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Peripheral neuropathy is the state where the nerves of the peripheral nervous system are damaged or compressed due to varying reasons. The peripheral nerves of the body are responsible for carrying information from the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the body. Peripheral neuropathy is quite prevalent. A study showed that almost 20 million people in the United States suffer from peripheral neuropathy. Since the peripheral nervous system integrates all types of nerves such as motor nerves, sensory nerves and autonomic nerves, symptoms rely upon the type of the nerve damaged.
Some common facts about peripheral neuropathy:
- Peripheral neuropathy is also referred to as ‘peripheral nerve damage’.
- There are about 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, each distinct in its symptoms, progressive stages and prognosis.
- It is a common myth that only diabetic or aged people get peripheral neuropathy.
- Peripheral neuropathy can be treated but can hardly ever get cured completely.
- Identifying the underlying disease can help in treating neuropathy.
- Peripheral neuropathy can occur at any stage of life but it is rarely seen in young children. It usually affects people lying in the age group 30-70.
- Peripheral neuropathy is considered a new disease but the fact is that it has always been present. It was being misdiagnosed or did not receive due attention. Only currently some light has been shed on the peripheral neuropathy predicament but optimal treatments for neuropathy are yet to be invented.
- Early diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy can considerably reduce the risk of the disease progressing to a debilitating stage.
- The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy in the United States is diabetes.
- The annual health care costs of diabetic peripheral neuropathy are climbing each year. U.S.A suffered an annual cost of $174 billion in 2007, and a total of $245 billion in 2012.
- It is estimated that almost 70% of the diabetic patients in the U.S.A are likely to be affected by diabetic peripheral neuropathy in the coming years.
Causes of peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a disease which has some underlying cause gnawing at the nerves and damaging the nerve roots. These are:
Alcoholism: People who consume excessive alcohol are at a severe risk of getting peripheral neuropathy. Alcohol is damaging to the bloodstream and nerve health and causes nerve damage.
Diabetes: Although sugar is the essence of life and the most deciding ingredient of any sweet dish, it is also a silent betrayer for a diabetic patient. Excessive sugar levels in the blood put direct pressure on the nerves and cause severe damage thus causing diabetic neuropathy.
Accidental trauma or serious infection: If any of the nerves in the peripheral nervous system are damaged or compressed due to trauma, injury or irritation, they can easily cause peripheral neuropathy. Repetitive motions such as typing or assembly line work can also often time cause neuropathy.
Dietary and vitamin deficiencies: If the body is not given appropriate nutrients and vitamin supplements, the delicate nerve fibers will not be able to nourish themselves and will eventually weaken off and die. Vitamin B supplements are a great way to restore nerve heath and also cause nerve regeneration.
Exposure to toxins and chemicals: Unheeded exposure to toxic compounds can lead to the virile symptoms of neuropathy.
Heredity: Heredity plays an important role in determining a person’s health. If the patient has a family history of peripheral neuropathy, then there are more chances of him becoming a neuropathy patient.
Autoimmune diseases: These include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Gullian-Barre- Syndrome
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy
The symptoms of neuropathy described by most of the patients are tingling, burning, numbing and lack of sensation in the hands and feet. Other symptoms are:
- Feeling like pins and needles in the hands and feet
- Increased or decreased sensitivity to touch
- Loss of sensation in the arm and leg muscles
- Weakness and dizziness
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Digestive or blood pressure complications
Types of neuropathy
There are three types of neuropathy:
- Mononeuropathy: Mononeuropathy affects only one type of nerve.
- Polyneuropathy: Polyneuropathy affects more than two nerves
- Multiple neuropathy: This affects more than two nerves in different locations.
Treating peripheral neuropathy
Before peripheral neuropathy advances to an impossible stage, it is imperative to consult a neurologist immediately and seek treatment advice. Though neuropathy pain can be considerably reduced and treated, it can really never be cured.
Treatment options include:
Antidepressants and anticonvulsants: These medicines will be prescribed to relieve the intense nerve pain and to improve the quality of life.
Capsaicin cream: This cream can numb the pain because of its most active ingredient hot pepper paste. Though it will give an intense burning feeling when applied, it helps to relieve the neuropathy symptoms to some extent.
Lidocaine patch: This patch will be applied on the painful region and the treatment repeated 3-4 times as needed.
Although peripheral neuropathy is a very common evil of the century, there still needs to be devised a magic potion which can expel the neuropathy pain and drive it off from the body forever!
- what is neuropathy
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