Peripheral Neuropathy occurs as a result of nerves being damaged. Peripheral Neuropathy causes symptoms like throbbing pain, weakness and numbness in the feet and hands, but it can occur in other parts of the body as well. It has affected millions of people in the US.
Often, people who have the disease believe that Peripheral Neuropathy causes pain that's described as a burning or tingling sensation, like pins and needles and they compare the numbness as similar to wearing a glove or a tight stocking. Others have reported the loss of ability to notice changes in cold and heat, and the increased pain or inability to feel pain is another thing that Peripheral Neuropathy causes. A shocking sensation or regularly dropping things from your hands are also noted.
Also, others have noticed muscle weakness or gland dysfunction is what Peripheral Neuropathy causes. The nerves that are damaged, that supplies internal organs may affect the digestion system and even urination. Extreme cases may make it difficult to breathe or failure of an organ may occur.
One of the most frequent Peripheral Neuropathy causes is diabetes, but it can happen as a result of other problems or conditions as well. Some other factors that can lead to the development of Peripheral Neuropathy include:
- exposure to poisons or toxins
- injuries resulting from traumatic accidents
- metabolic conditions
- drugs or medications
If the Peripheral Neuropathy was caused by a condition that can be treated, the symptoms might improve or resolve when the underlying problem is treated. There are also several medications available to help manage the pain of Peripheral Neuropathy.
Peripheral Neuropathy Causes
In many cases, Peripheral Neuropathy causes are unknown because many different factors can contribute to the condition. Some of these factors are:
- Alcoholism: It is common for alcoholics to make poor dietary decisions. Peripheral Neuropathy causes vitamin deficiencies that can cause the disease. The lack of Vitamin B and E play a role in Peripheral Neuropathy
- Autoimmune Diseases: Some of these disorders include:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Sjogren's Syndrome
- Necrotizing Vasculitis
- Chronic Demyelinating Polyneuropathy
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Diabetes: Diabetes is frequently the disease that Peripheral Neuropathy causes. At least 50% of diabetics eventually develop some form of Peripheral Neuropathy. There are many different types of Diabetic Neuropathy. Some of these are associated with diabetes and others are caused by diabetes. High blood sugar can cause damage to the walls of the tiny blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the nerves in the ends of the feet and or hands, and the essential organs in the body, such as the kidneys and heart.
- Exposure to poisons: Poisons can include toxic materials such as chemicals such as insecticides or heavy metals.
- Medications: Some medications can cause Peripheral Neuropathy, especially chemotherapy drugs (medications used to treat cancer) and HIV treatments.
- Infections: Some bacterial or viral infections can bring about Peripheral Neuropathy. These infections include shingles, Lyme disease, Hepatitis C, Diphtheria, Epstein-Barr virus, Leprosy, and HIV.
- Inherited disorders: Some types of Peripheral Neuropathy causes are hereditary, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
- Trauma to the nerve: Trauma can damage peripheral nerves and cause Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Pressure on a nerve: This can occur as a result of staying in an unnatural position for an extended period, being in a cast, using crutches, or performing repetitive motions.
- Tumors: These can grow on the nerve itself, or tumors can compress or develop on nearby nerves. Tumors that are malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous) can cause Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Paraneoplastic syndromes: These conditions are associated with different types of cancer and can lead to Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Vitamin deficiencies: Not having enough of essential vitamins B-1, B-6, B-3 (also known as niacin), B-12, and vitamin E can cause Peripheral Neuropathy. These vitamins are vital to nerve health.
- Other health conditions: The presence of other diseases and disorders can lead to Peripheral Neuropathy. Some examples of these include liver disease, kidney disease, hypothyroidism an (underactive thyroid) and disorders of the connective tissue.
Factors that increase your risk of developing Peripheral Neuropathy include the following:
- Diabetes. You're at even greater risk if your blood glucose levels are not controlled
- Abusing Alcohol can increase the risk of Peripheral Neuropathy
- Vitamin deficiencies, especially B vitamins and vitamin E
- Certain infections: Shingles (varicella zoster), Lyme disease, Hepatitis C, HIV and Epstein-Barr virus.
- Autoimmune diseases: In these diseases, your immune system attacks your own body. Examples of these types of diseases are Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- Liver, kidney or thyroid disorders can increase the risk of Peripheral Neuropathy
- Exposure to toxins or poisons
- Physical stress that is repetitive for extended periods.
Complications may arise due to the disease itself or its symptoms. Peripheral Neuropathy causes other medical problems such as:
- Infectious diseases
- Muscle atrophy
- Diabetic foot ulcer
- Cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy
Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
Your peripheral nervous system, through your nerves, is able to send messages from your central nervous system ( your spinal cord and your brain) to all the other parts of your body. It also sends messages back in the other direction.
Peripheral Neuropathy can affect the following types of nerves:
- Sensory nerves: These nerves receive messages related to sensation, such as pain, touch, and heat.
- Motor nerves: These nerves control the movement of your muscles.
