch.
- Decreased coordination and a tendency to fall.
- Weakness of the muscles.
- Partial or total paralysis.
- Sharp, throbbing pain or burning sensation in the feet and hands.
If your autonomic nerves are affected, then you will experience the following symptoms:
- Excessive or no sweating.
- Intolerance for heat.
- Variance in blood pressure.
- Dizziness or light-headedness.
- Digestive, bowel, or bladder issues.
What are the risk factors of peripheral neuropathy?
The risk of developing neuropathy increases if you have the following conditions:
- Alcohol abuse.
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and Lyme disease.
- Any recent exposure to toxins.
- Family history of neuropathy.
- Vitamin deficiency.
- Repetitive motions.
- Kidney, liver, or thyroid disease.
What are the causes of peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage, which is caused by several health conditions. There is no one particular condition that is the cause of it. The following are the health conditions that can be the cause of peripheral neuropathy:
Autoimmune diseases: The autoimmune diseases that can be the cause of peripheral neuropathy are lupus, vasculitis, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Diabetes: More than 50% of the people having diabetes are affected by some kind of neuropathy.
Infections: Specific bacterial or viral infections can cause peripheral neuropathy. These infections include HIV, Lyme disease, hepatitis B and C, shingles, leprosy, and the Epstein-Barr virus.
Inherited disorders: Out of the many, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a type of hereditary neuropathy.
Tumors: Malignant (cancerous) and benign (non-cancerous) growths can grow on press nerves or nerves. Some cancers that are related to the immune response of the body can result in polyneuropathy. These growths are a type of degenerative disorder, which is known as paraneoplastic syndrome.
Bone marrow disorders: Bone marrow disorders that are responsible for neuropathy are lymphoma, myeloma (a type of bone cancer), amyloidosis (a rare disease), and monoclonal gammopathies (an unusual amount of protein in the blood).
Other diseases: Some other diseases that cause neuropathy include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), liver diseases, kidney diseases, and connective tissue disorders.
What are the complications of peripheral neuropathy?
Neuropathy can cause certain complications. These include:
- Burns or trauma to the skin
How is peripheral neuropathy treated?
The treatment for neuropathy involves a combination of medications and therapies. The medications prescribed for the condition include:
Topical treatments: Certain creams and patches offer relief from the effects of neuropathy. These should be used only under the guidance of a medical practitioner.
Antidepressants: Some antidepressants interfere with the chemical processes in the brain that cause pain. These can be prescribed to manage your symptoms of pain.
Pain killers: Over-the-counter and prescription painkillers are used to manage pain caused by neuropathy.
Anti-seizure medications: These also help relieve the symptoms of pain.
Therapies for peripheral neuropathy :
Certain therapies can help reduce neuropathy symptoms. These therapies are:
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): In this therapy, electrodes are kept on the skin of the patient. These electrodes then give out gental electric currents at variable frequencies.
Plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin: These medical procedures may help people with particular inflammatory conditions, as they help control the activity of the immune system.
Surgery: People who have neuropathies that are developed because of the pressure on the nerves may need to undergo surgery to relieve that pressure. This pressure might be caused due to tumors, etc.
How can you prevent neuropathy?
The best way to prevent the onset of neuropathy is to address the underlying conditions that increase the risk factor for developing neuropathy. Most of these risk factors are lifestyle diseases, which require you to make healthy choices.
Eat healthy: Be sure that you are eating a balanced diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits.
Exercise regularly: Be sure that you get at least a 30-minute workout three times a week.
Avoid too much alcohol.
Avoid repetitive movements that could cause damage to your nerves.
What are the dietary regulations for neuropathy?
While neuropathy cannot directly be affected by your diet, neuropathy’s underlying conditions will benefit from a healthy diet. If you have diabetes, then you must consume a diet that is specifically tailored for the same. You can consult with a dietician to formulate the right type of diet for you.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about neuropathy
Is walking good for neuropathy?
Walking can help manage the pain caused by neuropathy by increasing your muscle strength and reducing your blood sugar levels.
How long does it take for neuropathy to go away?
The symptoms of neuropathy can take several months to disappear. However, many people do not recover fully from the nerve damage and can only manage the symptoms.
Can you stop the progression of neuropathy?
Unfortunately, neuropathy cannot be reversed or stopped unless you get an early diagnosis. Even then, it is essential to address the underlying cause of the condition to halt it completely.