- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Neuropathy: Causes | Signs and Symptoms | Treatment
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Peripheral neuropathy is a disease that affects the peripheral nervous system. It creates a problem in the nerves that carry information to and from the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral neuropathy causes nerve and muscle pain, loss of sensation or insensitivity, and inability to control muscles. This condition usually occurs for two reasons. It may be a result of a defect in the axons (nerve endings) that are responsible for sending sensations towards brain or damage to the myelin sheath (the coating around the nerves). These two problems interfere with the transmission of pain signals towards brain.
CAUSES OF NEUROPATHY
There are many types of diseases or behaviors that can cause neuropathy such as nutritional deficiencies, diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), excessive alcohol use (alcoholic neuropathy) cancer, AIDS, uremia, diphtheria, HIV infection (even if not yet developed AIDS), hepatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, polyarteritis nodosa, systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, and syphilis among others. However, peripheral neuropathy can also occur due to hereditary factors or exposure to certain toxic compounds or as a side effect of some medications.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF NEUROPATHY
In terms of severity of peripheral neuropathy, it varies
in severity but whatever is the degree of severity, this condition causes a lot
of problems for the sufferer and can even cause disability. The first signs and
symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include tingling, burning, and numbness in
the feet followed by frequent changes in sensitivity with difficulty of
movement and blurred vision, decreased sweating, dizziness, heat intolerance,
etc. All these symptoms are triggered because there are three different types
of nerves namely sensory, motor, and autonomous nerves which become affected
due to the initiation of this disease process. These symptoms keep on worsening
on a day to day basis disabling the patient.
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TREATMENT OF NEUROPATHY
To treat neuropathy, there are three ways and the first is through a non-medical treatment including wearing loose shoes, not walking a lot, not standing for too long, and resting your feet in cold water. These conservative measures can help reduce symptoms. If this is not enough, you can resort to medical therapy.
Depending on the severity of neuropathy namely mild, moderate or severe, your neuropathic doctor will recommend different types of medications to help overcome this disease. Among the most common medications used in treatment of peripheral neuropathy are amitriptyline, ibuprofen, nortriptyline, and some narcotic analgesics.
Finally, for people suffering from diabetic neuropathy, neurology department can recommend a nutritional therapy to increase the consumption of B vitamins, alpha lipoic acid, and gamma linoleic acid.
Also, according to some recent studies, it has been found that using magnets in socks can reduce the neuropathic pain to some extent. Another alternative is use of far infrared therapy socks to treat diabetic neuropathy. They are also called radiant heat therapy socks.
Alternative or natural medicines like homeopathy and Ayurvedic medicine also play an important role in the treatment of neuropathies like peripheral neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy, alcoholic neuropathy, or autonomic neuropathy.
Interestingly, autonomic neuropathy that affects the blood pressure and digestive tract can be treated with diet. Eating low-fat high-fiber diet at frequent intervals during the day helps a lot. Meals should be small and healthy to prevent gastric problems that are accompanied with autonomic neuropathy.