- Autonomic nerves: These nerves help regulate functions of the body that are not under your control, such as digestion, bladder function, heart rate and blood pressure.
Most often, the longest nerves are the ones first affected by Peripheral Neuropathy. The longest nerves are the ones that stretch all the way to your toes. There may be a wide range of Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms, depending on which nerves are affected. Some of the Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms include:
- A slowly occurring tingling and numbness beginning in your hands or feet, that might eventually spread into your arms and legs.
- Pain that feels like burning is one of the common Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms
- Pain that feels like jabbing, is very sharp or feels like electric current can be a symptom of Peripheral Neuropathy
- Becoming extremely sensitive to even the lightest touch
- Changes in the nails, hair or skin can be a sign of Peripheral Neuropathy
- Loss of coordination can be a sign of Peripheral Neuropathy
- If the motor nerves are involved, muscle weakness or paralysis can occur as a result of Peripheral Neuropathy
- If the autonomic nerves are involved, intolerance to heat can develop.
- If the autonomic nerves are involved, digestive, bowel or bladder problems can develop and is one of the common Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms
- If the autonomic nerves are involved, lightheadedness or dizziness may occur due to changes in blood pressure and is one of the common Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms
Peripheral Neuropathy is if only one nerve is affected by Peripheral Neuropathy, the condition is called Mononeuropathy. If two or more nerves are affected in different areas, the condition is referred to as Multiple Mononeuropathy. Polyneuropathy refers to the condition in which many nerves are affected by Peripheral Neuropathy.
When to see a doctor
The earlier Peripheral Neuropathy is detected and treated, the better the chance of preventing more damage or injury to the peripheral nerves and gaining control over the symptoms. It's vitally important to seek medical attention right away if you experience abnormal pain, weakness or tingling in your feet or hands.
Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms that include pain or other Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms that interrupt your sleep or if you feel discouraged or depressed, your health care provider might be able to recommend helpful treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy.
Peripheral Neuropathy symptoms aren't one single disease. It is actually a symptom that has many different potential causes. This is one reason it is sometimes difficult to diagnose. In order to diagnose your condition accurately and provide you with the best treatment, your physician needs to find out where the nerve damage is located and what is causing it.
Diagnosing Peripheral Neuropathy most often requires:
- A complete medical history: Your physician will take a full medical history. This includes a review of your lifestyle, your present symptoms, possible exposure to toxins, your history of alcohol use and your family history of any diseases of the nervous system.
- Neurological examination: Your physician will most likely assess your muscle tone and strength, your reflexes, your coordination and posture and check your ability to detect certain sensations.
- Physical examination. Your physician will probably perform a thorough physical examination to rule out conditions that may be similar to Peripheral Neuropathy.
In addition to completing examinations and taking your medical history, your physician may order tests that include:
- Blood tests: Blood tests can measure blood sugar and vitamin levels and check bodily functions. For example, kidney, liver and thyroid function.
- Imaging tests: Your physician may need to look for problems like herniated discs. These will show up on special imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging studies or computerized tomography scans.
- Nerve function tests: These tests can help determine if weakness is caused by damage to your muscles or nerves. One type of nerve function test is electromyography. This test is able to record the electrical activity in your muscles. Nerve conduction studies test how your muscles and nerves respond to stimuli.
- Nerve biopsy: To complete this test, a small section of a nerve is removed and sent to a laboratory to be examined for abnormalities. This can help determine what has damaged your nerves and may be causing peripheral neuropathy.
- Skin biopsy: Many nerve endings are present in your skin, so your physician may remove a tiny section of skin and send it to a laboratory to analyze the nerve endings for evidence of problems that may be leading to Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Lumbar puncture: This procedure is also sometimes called a "spinal tap." Doctors remove a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid and it is examined for evidence of diseases or conditions that may be the cause of Peripheral Neuropathy.
How to Treat Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral Neuropathy treatment center around managing its underlying cause and relieving the pain caused by the condition. Many times, if the condition causing Peripheral Neuropathy is corrected, it will resolve.
The following list of suggestions can be helpful in managing the symptoms and how to treat peripheral neuropathy:
- Take care of your feet: This is especially critical if you are a diabetic. Look carefully at your feet every day for any sign of irritation, blisters, calluses or cuts. Wearing shoes and socks that are too tight can intensify pain and other symptoms, and can even cause wounds or sores that are very difficult to heal. Socks should be made of cotton and should fit loosely. Shoes should be padded and helps you to know how to treat Peripheral Neuropathy. Try to keep heavy bed covers off your feet, especially if you have Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Exercise: A regular exercise routine to learn on how to treat Peripheral Neuropathy can improve muscle strength, help manage your blood sugar and help reduce pain. Ask your doctor what form of exercise is appropriate for you and ask how to treat Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Quit smoking: Smoking increases the risk of complications related to Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Eat healthily: A healthy diet is especially important for people who have a chronic illness like Peripheral Neuropathy, to make sure they get the right amounts of essential minerals and vitamins in order to know how to treat Peripheral Neuropathy. Choose low-fat meat and dairy products and get adequate amounts of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits daily.
