Peripheral Neuropathy

The peripheral nervous system transmits information between the spinal cord and brain to the entire body. Peripheral neuropathy affects these nerves, whether they are the motor nerves responsible for any sort of movement or the sensory nerves allowing feeling.

In some cases, the autonomic nerve system, controlling internal organs, is affected, resulting in problems with body temperature, sweating, and other bodily functions. It is not just one disease, but refers to various disorders of the central nervous system. When more than one nerve group is involved, the condition is known as polyneuropathy.

If you suspect you are suffering from peripheral neuropathy, visit a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can stop symptoms from progressing.

Common Causes

Peripheral neuropathy results from various causes. The acute form comes on suddenly, while the chronic form is long-term. Some people have a genetic predisposition to the condition. Other common causes of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Cancer
  • Toxin exposure
  • Kidney failure
  • Metabolic issues
  • Inflammation
  • Repetitive stress
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Patients with diabetes often suffer from peripheral neuropathy, as do people with autoimmune disorders. Individuals battling alcoholism may experience peripheral neuropathy. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may deal with peripheral neuropathy as a side effect of treatment.

Those diagnosed with celiac disease may develop neuropathy. Unfortunately, many cases of peripheral neuropathy are idiopathic.

Symptoms

The pain of peripheral neuropathy can be described as sharp, throbbing, or jabbing. Peripheral neuropathy causes weakness in the feet and hands. Some individuals may have trouble walking and frequently fall. Other symptoms include:

  • Touch sensitivity
  • Paralysis
  • Blood pressure changes – dizziness results
  • Heat intolerance
  • Digestion and/or bowel issues

Some people may not feel sensations of hot or cold, leading to a burn risk while cooking or freezing when in a cold environment.

Diagnosing Peripheral Neuropathy

Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy involves finding the underlying cause. Doctors perform a complete physical and neurological examination, and conduct a medical history. Besides blood tests, other diagnostic tools include:

  • MRIs or CT scans
  • Nerve biopsy
  • Skin biopsy – a small piece of skin may reveal nerve ending damage

Potential Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. If medications are responsible for the neuropathy, going off the drug generally resolves the issue. Peripheral neuropathy is a leading reason cancer patients stop chemotherapy treatment early. If the cause of the neuropathy is not determined, doctors can only treat the symptoms. Medications used to treat peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsant drugs, often used for epilepsy treatment
  • Topical pain relievers

Patients in severe pain may receive opiates on a short-term basis. Physical therapy benefits patients dealing with muscle weakness. Some patients may require equipment such as braces, canes, walkers or wheelchairs.  Therapeutic treatment includes Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS. Electrodes are placed on the skin for approximately a half hour every day for a month.

Complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, may offer pain relief. Because peripheral neuropathy can result from dietary deficiencies, proper nutrition can ease symptoms. Patients dealing with alcohol dependency should seek substance abuse counseling.

Contact a Doctor

If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy or any nerve or back-related issue, contact a skilled doctor today and make an appointment for an examination.