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Pheripheral Neuropathy Diagnosis and Treatment

Updated on July 29, 2013

Causes, Diagnosis, Treatments

You might be feeling some kind of numbness or tingling sensations in your feet and you just ignore this thinking that this would go away. But such things may just be warning signs of some bigger problems in your nerves. Nerve problems occur because of a condition called peripheral neuropathy that affects the communication of nerves to and from central nervous system - brain and spinal column.

Peripheral neuropathy can affect all types of nerves that connect the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of your body parts such as the muscles, internal organs and glands. Because of the damage to these nerves, the transmission of information from your central nervous system to your brain may be impaired.

Peripheral neuropathy is also classified as mononeuropathy or polyneuropathy. In mononeuropathy, only one nerve or group of nerves is damaged. In polyneuropathy, multiple nerves are affected. There may be instances when more than one isolated nerves in several parts of the body are simultaneously affected and you call this form of neuropathy as mononeuritis multiple neuropathy.

Neuropathy can result in acute pain in nerves such as in the case of Guillain-Barre syndrome where the damaged nerves produce instantaneous symptoms. This condition progresses fast and shows slow progress in treatment of damaged nerves. Prolonged pain management becomes a must to control the condition.

Causes

Neuropathy is caused by a damage or an irritation to the nerve axons or the fibers of the nerves. The condition may even occur because of the damage to the fatty substance called myelin sheath that insulates and protects the nerves. The thinning of the nerve axons or the loss of the fatty substance may partially or completely block the transmission of the impulses in your body.

The damage can be due to several factors:

  • Physical injury or trauma to the nerve usually emanating from accidents.
  • Systemic diseases that affect the whole body. Among these afflictions are kidney disorders, vitamin deficiency, cancers, tumors, hormonal imbalance, vascular damage and more other bacterial diseases.
  • Degenerative changes that worsen the body’s immune system.
  • Metabolic disorders like diabetes mellitus
  • Alcoholism
  • Hereditary causes

Symptoms

There are three major kinds of symptoms –

  1. Changes in sensation – The most common of this symptom are numbness of the hands and feet. You may experience tingling sensation in these areas which can become more intense with the passage of time.
  2. Changes in movement – The symptoms include muscle weakness, muscle atrophy or lack of muscle control.
  3. Autonomic changes – The most usual manifestation of this symptom is blurred vision, orthostatic hypotension, dizziness, impotence, urinary incontinence and nausea.

Diagnosis

To diagnose neuropathy, a patient may be required to undergo physical examination and laboratory tests. The doctor will examine physical condition of patient to determine if there is noticeable weakness in some areas of the body. There may be wasting and loss of reflexes in the affected areas. The doctor will also look at sweaty, dry, hot, cold, flushed or pale skin. The doctor may also conduct neurologic and muscular test to check on movement and sensation abnormalities as well as organ malfunctioning.

The most common laboratory tests for ascertaining the neuropathic disorder is electromyography. This kind of test records the muscular electrical activities. As a way of determining the extent of the damage to the nerve, nerve conduction and biopsy tests are done. Other procedures include X-ray and blood tests. The purpose of the blood test is to check on other ailments such as thyroid, liver and renal problems. Laboratory tests will also determine the level of folic acid, thiamine and Vitamin B-12 as deficiency of these substances can also cause neuropathic disorders. Other tests cover urine for heavy metal screening, HIV and syphilis.

Treatment

Once the specific cause is identified, appropriate treatment can be implemented. The treatments may be control of sugar level if the person is diabetic, nutrition and supplements for any vitamin deficiency case and total elimination of alcohol in the blood. In some cases such as compression of anatomic structure, surgery may be the needed to decompress this anatomic structure.

As peripheral neuropathy also exhibits pain, the patient may be given over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers. The patient may also be prescribed to undergo alternative pain management in order to get relief from agonizing pain of neuropathy. After treatment, the patient may be required to undergo rehabilitation by engaging in physical or occupational therapies.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is dependent on the cause of the peripheral neuropathy. For compressed nerve, the rehabilitation process will involve immobilization of the affected nerves. The patient may have to wear wrist splints to release the pressure in the area. Physical therapists can do massage therapy to relieve the pain and improve the numbness in the limbs.

The right exercise routine which is created by the physical therapist play a big role in this stage. Some kinds of movements aim to strengthen the weakened muscles. The ultimate goal of this rehabilitation process is to improve the mobility of the patient.

Can you reverse neuropathy? Peripheral neuropathy can possibly be reversed. The underlying cause has to be pinpointed in order to institute appropriate treatment. Immediate treatment can prevent the complete damage to the nerve cells in the body.

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    • Neuropathy profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Stevenson 

      4 years ago from Portsmouth

      Hey Mike

      Was it a steroid injection? Have you spoken to a neurologist? What medication have you tried? It will not be bone on bone as you would not be able to move your neck. But i understand the feelings you have in your neck.

      Regards

    • profile image

      mike 

      4 years ago

      i was given a shot in the arch of my left foot about 1 year ago and i believe i was hit in the nerves now it affects my whole left side including my spine any suggestion i live in pain day and night now i have bone to bone grinding in my neck what do i do

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