- Avoid alcohol: Consuming alcohol may make Peripheral Neuropathy worse and would make it more difficult to learn how to treat Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Control your diabetes: Keeping your diabetes under control may help your Peripheral Neuropathy improve.
- Massage: Gentle massage can help relieve pain, promote relaxation, increase circulation and stimulate the nerves.
- Avoid pressure: Leaning on your elbows or keeping your knees crossed for long periods can cause new nerve damage and worsen Peripheral Neuropathy. Avoid periods of prolonged pressure.
Several different kinds of medications are often a common option on how to treat Peripheral Neuropathy. These are used to help relieve pain. They include:
- Pain relievers: Mild to moderate pain of Peripheral Neuropathy can usually be relieved by non-prescription analgesics such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Some examples of these include ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil, and others) and naproxen (Aleve). If your symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy are more severe, your physician may order prescription pain medications. Narcotic analgesics such as oxycodone (Roxicodone) and tramadol (Ultram ER) can lead to addiction and dependence so they are usually given only in cases of severe pain and for limited periods of time.
- Anti-convulsants: These include medications such as topiramate (Topamax), gabapentin (Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica), phenytoin (Dilantin) and carbamazepine (Tegretol). These drugs treat conditions such as epilepsy, but they also are effective for relieving Peripheral Neuropathy and other types of nerve pain. Side effects can include dizziness and drowsiness.
- Immunosuppressants: Medications that decrease the body's immune response sometimes help the symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy. Examples of these drugs include azathioprine (Imuran) and cyclosporine (Sandimmune).
- Capsaicin: Capsaicin is a substance naturally found in chilli peppers. A topical cream containing this ingredient has been found to help relieve the pain of Peripheral Neuropathy. It is usually recommended that capsaicin cream is used in combination with other forms of treatment.
- Lidocaine patch: This is a topical patch that is applied to the skin in the area of your most severe Peripheral Neuropathy pain. It contains a topical anesthetic known as lidocaine which has a numbing effect.
- Antidepressants: Certain classes of antidepressant medications have been discovered to relieve the pain of Peripheral Neuropathy. Among these are tricyclic antidepressants such as doxepin, amitriptyline and nortriptyline (Pamelor), and the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, duloxetine (Cymbalta). Side effects of these medications may include constipation, dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness and decreased appetite.
Therapies are also a common option on how to treat Peripheral Neuropathy. Some therapeutical methods are:
- TENS: (Trans-cutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) This is a form of therapy that may help to relieve symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy by delivering gentle frequencies of electrical current through electrodes that are placed on the skin. The unit is portable and can usually be used at home. The therapy is usually used for Peripheral Neuropathy daily for about 30 minutes for a month.
- Plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin: These are two procedures which sometimes are recommended for patients who have inflammatory disorders. Both procedures help to suppress the body's immune system. During plasma exchange, the blood is removed, the immune cells are removed and the blood is returned to your body. Intravenous immune globulin involves giving the patient high levels of substances that function as antibodies in the body which help lower the immune response and may be helpful in some cases of Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Physical therapy: Therapy can often help improve mobility and strength, and also help with pain management. Therapists can also be helpful in fitting hand or foot braces to provide support or providing help with other assistive devices for people who suffer from Peripheral Neuropathy.
- Surgery: If your Peripheral Neuropathy is being caused by pressure on a nerve or nerves, such as compression due to a herniated disc or a tumor, surgery may be necessary to remove the source of pressure.
Some of the complications that may develop due to Peripheral Neuropathy may include:
- Reduced feeling: You may have numbness in parts of your body that make it difficult for you detect high or low temperatures or to feel pain due to Peripheral Neuropathy. This can put you at increased risk for injuries like trauma to your skin and burns.
- Infection: Also because of your decreased sensation, you may not be able to feel if an even minor injury is becoming infected. Check any area that is numb or lacks feeling on a regular basis. By doing this, you can treat minor problems before infection sets in. Since diabetics often heal slowly, this is especially important for them.
Manage underlying conditions
Managing any medical problems or conditions that place you at an increased risk of developing Peripheral Neuropathy is the best form of prevention. How to treat Peripheral Neuropathy for a diabetic, this involves controlling your blood sugar level. If you are a smoker, it means giving up cigarettes. It may mean talking to a counselor or your doctor about treatment for addiction if you have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
How to treat Peripheral Neuropathy is by eating a healthy diet. It is one of the best ways to protect your nerves from Peripheral Neuropathy. Fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains are essential. B-12 is an especially important vitamin for your nerve health. B-12 is found in fish and eggs, fortified cereals and low-fat dairy products and a common option on how to treat Peripheral Neuropathy.
Make a decision to protect your nerves by avoiding the following:
- Smoking which can cause Peripheral Neuropathy
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- The prolonged pressure which can lead to Peripheral Neuropathy
- Repetitive motions
- Excessive alcohol intake which can cause Peripheral Neuropathy